The natural evolution of Social Media in many companies has resulted with “social” largely under the purview of a single function – communications, marketing, PR, corporate or brand. In its experimental phases, this was a good, natural thing, as someone had to lead the initial charge. The result though, as social matures, is that other parts of the business find it frustrating to work through a single silo to leverage social channels and techniques for broader purposes.

It’s a good problem to have – it means that multiple parts of your company are aware of wider uses for social media. When companies start to leverage a social approach in a coordinated and strategic way, they’ve graduated to a new level: Social Business.

Social business is a deep integration of social media, social methodologies, data and social technologies into the organization to drive business (not just communications) impact. According to eMarketer, the top four challenges faced by social media marketers worldwide are assessing the effectiveness of social media activities (cited by 67% of marketers); designing an overall social media strategy (62%); making social media data actionable (61%); and educating staff on how to use social media (59%). Moving up the maturity ladder is usually an indication that Social has assumed a more central and prominent role within an organization — sitting at the crossroads of silos, with the capacity to analyze and engage customers and company across every interaction and touchpoint.

We’ve seen companies struggle to get to a more mature and sophisticated place with social for two key reasons.

First, social is frequently viewed as a channel rather than as a true business lever, and ad hoc efforts have not yielded outcomes that grab the attention of leadership and build the case for investment.

Second, social itself tends to be siloed within the organization and not integrated into a broader customer experience and digital transformation context. We’re at a critical junction today where community, digital, social and content are all blending together into a larger transformation story. While each area must pave its own course, the option for these to operate independently of each other no longer exists.

Five questions companies should ask as they begin making social an integral part of their organizations

Is your company practicing Social Media or Social Business?
Social Media focuses more on channels and tactics that support publishing listening and engagement. Social Business is an integration of social media, methodologies and technologies in the organization to drive business (not just comms) impact. Both can be effective but companies should have a vision for what role they want social to play.

How mature are your organization’s social practices?
Benchmarking establishes a baseline as to where on the social business maturity curve your company sits. Meanwhile deeper assessments uncover things like how well data is being collected and used, which tools are being shared, what kind of planning is being done and how aligned the organization is around the roles and goals of social. For many of Prophet’s clients we start with a Social Business Diagnostic to establish a benchmark and begin to uncover opportunities.

Do you have a cross-functional group guiding social objectives and activities?
[clicktotweet]Winning in social requires the ability to rally participation across the business [/clicktotweet]— marketing, innovation, operations and sales must all have a seat at the table and a forum to establish and share priorities. Often companies begin to develop this forum for planning and exchange but it tends to lose momentum and focus due to lack of investment and resources.

Is leadership on-board and are they aware of the role social currently plays and its potential to drive the business forward?
“Across all organizations, only 27% reported that executives at the VP level were active on social with a meager 9% reporting participation from the C-Suite”, reports Ed Terpening of Altimeter, a Prophet company. This indicates that corporate leaders are not as informed as they could be about the advancements and opportunities associated within social business. For efforts to be successful, investment and prioritization of social business must be mandated by leadership. One way to do this is by conducting workshops that educate leaders and stakeholders on Social Business and help them align around common objectives.

Do you have a social strategy and roadmap?
Having unified content calendars and engagement guidelines are a great start. But most companies still need to outline a plan that lays out all social activities and develop a roadmap in order to realize it across their business through shared tools, processes and insights.

Prophet helps clients create and realize a vision for Social so that deepening relationships with customers and constituents translates to real business outcomes with impact in the short-term. Business goals can include marketing optimization, new revenue, driving innovation and enhancing customer experience — social is much more than media; social is business.


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