Businesses small and large have worked to wrap their heads around using social media to aid in marketing efforts for years now. What began as interactive and “new media” tactics quickly transformed into true social capabilities companies can pull out of their arsenal of marketing plans, tools and tactics. And until recently, most planning and execution of social media lived in Marketing and Communications departments.
In the short time it has taken for social media to transform the way many companies approach marketing, another phenomenon has slowly been occurring in other offices within the business. Other teams and departments have started recognizing the impact these channels can have on business goals. Outside of just marketing. You’ve might have spotted:
- The Customer Service team of your favorite retail store answering questions on their Facebook Page to help their customer base
- A Sales representative reaching out to you on Twitter after you mentioned a relevant product or service they provide
- Your favorite nonprofit engaging with constituents to raise awareness or promote advocacy around relevant causes and movements
- Or even an HR manager promoting job openings for recruitment at a growing company in your industry
What does all of this signal? The identity of social media as the brainchild of the Marketing organization has shifted. In the coming years, social media marketing won’t be the sole focus. And the focus of social business – or corporate wide use and adoption of social media to further multiple business objectives – as a core competency for companies will rise in importance.
Social Media Marketing Roots and Evolution
In the beginning, there was the social media champion who spent time cheerleading, convincing and illustrating the benefits of social. Before channels like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn were viewed as viable or even legitimate channels for big brands and organizations, internal advocates started experimenting with using social media for corporate campaigns and initiatives. Sometimes these started as “under the radar” activities in an effort to prove value, but over time management teams bought into incorporating social as part of the overall marketing mix.
The role of the social media manager or social media strategist emerged and the title signaled that businesses were serious about making social media a recognized aspect of marketing. Product launches, event promotion and evergreen brand awareness campaigns that traditionally incorporated TV, radio and print now had a social media aspect.
A Preview of Tomorrow: The Social Business
Fast forward to today. Brands like Nokia have expanded their use of social media to focus on customer care with their Nokia US Care initiative. Nonprofits like AARP and Best Friends Animal Society are using social media to activate community engagement to raise money for relief victims and are being praised for their use of social to drive awareness of important causes like the Invisible Dog campaign. And everybody’s favorite social phenomenon of couponing is being socialized by companies like Retail Me Not on Facebook and Twitter to promote deals and drive sales.
In short, the concept of social business has become the new reality. This evolution of social media marketing to social media becoming part of company’s business DNA will be a driving force in 2012 and beyond. And while there are many questions still yet to be unanswered on how to drive social business success, here are questions you can start assessing today to set yourself up for success:
- How can your company be utilizing social media outside of just the Marketing Organization? (a few ideas: Customer Care, Advocacy Programs, Product Development, Market Development and Sales)
- Who are the leaders and stakeholders internally who can develop a plan for integrating social across multiple departments and business units? Consider thinking about a Center of Excellence or internal team to drive this.
- Do you have a centralized content library that can be drawn upon for social activity?
- How can you enable multiple teams and departments to become active in an organized way? This might stem from a policy but bleed over into a technology solution or set of tools to aid in management.
- How can you set up workflows to ensure the right teams are properly engaging, responding and optimizing social media initiatives in their areas of focus?
- What are the social media channels for each business initiative that should be included in consistent activities?
- How can you train and enable your company to engage appropriately across social media channels?
These are just a few ideas of how to start thinking about making social a business-wide effort. But, of course, the best way to grow and evolve this list will be to learn from brands and organizations on the front lines of innovation and adoption.
How is your business embracing social business? What have your successes and takeaways been so far? We’re all here to learn, so share early and often!
Jordan Viator Slabaugh is the Director of Social Media at Spredfast, a social media management system for enterprise companies and agencies. She leads the company’s Marketing and social media strategy, as well as consults with clients on using social media to help achieve social business goals. She tweets at @jordanv and writes about social business best practices and trends on the Spredfast Social Business blog.
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