This topic has been grinding my gears for a long time. You hear a lot of people saying they are now a social business. Honestly it does not mean a thing because what they really mean is that they have a facebook,pintrest, or even a twitter handle. My response usually is congratulation you are the reason for bastardizing the term social in social business.
Let us get this straight, just because your are tweeting, putting status updates on facebook, does not mean the world is listening. Just like everything in life the basic tenets of engagement do not change with the change in technology. When you join a social network you “friend” people who know you i.e. have shared interest of some sort and from a business perspective shared interest becomes even more paramount. As a business you want people that have shared interests with you to actually be your client, because you are business and you are selling something that solves a problem for someone. Let me show you through 2 scenarios one with a company that does business in a traditional model and the other one using social media.
Business in the traditional model
Company A sells specialized widgets to a particular group of clientele. The reason for Company A’s success is that it has an army of sales force that is always there at the beck and call of it’s clientele. The clientele feels that the sales force is an effective mechanism for them to articulate the changes they want in the product. When widget company delivers the next iteration of the product, they feel like they have been listened and continue to purchase more widgets. The sales team acts as a feedback loop to Company A about what their clients tastes are and how they are changing.
Business that is a Social business
Company B sells widgets too, but they are a social business. Unlike Company A they have small but effective inside sales force. Their channel to sell to their clients is the web. How do these folks get their clients to come to their website? These folks before claiming that they are social, they target the right folks i.e. partners, competitors, analysts etc. These folks hear what their future clients are saying and learn to speak the language of the people they want to be associated with. Once they establish that they focus on what kind of content they want to build and get their constituents excited about it. Well how to they get them excited about, they use twitter, facebook, pintrest etc. Well what does that mean ? Suppose Company B gets 1 client and that one client has around 400 friends on facebook and 600 followers on twitter. Some of this person’s(i.e. the 1 client) friends are in a similar industry that use similar but expensive widgets. This client likes the facebook page of Company B and Company then starts to post special offers on this person’s profile page. This person takes one of their coupons and makes another widget purchase. To make things simpler if the person were to get into a problem with the widget, the company makes a conscious effort to responding to this person directly in a medium of this person’s choice (i.e. twitter, email, facebook). This responsiveness makes the user feel that the company is still listening to them and that Company B is going out of there to make this person feel special. Company B, based on this feedback loop is able to foresee changes in taste in the marketplace and react accordingly. Because Company B is so good in responding this person’s need, this person talks more about it with the people this person has similar interests. Now the other people in this person’s network are curious and they give this widget a shot and Company B gives them the exact same great service and these new clients are now hooked and this cycle keeps going on, until Company B has to now grow up and attract bigger clients. Company B being social has already been preparing these changes and for the big companies to make the right decision, all they have to do is to look around, the large companies see the social proof of other clients experience and that makes their job easier to make a decision. Now those 400 facebook friends and 600 twitter follower actually have a meaning.
Now obviously you would notice that Company B has to go through hoops unlike Company A. But if you take a closer look it is exactly the same process, instead of humans being in the forefront of the interactions, humans are now interacting with each other via social media (some people call this web 2.0 or even web 3.0). But the net of it all is whether it is a large sales force or via social media the focus is conversion from a casual observer to an actual client. That is the most important thing
Just by claiming that you are social does not mean you are social, it is like saying every time you talk people listen (you maybe talking but nobody is listening). Next time when you say you are social please make sure you have some sort of strategy to engage with your clientele versus just constantly bombarding people with meaningless content.
And now I can go think something else that drives me nuts !