Social Business – It’s About The Users and Always Has Been

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If they follow me on Twitter, I can sell stuff to them, right?

The discussion in conference rooms and in meetings across the business world is “we need to be more social,” or “we need to be a social business.”  In both statements there is an unhealthy dose of me-too and trend-following.  Maybe even the corporate version of Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).  What both statements miss is what social really is at the core.  Then looking at the brand and the buseiness and how their activities can plug into that and internalize it.

NOTE: This is a repost, with some edits and updates of my post on 5/28, “For the User, By The User, Of The User – Social Business.”  As I talk about managing social media risks, I thought it would be useful to go back and get some grounding on why social in the first place and what role do we as brands really play.  Remember your Social Media Serenity Prayer:

I can manage the things I can, and I will marvel at the things I can not.

The title of this post sums up my thoughts about social and what all brands and companies need to understand.  Social was not created for brands and companies.  Commerce can happen in social, but that is not the first purpose.  When the first message was transmitted over the internet in 1969, it’s sender did not foresee or plan for all the possibilities of that.  He was just trying to solve a problem.  Social hit the scene as a method for people to connect with other people.

Facebook Wasn’t Started to Serve Sponsored Stories

Facebook was created initially as a digitized version of a university face book meant to introduce students to each other.  While I take the dramatization in “The Social Network” with a grain of salt, I think it is safe to assume that Zuckerberg didn’t plan in those early days for how sponsored stories would improve the P&L sheets of a company that had just barely been formed.  He, and his friends just wanted a way for people to establish contact with each other.

While I do think that there is value in looking back at history just for history stake, I think companies that are trying to crack the nut of social business need to do it even more.  If you don’t understand deeply the platform on which you are engaging your customers and users you will never maximize your potential there.

Social is all about engagement, right.  Why do business leaders forget this premise when they do things like offer free farmville credits for merely liking their brand?  Where is the engagement there?  Engaging with your customers means more than just doing what you are doing in other channels.  If you took your mobile web and framed it as a Facebook app and put it up, you are missing the point.  Put in terms that your business teams can understand, it will also not realize the full potential of its adoption.

A Company Will Never Truly Be a Friend, But They Can Act Like One

Your brand will never be just like your consumer’s friends on social.  If you can provide them experiences that deepen their loyalty by solving problems early, by giving them information (without worrying about the ‘R’ of ROI) that helps them in their life, or that enlightens/enriches their life with content, they will be stronger customers, though.  This is where businesses also need to be more human.  Humans give to others, sometimes selfishly, sometimes altruistically, but we give to others.  Companies are not so good at just giving.  They need your quo for their quid.

Social and word-of-mouth marketing may be only additive to the traditional funnel model, but doing it wrong will be a waste of your money.  I think the topic of social metrics is quite interesting and how you translate those metrics to P&L entries is black magic.  But what the numbers do prove out is your loyal users spend more money with you.  This has been true down through the ages.  Just watch the Coke fan at a restaurant when the waitress tells them that they only have Pepsi.  Engage users is another term for loyal user, though the their reach is greater these days.  This is just the engagement part, though.

Social business stands to change almost everything you do.  Looking at it terms of true business ROI will miss the force multiplier that it can be.  Understanding what social is allows you to truly integrate it into your business.  Being a social business means putting social at the core of everything you do.  Collaboration, listening, connections and speed are all things that you should be doing.  Slapping a ratings and reviews page on your product does not make you a social business.

Involve People In The Business Plan Who Understand (Truly Understand) Social

If you are leading a social business project of any size or scope and the sum total of your social experience is “I have a Facebook account,” you need to bring in experts.  The smartest people are those people who understand their points of ignorance.

If you don’t have people in those meetings who get the social and its foundations, its purpose and its goals, you need to find them in your organization.  If your social business plans haven’t been looked over by those same people, it will miss the mark.  Remember, social was created by the users, for the users and of the users.  Forget that at your peril.  Don’t live the reality of this Onion Video:

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