On my quest for social media knowledge and learning, I continue to attend lots of social media events, most recently SMWF Europe. After attending many sessions, it sprung to mind that although there is still a lot of buzz around social media, most businesses are not truly utilising this channel. I hope that the following piece on social business might resonate with you to take action within your organisation and start your own social business journey.
Just as email has become a ubiquitous business tool, so will social media in the coming years. Therefore it is imperative that businesses take notice of social media. When I first started my digital career at Hyundai back in 1997, I was the only person in the organisation that had an email account and access to the Internet. Gradually over time more people were provided with an email account and Internet access, and nowadays it’s expected you would have access or you’d cease to be efficient and effective in your work. This may seen completely alien for those who are Generation Y, but this was the case in the late 90s and early 00s. To some extent social media is seeing this restrictive access within organisations, where only certain people in certain business functions are encouraged, or in fact provided, with access to use social channels in their every day work. With a lack of full social media access for all employees within an organisation, you can’t expect to develop a social business.
Today we see a lot of organisations blocking the use of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter within the corporate network. This dictatorial attitude only forces employees to use other methods of accessing these sites, bypassing the secure corporate network and accessing social media via their own tablets or mobile devices. It is far better for an organisation to instil social media best practice and governance than it is to demonise social media and drive employees off the network.
Businesses need to realise that being social is not about your organisation having a social media presence just for branding; it means empowering employees to use social media in their every day roles to influence, engage and join in conversations about business needs and opportunities. This is what leads to a social business.
There are very few businesses that can truly say they are a “social business”; the businesses that spring to mind that are truly social are those who have built their businesses on social technologies; for example Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to mention a few. If businesses choose to always do what they have always done, then they can only ever expect to get the same results.
Businesses should ultimately look to achieve being a social business within three to five years. The first step would be to look at social media as a new communication channel, which opens up new opportunities for businesses. Gone are the days where marketing is used in the traditional sense, and classed as a cost centre function. Marketing now needs to prove itself and show return on investment, a contribution to the bottom line, and add value to the sales pipeline. Social marketing allows for greater engagement in the buyer’s journey along with assisting the humanisation of brands. The next step is empowering your employees to be your brand advocates and utilise social channels in their everyday work. Finally, encourage your customers to actively be social with you and engage and leverage your content for their benefit.
Plenty of research has taken place over the years that says people don’t form relationships with brands, they form relationships with people. Social media accelerates the formation and depth of relationships by enabling quicker communication and sharing amongst their individual networks. If your employees are not allowed to use the social channels in their every day work then they are limiting their marketing effectiveness in this fast changing social world. So, what are you waiting for? Make a plan to pilot social media within your organisation. Enjoy and good luck!