Social Business Becomes Mainstream in 2012
Transformation From social Media to Social Business
December is the month for predictions for the new year. Generally, I’m not a fan of predictions. While many marketers are predicting the year of mobile for the fifth year in a row, I’m going to take some risk with just one marketing prediction that 2012 will be the year social business becomes mainstream.
What is a social business?
A true social business has a double meaning. It is one whose culture embodies social from top to bottom. It doesn’t just allow employees to be social, it inspires them to be social because it is the culture of their business. A social business thinks socially in two dimensions; externally toward a social cause and from a customer engagement perspective.
What constitutes a social business?
A social business understands that it must be social with customers and with a portion of the community or cause that inspires them at an emotional level. Dell’s Social Innovation Challenge looks for projects around the world to help those who need it. GE’s Healthy Imagination social initiative is focused on projects that make people healthier.
The other aspect of a social business is how they engage in their market with customers and prospective customers. A typical social business has been using social media for at least two years. For most businesses it takes two years to learn how to produce or curate content that is social media worthy. It takes two years to build an authentic community of loyal friends and followers. And, it takes two years to develop an employee base whose personal brand is so aligned with the corporate brand that each embodies the other.
What are the benefits of a social business?
A social business has intimate relationships with current and prospective customers. In today’s digital world, where customer engagement is possible 24/7, only a social business can gain the most benefit, while also reducing the most risk if something goes awry. In a social business, employees intuitively know how to represent the brand in all circumstances. Other than a catastrophic event, employees in a social business can handle customer interaction across all circumstances and do so with an authentic human touch. Dell has 6,000 employees formally trained to represent the brand in social media.
Dell has a set of metrics that measures the social impact to their business across all stages of their customer lifecycle. In Dell’s case, they measure the impact represents tens of millions in revenue.
Is social business more relevant to B2C or B2B?
This is an irrelevant question. All businesses sell a product or service to other people. Let’s just call all businesses P2P. A social business recognizes that its customers are people. And, all people are social. That’s why the culture of a social business is to encourage employees to be authentic in their involvement with external causes and with engagement with their customers in all situations.
What are the criteria of a social business?
IMO there are three attributes present in a social business:
- A social culture with top down support
- Empowerment of employees to be human in all customer contact and toward a cause
- 2 years experience using social media company wide
Will your business become a social business in 2012?
You don’t need to have 6000 trained employees to be a social business. You need a leadership team that embraces the culture and commitment to being a social business. It may not happen overnight, but it must start with authentic culture. For some businesses the transition to a social business is natural and for some it’s not.
Continued trends in globalization and corporate social responsibility are increasing awareness for businesses across all industries and all size ranges to become social businesses. Employee recruiting and retention are also factors to consider as your business makes the shift toward becoming a social business. Oh yeah, and if you train and empower your employees to represent your brand in social media, you can expect to experience bottom line business benefits too. Consider that if your consumer perceives your brand to be equivalent to your competitors, how else can you differentiate yourself?
I’m not totally confident that 2012 is the year of the social business. Maybe it will take a few more years. The Social Business Index tracks global brands across five criteria and it’s updated monthly. Will you become a social business in 2012?