We get it; businesses need to use social media, but what many brands overlook is all the overhead needed in establishing a rock-solid social media presence. It has nothing to do with the tools or the latest social network. It has to do with the underlying marketing, sales and customer service processes.
I would have done these first at Infusionsoft if I knew what I was getting into with present day social media. Reversing the process is much more challenging. It’s like changing the flavor of a batch of cookies after it’s out of the oven. Brands need to get their secret ingredients right before baking them in the proverbial social media oven.
1. Determine whether the business builds long-lasting relationships or cashes in on short-term transactions.
This is important. Many brands often scoff at the idea that they are in it for the transaction and claim they are in it for the relationship. I mean, that’s a pretty cold statement to say. Does the business model support this? How so? I’m just suggesting that brands think about it and determine from day zero what and who they’re in it for. (I’d like to iterate that transaction-based businesses aren’t any less valuable or ‘right’ than relationship-based ones. They need to sell a product, make people happy and do it as profitably as they can. There’s nothing to dislike about this. Social media helps amplify the word of mouth and ultimately results in more sales.)
2. Dial in your customer service and support processes.
Every business, even B2Bs, have customer service. Even if business is done on a contractual basis, what clients tell others is how well your organization takes care of them. Obviously, if it’s lacking, they won’t re-up their contracts. Customer support does not need to exist in social media. It just needs to be aligned with the business, support its goals and create great experiences. I explained this in further detail in a blog post about social customer support. Social media will only amplify – not adjust – the results of customer service commitments, for better or worse. Does every customer get treated like a VIP? If not, why?
3. Get a brand’s leaders fully on-board with social media.
For many people in my role, this is the most challenging aspect about getting a brand onto social media “the right way.” This requires that the facilitator, strategist, expert, consultant or whatever do their research and tactfully make a balanced business case. Yes, despite all the warm fuzzies social media provides, a business needs to make business decisions. Why should they invest several thousand or more in social media without seeing the return?
The point here is that the businesses must closely align the needs of prospects and customers first before venturing into social media. Some brands can brave it without research or a plan, but these days, if I was to start fresh, you need a plan.
Conversely, I believe there is value in braving it alone without a plan. Without a plan, it’s fun to explore with the sheer innocence of trying new ideas and seeing what comes from it. There is no right; there is no wrong. However, at a certain point, a brand should become more strategic in their use of social media and should strive for more.
What other realities do businesses need to fix first before the venture into social media? I’d love to help out businesses just getting started in social media, so any perspective is valuable.