The ABCs of Social


  • By Sandy Carter
  • January 22, 2015
The ABCs of Social

Social is so prevalent in our world today. We see it being used everywhere and in everything we do, from service appointments, to coupon offers, to brand purchases, to a blog or Facebook posting.

With more than 90 percent of Internet users now engaging in social, everyone needs to be social savvy for both personal and business purposes. By now, we’re pretty comfortable with our personal social activities, and might be wondering where and how it can benefit a business.

A social business embeds “social” in all of its processes, connecting people to people, people to information and data to insight. It is a company that engages its employees and clients in a two-way dialogue with social tools, is transparent in sharing its expertise beyond its four walls and is nimble in its use of insight to change on a dime. It is different from social media, which primarily addresses or focuses on marketing and public relations. (That’s where the “media” comes from.) However, marketing and public relations are still key elements of a social business; Fast Company reported that 93 percent of marketers use social media for business.

Getting started with a social business is easy. Staying engaged is hard, and measuring the outcomes is essential! Make choices wisely when beginning the social quest. Just as in school, you begin with a simple A-B-C approach. A social business transformation can be started the same way.

A is for Analytics, which are a way to measure what the business can gain by leveraging social tools and techniques to improve business processes. Always begin with the end in mind: Why is social business important to the outcomes of the company? Goals are the destination; culture is the guiding light that gets you there. Involvement of your company leadership, from CEO to first-line managers, is critical for driving a successful social business transformation. A study showed that 80 percent of business executives define social media as important (e-Strategy Trends). Thirty percent of Fortune 500 CEOs indicated they are using social, but in actuality only about 3 percent are doing more than just broadcasting or selling (CIO.com). What it comes down to is that 28 percent say that a lack of an overall strategy is one of the top barriers impeding the use of social business (CeBit). It’s important to integrate social techniques into your overall business strategy because social is not a strategy by itself.

Make sure you have a process for measuring, analyzing and interpreting a brand’s level of engagement, influence, sentiment and share of voice (mindshare) across earned and paid digital channels within the context of specific business goals and objectives. This allows you to communicate your value to clients, stakeholders, partners and employees.

B is for Be Bold. Engage and empower your brand army. Being bold is the ability to take a risk, manage it and be confident in the outcome. Be bold in how you leverage employees in the social mission.

Begin by identifying the core values of your company and your brand. Then look to cultivate these values in your staff. Make sure to train your employees on how to engage in the social world. Create brand advocates from the team who are passionate about your brand and serve as references for you as a normal course of business. Zappos is a great example of a strong culture of loyal brand advocates. The creation of this brand army, a group of unpaid and paid advocates (i.e., your employees, clients and others) that engage on behalf of your brand, is essential in your social presence and currency.

Most of your customers already live online and spend most of their time online on social media sites. They are already engaged in conversations about your business socially, so reach out and make sure that you are part of the conversation. Gallup showed that companies with high employee engagement levels have 3.9 times the earnings per share compared to their industry peers or competitors. A study showed that traffic generated by IBM’s internal experts in social media converted seven times more frequently than traffic generated by other IBM sources.

When it comes to hiring top talent, your brand army can help, as shown by an Edelman trust barometer, which showed that “66 percent of people trust a company’s employees on internal programs, benefits and working conditions than any other stakeholder.”

C is for Connection through Content and Consistency. Your emotional connection with your client or employee is created by exceptional experiences that are integrated, interactive and identifying. A social business connects people to expertise and relevant content. It connects individuals, whether customers, partners or employees, as networks of people to generate new sources of innovation, foster creativity, and establish greater reach and exposure to new business opportunities. It establishes a foundational level of trust across these networks and thus a willingness to openly share information, developing a deeper sense of loyalty among customers and employees. It empowers these networks with the collaborative, gaming and analytical tools needed to engage each other and creatively solve business challenges. Have a content strategy that enables your business to be consistent.

Becoming a social business today is essential for survival. Social is not a magic elixir but a secret ingredient that enables the business to engage in conversations, and to stay close to clients. In essence, it is about a relationship with clients and potential clients.

About Sandy Carter

A recognized leader in social business and one of the most influential women in Web 2.0 technology, Sandy Carter is IBM General Manager, Cloud Ecosystem, and a Social Business Evangelist, and responsible for IBM’s worldwide focus on building and expanding the cloud ecosystem for ISVs, entrepreneurs and academics. She is author of three books, including “Get Bold,” and has received numerous awards: Forbes Global Top 40 Social Marketing Masters, 10 Most Powerful Women in Tech, Women of M2M for Internet of Things (IoT), CNN Women of the Channel, Top Nifty-50 Women in Technology, Top 50 Social Business Influencers and Top 10 in Social Media.

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