It is my belief that social media will shift towards a larger aim of helping businesses think, communicate and execute on their key objectives better. Maybe it’s me, but it seems the social media gold rush is coming to an end and business owners are asking about the ROI and real-world benefit of social media marketing programs. I’m not suggesting that social media marketing is dead, but it certainly is evolving into a larger function for today’s growing businesses.
And this is where social business comes into focus. Revolutionizing and scaling internal collaboration, idea generation, internal-external communication are just as important (if not more) than using social media channels to glean traffic, leads and sales.
This post is a part of my Social Business Explained blog series for social media professionals and community managers so they can create sustainable social businesses.
Maybe you’re also tired of having people marginalize your role into a switchboard operator. While there is a need for that, there is a greater need for empowering the majority of the company to speak for the company. The same fervor, attitude and love for customers and the industry should not only come from the public relations team.
Speaking of empowerment, I want to abstain from the use of that word because it implies that others are restricted from making wise decisions. Likewise, if everyone is empowered, the meaning is lost. I would like to see companies that offer resources to their employees, giving them discretion to do what is right for the customer, give them freedom to adopt outside thinking, and give them budget to try different projects and fail and still feel good about that. And if you can’t hire smart employees who can make sound decisions, you have a hiring problem.
(It’s only failing if you haven’t learned. Remember that.)
So, where is this taking social media?
It’s leveling up. It’s moving up from simply a function or a full-time employee (or a few employees), to a required skills like ‘Microsoft Office’. A much-needed requirement that will be found in anyone from the CEO to developers to customer support to even accountants. And it will evolve from simply “knowing” tools like Twitter or Facebook, to actually thirsting for knowledge and insights from social platforms. It will evolve from simply listening and responding to creating and curating. It’ll evolve from an external function to an internal ideology.
I believe to force this shift in traditional companies, involvement and support from the talent acquisition arm is vital. They see everyone coming into the business and they can target those who are innately open and communicative.
Sadly, this shift will only happen if there are business leaders (including social media and community managers) to take the challenge head on, dedicate time to think ahead, disarm those who put up defenses and rally support from others. Failure to mature social media into social business will result in your competitors (either larger with more resources or smaller and nimbler) innovating and shipping ideas out to market quicker.
So what are the costs in not innovating and adopting social business initiatives? It can be in the form of top-tier employees being poached by rivaling companies. It could also be competitors taking on opportunities expressed in the market. Ultimately the cost of not evolving into a social business will be in the form of a culture that once was innovative and agile to one that functions in silos and is top-heavy.
And shift is happening now. If you and your organization’s leaders are not fully bought on to social business — or at least having the real, deep conversations now — you will pay the price of a missed opportunity later.
This shift has happened in telephones: Who uses a landline?
This shift has happened to the music industry: Who purchases CDs at the record store?
This shift has happened to the journalism industry: Who subscribes to a print newspaper now?
Social media will shift from a singular function to a cross-organization investment and skill that will be adopted by all business units. Community engagement will evolve from simply “social shares” to larger outcomes for business owners. Thought leadership will shift from the C-suite to the bottom rung of employees. It is happening now whether you’re ready or not.