A Long-Term Social Media Company Vision: Social Business

Businesses are seeing the value in social media marketing. The overall perspective has changed from skepticism to eagerness to either get started or maximize efforts.

Getting started typically starts with one of three things: an agency providing guidance/framework and execution, a small team of one or two people finding their way toward some kind of measure of success or a consultant coming in to provide guidance and framework for the organization moving forward.

The Getting Started Phase

Leveraging social media marketing doesn’t come with more resources. Time, money and people have to come from somewhere, and there’s generally a phase of getting things off the ground. That might include an agency executing everything or a small team managing the business’ efforts. Those scenarios make sense in the beginning more often than not, but that’s not how the business should stay.

Often, businesses find themselves stuck in this “getting started” phase. They’re able to check social media marketing off of the list and say that they’re making it happen. The bottom line is this is only successful and scalable for so long.

Social media’s value doesn’t really show itself in this phase. These are the first steps to making social a much larger, much more important part of the overall business.

It’s an All-In Effort

Customer relationships don’t belong with an agency or consultant, and they don’t belong in a silo within an organization. Social media allows brands to get close to their customers and external stakeholders and then keep them close. Outside help like an agency or consultant may play a role in educating, providing training and starting the initial phases of external engagement, but the role of building relationships should transition to the business. No one knows the brand or the customer better.

That doesn’t mean the transition should be to a small social media team either. Every stakeholder across the organization should eventually either be communicating with customers or be informed of insights garnered from those who are engaging. That way social insight is acted upon across the organization because the insights garnered can impact product development, communications, human resources, customer service and so on.

The process is slow and often painful. It’s a new way of thinking about customers and the way business is done across the organization, but being a social brand isn’t about a Facebook campaign or creating YouTube videos. It’s a transformation of how internal customer information is shared and how external relationships with customers are nurtured and leveraged to deliver a better product, service and business result. Everyone is involved, not just marketing, PR or digital teams.

The Long-Term Goal

It is a lot of hard work, but the result is the creation of a social business, a company that views social media not as a marketing channel but as a catalyst for building deep relationships with all business stakeholders—internal and external, customers and employees.

The benefits extend across the organization. Businesses can achieve more efficient and effective communication, deeper insights coming directly from customers and better connected, more empowered employees. Customers are more satisfied, product development is the result of co-creation with customers, and activating customers as stakeholders makes them more loyal.

All of this takes the form of an organization with the right people, communication strategies and technologies to connect all aspects of the business. Departments who are connected to consumers are sharing insights across the organizations, and all areas of the business are empowered to use the closer connections with customers to create more compelling, consumer-driven products, services and communication. Businesses may even empower social media mentors to lead each department and steward that thinking forward until it becomes a part of the DNA.

It’s Not Easy

The process is tough. Start-ups are able to incorporate this kind of thinking from the ground-up, which is in many ways easier. Although, they have their own challenges to contend with. Established businesses have the immense challenge of adapting what’s gotten them to where they are, but adapting is essential if they hope to truly use social media to make the business better.

Agencies and consultants can and should help in many instances. But the long-term goal shouldn’t be to outsource this mindset and mode of getting work done. The vision should be for the business to change, not to tack on another marketing channel and cross social media off the to-do list.