5 Success Factors for Social Business

How do you transform your organization into a real social business? There are five key success factors that can make or break social media success. These are the items you need to establish a firm foundation for integration of social media into your business strategy.

If you adopt these five elements as the foundation for your strategy, you’ll be on the path to social media success.

Companies that want to embrace social media as a true business tool need to embrace these concepts:

  1. “It’s How We Do Business”  – Committing to make social a part of the way you do business (not just another aimless activity) through operational integration is a critical step in becoming a social business.
  2. Cross-Functional Teams  – Creation of cross-functional teams to take social beyond the marketing domain.
  3. Centers of Excellence – Establishment of Centers of Excellence within the organization to provide internal resources and best practices for employees using social media.
  4. Visibility in the C-Suite – Elevating visibility of social media results to the C-Suite creates buy in and commitment from the top down.
  5. The Right Metrics – Defining metrics and measurements that align with business strategies helps ensure the impact of social media is tied to the bottom line.

Let’s break these down…

Operational Integration

Operational integration means that social media is part of the way your organization does business. It’s not a bolt-on or an after-thought. It’s core.

Think about what that means for your business: It’s CORE.

For social businesses, social media is a core competency and it touches a large part (if not all) of your organization. It’s a pivotal tool in your communications, and facilitates conversations with customers, sales and employee recruitment.

Can you remember a time when companies didn’t give every white-collar employee a phone? Or an email account? Those times didn’t last long, because it simply doesn’t make sense to restrict communications channels.

Social engagement touches all corners of the organization, enabling employees to connect with customers and customers to connect with companies.

Cross Functional Teams

Creation of teams to take social beyond the marketing domain empowers the organization. At a minimum, teams should include representatives from sales, customer service, PR and product support.

Better yet, get representation from IT, Legal, Human Resources and any other function within your company that may have a hand in social interactions.

Taking this approach enables both a top-down alignment with corporate strategy and a bottoms-up approach to implementation.

Moving responsibility for social interactions to the edges of an organization puts more staff in direct contact with customers, reducing the chances of missing key opportunities for engagement.

Having the right policies in place can empower employees to expand your community without going out of bounds.

In partnership with human resources (and legal, if necessary), marketing should formulate messaging and approaches to the use of social media that support brand strategies while ensuring that delivery is consistent and cohesive.

Training becomes critical and sound social media policies are essential. Extend training to everyone in the organization who has a hand in social media, from the front line customer service reps who respond to social media mentions, to the sales representative.

Centers of Excellence

A “center of excellence” or social resource center can facilitate to activities of a cross-functional team, as well as integration of social into daily business activity.

A center of excellence takes advantage of shared learning across the organization, helping employees get up to speed on social media best practices.

When it’s a physical or virtual destination, a comprehensive social resource center would offer services including:

  • Training and educational resources
  • Monitoring team performance
  • Feedback and coaching to improve results
  • Agency / supplier selections & recommendations
  • Establishes policies and procedures
  • Creates analytics and reporting models

This approach has been put into practice by a number of companies, including Xerox. Fox example, one firm included short training videos with concise explanations of different social platforms in their company’s resource center. Another offers online presentations about each of the major social networks, so employees can learn about best practices and preferred usage.

C-Suite Visibility

Elevating visibility of social media results to the C-Suite ensures that social integration is a priority.

That may seem easier said than done, but in my experience having a champion in the C-Suite can make the difference between success and failure. That person must understand the value of social media to the business overall, and be able to share this with other executives.

Top management often sees social media as a time waster. Executives don’t want employees spending company time playing Angry Birds or using Google’s Hang Out to goof off with friends during work hours.

To get over those perceptions, present social media in terms your executives can understand. This usually requires data on financial impact, operational performance and brand value.

Which brings us the next success factor….

Metrics and Measurement

To paint the right picture for the C-Suite, you need to be able to report on things that matter to them, things that impact the bottom line.

Rather than blindly jumping into social for the sake of saying “Follow Us on Facebook,” the marketing team needs to establish specific goals and objectives first. These should flow from the corporate strategy and align with the overall vision and mission of the business.

Rather than emphasizing arbitrary numbers like the number of friends or followers, these goals should focus on more meaningful items such as:

  • Engagement – how much interaction happens between your company and its followers? Do people comment on your blog posts, share articles you post on LinkedIn and respond to questions you pose on Twitter?
  • Reach – look beyond your audience to your audience’s audience. If you have influential followers, you’ll gain more visibility when they comment and share your content with their audience. This is a ripple effect, like a pebble in a pond, and it can expose your business to a broader audience of potential prospects.
  • Conversions – How do your online connections translate into measurable business opportunities? Does social media generate leads, website visits, product subscriptions or downloads?  Define conversion on your own terms, as long as the focus is on taking action towards a sale.
  • Sentiment – A reflection of your online reputation, sentiment will tell you if the buzz about your business is positive, neutral or negative. It doesn’t all need to be rosy, but neutral to favorable should be the baseline.

If your road to becoming a social business has been a little rocky, I recommend doing an analysis to see how you are performing in these five areas. You may find discover opportunities to improve your approach leading to a dramatic impact on your long-term success.

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