Social Media - Generation II: The Social Business Archetype

Something immediately pops into your mind when you hear the term “social media.

But your definition might differ from that of your boss, or your neighbor, or Seth Godin. The fact is that social media is far more nuanced than most people realize. This topic is near and dear to my heart, and I’ve been preaching about it for the last year – "social business."

Now it’s time to bring it all together. <cue music>

Most people consider social media to be the handful of channels they hear about in the mainstream media. Because of massive adoption or socially relevant trends, marketers and business people "feel" that those top-tier touch points are important because everyone else is doing it.

This is the wrong reason to adopt a social business model.

However even a misguided social model is a step in the right direction. With the experience and momentum garnered from managing a company Facebook page and Twitter account, the strategy begins to evolve. Savvy businesses take what they learn from social media and implement it across the board to other marketing channels. They apply a social meter to the effectiveness of almost all processes to determine if they are optimized. 

All this means we're on the cusp of Social Media 2.0. Moving to Gen. 2 means the proverbial nuts drop and people finally understand it’s about more than numbers on the evening news or something your hip friends do. It's a discipline that's worthy of staffing and focus.

Therefore I intend to bring you up to speed with what will be the hot topics in social media over the next few years:

SOCIAL MEDIA MESSAGING

This should come as no great surprise. You're probably doing it now in some context. But are you doing right?

Well that depends on your goals and whatever measurement you've assigned to yourself or your team. Typically it's more or less about people still using the medium for "push" messaging, notifications, basic PR, and some semblance of conversational implementation. Nevertheless, I maintain (at least up until the date of this post) that if your objective here is to increase sales – you will not get the ROI claimed by the pundits.

“NATURAL” SOCIAL CHANNEL ENGAGEMENT

People frequently confuse conversation and messaging. Think of messaging as someone telling you they're open for business or greeting a customer with, "How can I help you?" Whereas natural engagement is the ensuing conversation launched from the first message.

I joke in my speaking engagements that you'd never scream "BUY NOW! TWO FOR ONE! EVERYTHING MUST GO!" at someone who walks into your store. You would simply introduce yourself and find out how you can help them. Adopt that same approach with social.

For marketers you would construct campaigns around the design, development, deployment & optimization (DDDO) in creating messaging to thereby seed conversational engagment. Don't confuse the two, they're very different.

SOCIAL PRODUCT & EDUCATION

Social product and education means using the channels at your disposal to interact with and educate the consumer. Jason Eng runs Sony Pro USA's social channels, and he uses a mixture of education and conversation about the massive product mix Sony has in its arsenal of toys. They advocate feedback and engage in discussions while continually showing products in use.

The byproduct of this is passionate feedback and discussion from Sony Pro’s growing audience base. The company understands that while their product set is complex, especially to a novice user, they can still create a massive brand impression by simply being approachable and responsive.

"At Sony Professional, we're trying to engage our users as much as we can so that we can take their feedback and use that to deliver products that they want. We're also trying our best to educate our fans and anyone interested in Sony about all of the quality products and solutions that we have to offer. Engaging in conversations through social media avenues helps us to accomplish this goal." ~ Jason Eng – Marketing Specialist & Social Media for 

SOCIAL CUSTOMER SERVICE

Anyone who says they're only concerned about the customer who picks up the phone and calls will be left in the dust as social customer service hits its stride. From the customer’s perspective, a Tweet, post, upload, rating or comment is the current equivalent of what calling customer service was just a few years ago. They expect to get your attention by expressing their opinion through a wide variety of channels.

Your customer also has a trusting base of friends, fans and followers awaiting your response. That extended group’s trust in your product, brand or service is going to be affected regardless of whether or not they are an existing customer. If Sears screws over my best friend and doesn’t fix the problem – it’s like the same thing happened to you! 

SOCIAL COMMUNITY MANAGEMENT

Now that you've created your posse, keeping the members happy is the next step. I've written a number of posts about community management, but what you need to understand is that you've won the trust of these followers – at least temporarily.

Treat that loyalty and conversation as sacred. The honeymoon is over, and you must keep people engaged through myriad methods. It's important to treat your community like an extended family. And don’t overlook their power when it comes to things like crisis management. They often will control an issue independent of your intervention due simply to their feeling of belonging and ownership.

SOCIAL TRAINING, EDUCATION AND ENCULTURATION

A mature approach to social media should include serving your internal customers as well. Things like group education and enculturation can be more easily distributed, managed and incentivized using preexisting tools. HR and senior management can use groups and private, community-based tools to communicate in a way more conducive to conversation, and thereby encourage feedback from employees. 

