Last week we talked about how to get ready to become a business that uses social. This week, we’re looking at the next step in the evolutionary process…getting ready to become a business that IS social.
So, what exactly is a “social business?”
A social business is one with its communities, wherever they reside. As customers view businesses as one brand and not as a series of disconnected units or departments, a social business is connected, engaged, and adaptive. United on all fronts, a social business connects the dots between value and customer experiences as it heralds a new era of relationships and operates under a banner of transparency and open leadership.
Social business is getting a lot of buzz lately, and for good reason. It forces businesses to take social beyond its traditional marketing and PR silos and explore how to integrate it as a communications process (rather than merely a set of tools) across a whole company to improve how it operates, both internally and externally.
In many cases, this represents a huge cultural shift for companies…one which many might not be ready to make just yet.
And, that’s okay.
Becoming a social business doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in baby steps…small cultural shifts in your company’s approach to social that you can make, starting today. Here are the top four to put on your radar…
1. Give more access.
The first hurdle in adding social to a business (and one of the biggest cultural hurdles in becoming a social business) is democratizing your company’s conversations.
A social company is one in which people talk – staff to other staff, staff to customers, customers to other customers, media to staff, etc. All that talking is enough to give many traditional companies nightmares – especially ones used to tightly controlled messaging and constricted pipelines of access to the world beyond the firewall (i.e. most companies).
To become a social business, focus on getting your company more comfortable with social conversations in general and then start to slowly expand the radius of those conversations outside of your traditional comfort zone – inviting in new voices and eventually adding new online and offline forums.
2. Adjust to a faster speed.
Social media moves wicked fast and it can be a challenge for even the most nimble companies to keep up.
Most companies are used to making decisions and taking action based on the consensus derived from a mind-numbing number of meetings. But decision by committee doesn’t work when you shift to an environment consisting of porous and active real-time exchanges. A social business has to think and act on its feet, and getting used to that takes some practice.
To become a social business, start by establishing some policies to guide your current engagement and then begin giving your front-line communicators a longer leash for communicating within those guidelines.
Also, work as a company to be more comfortable accepting that people will make mistakes — there will be typos, someone will misconstrue what your company has said, a question may not get answered to everyone’s satisfaction. If you’re the kind of company that cannot tolerate human error, you’re not ready for social business.
3. Expect and accept change.
Social media offers one of those rare opportunities where the excitement of a launch is nearly completely overshadowed by the daily drama and adventure of ongoing maintenance.
Many companies still think of social like a website – you come up with a plan, you build it and then the people come. The reality though, is that the work of communicating with internal and external stakeholders is never mastered and never “done.” It’s a constantly evolving and iterative process that demands a continuous investment of human and financial resources and the continuous quest for bolder and more interesting ideas.
To become a social business, start getting used to thinking of social media as not just a thing you do, but an ever changing platform through which your company will communicate (just like your phone lines). Additionally, implement monitoring and measurement protocols for your existing social engagement and start to audit your interaction so you can get used to shifting tactics to improve effectiveness.
4. Concede some control.
Most companies tend to approach social as if it were a museum in which they will be hanging a carefully drawn portrait of their brand. Not surprisingly, they become seriously unnerved when, instead of staring in reverence, the people passing by just whip out a can of spray paint and scrawl, “this is B.S.” on the picture.
True engagement with other people – whether it is internal or external – means accepting the fact that the world is not all about you and what you want people to do for you. For companies who are used to creating messaging in a vacuum and pushing it out, this can be a new (and sometimes rude) awakening.
To become a social business, think back to those lessons we all learned as kindergarteners…take turns, share, say “please” and “thank you.” Yes, it is possible to still market and sell products and services without being in the driver’s seat all the time. It just takes more artistry and finesse than your company may be used to using. In the end though, if done correctly, what you give up in control, you will gain in customer/client attention and loyalty.
As the Chinese philosopher, Lao-tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Any one of the four we’ve listed above can be that step for your company.
Pick one, start small, dream big and listen hard. May your company’s journey toward become a more social business be great.