There is a growing understanding that the collective thought power of your group is more than the sum of its parts. The old-fashioned "suggestion box" has come a long way. But you have to harness that power, and then use the knowledge to revise your legacy processes.

Examples:

  • Put all your SOPs and employee documentation in a socially accessible location.
  • Continually advocate staff participation in company decisions, surveys, questionnaires and internal focus groups.
  • When developing customer-service initiatives, actively perform due diligence from within.
"Trainers should believe the use of social media as an extension of the classroom, whether face-to-face or eLearning (synchronous or asynchronous), should be considered priority one for those who are training multi-generational learners.  Millennials are a generation who will seek information quickly and will expect that it is easy to find. Furthermore for businesses seeking it for internal training, the use of portals for forms, documents, online paystubs, etc. are becoming commonplace for HR departments." ~ Shauna Vaughan - Curriculum Quality & Instructional Systems Design Manager - The Institute of Internal Auditors

BRAND PROTECTION & CRISIS MANAGEMENT

I've spoken repeatedly on creating a dome of brand protection simply by listening to your audience. Most businesses do this too passively and still view the practice as a tedious time-sink – which it is. But the rewards that come from immediately engaging your consumer are second to none in the real-time world. Integrated agencies, and companies staffing social efforts, need to remember that nothing is more important than listening to the pulse of conversation and sentiment toward the brand.

If the above is done properly, than a crisis is often seen as an opportunity to make impressive waves over your competition by quickly servicing the issue in a way your community shouldn't perceive as firefighting. No matter how bad a situation looks on your screen, it will get worse if you let the digital bacteria fester. Treat it immediately with a defined crisis management SOP and well-trained contact points.  

SOCIAL CUSTOMER RETENTION

The next generation of customer retention will look far beyond the simple “pre, during and post” customer-service surveys. Successful models will include a continually passive conversation steeped in an attitude of, "what can we do better?"

Businesses presume they have to continually feed the customer base with a backhoe in order to show up on their radar. But if marketers continually use social touch points effectively and truly "act" on the conversation, customers will reward them with undying loyalty.

<tangent> SIDE NOTE: Nothing tickles me more than corporations that pay focus groups to get a “real” opinion about their product or service. Yet they seem reluctant to tie into the active social conversation that offers both positive and negative feedback. I will never pay for another focus group again. Not when I can create a private “group think” environment and randomly invite people into a forum where their voices are heard. </tangent> 

FUTURE BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

When you can harness the power of your actual customer/user/fan base (your "F3" - friends, fans and followers), you have an incredible opportunity to develop future products and applications in a far more efficient way then you have before. Surveys can help you better understand the mindset of your current customers. Then seek out the best-in-class friends, fans and followers to create micro think-tanks for various initiatives.

Here's where it breaks for people. Someone inevitably asks, "Would they really want to help us and not get paid?"

This statement is as old as, "Why would anyone who isn’t a paid writer want to post a blog?" The point is simply that if you have an active community, it's your duty to harness it. Forecasting, prototyping and accessing objectives are things many smart companies do via social media. Are you one of those companies?

SOCIAL INTELLIGENCE

Don't ignore the countless tools at your disposal to aggregate all the social data we're talking about within this post. There are so many ways to tap into your audience and monitor your competitors. Never before have we had the ability to make such strategic marketing decisions with real-world data. Sadly, most of this data still goes unused while many of our peers continue making marketing assumptions using ineffective techniques from the past.

The world is changing, and the future of all marketing will be bound within the strategic directives created throughout the life of any given campaign. It's not enough anymore to simply see a positive return at the end, when a campaign (if progressively optimized with social intelligence) could have produced an exceptionally higher ROI.

"…basically, what's happening in social media is real-time focus groups and media planning. The data that is being generated by consumers, is moving at a pace that companies, agencies, and even technology can't keep up with. However, once platforms are in place, and companies/agencies are willing to throw out the old models, we should be able to automate much of our advertising to be extremely well targeted and relevant. Well, at least for all the non-emotional advertising." ~ Iain Lanivich - Group Creative Director, Interactive at Campbell-Ewald

BUILDING THE PERFECT BEAST

This post was written as a way for me to spotlight what I see coming at this given moment. For me, social business is already here – it’s just not firing on all cylinders. Businesses are not taking all the potential parts of the giant social robot and putting them together correctly.

How do I define “correct?”

It's ever-changing. Today's social SOP is tomorrow's punchline (640K ought to be enough for anybody! ~ Bill Gates ) at Starbucks when we joke about, "Can you believe we even did that?" But that's what makes this interactive, real – and really valuable.

Businesses of the world, hear me: Your competitive edge is ready and waiting. It’s time for you to execute! Give me your take on Social Media 2.0!