Enough with the social media announcements!
Whew! The pace of updates, announcements and new innovations in social media coming available seemingly on a daily basis are more than anyone can follow. In the past week alone we’ve seen major updates on Google+ and from Facebook. Twitter has also announced new features. And, LinkedIn is doing its fair share of innovating as well. How does a business possibly keep pace with all the new social media features?
What would you say if I suggest that it’s all meaningless! Ignore the social media technology. Rather, focus on becoming a social business. When a business embraces the mindset of being a social business, the technology components become enablers.
B2B is Irrelevant
Unless you sell a widget through retail with little or no human interaction, your business is dependent on a good human experience both internally and externally. We commonly refer to business-to-business as B2B. Dharmesh Shah recently coined the replacement acronym for B2B. It’s B2H. If you sell to other businesses you’re a business-to-human company. In the digital age the B2H experience is an opportunity to touch our customers, employees, partners and prospects everyday through social business practices anchored in human behavior. Social media is simply an enabler. B2H is a mindset.
In my book, Marketing 2.0 which was published in 2009, I made an easy prediction. I said that in about 20 years when the current crop of senior executives that don’t understand the social media mindset has retired, businesses would adopt the proper mindset for social media engagement. Although I didn’t call it social business, I realize now that is what I meant. For a business to become a social business today, it’s imperative to provide training to employees and partners on how to be a social business. That involves everything from how to collaborate digitally, to how to market and promote through socially acceptable practices. And, that doesn’t mean applying yesterday’s advertising to today’s digital channels. Training is key to creating a social business culture that crosses all departments and reaches the customer.
To be a social business means that you leverage the intellectual capital of your employees and partners. The pace of collaboration, decision making and response time in today’s digital age is measured in hours, days or weeks, not months, quarters or years. This applies to testing new ideas, problem solving as well as responding to customer and marketplace issues. It’s not uncommon for a loyal employee to observe breaking news on a Saturday morning and communicate the implications to her team within hours, generating a digital conversation with team members over the weekend. When Monday morning arrives, a plan might be 80% complete. This is accomplished by a social business mindset where speed of action is understood to be important. The technology elements are merely enablers. Without the mindset the technology is meaningless.
In the social media world we’ve been speaking of the importance of “building community” since the middle of the last decade. In this context, community refers to people who demonstrate loyalty to your brand through social media engagement. Their loyalty often creates behavior reminiscent of family or community. In a social business the employees become a company-wide community. Their level of collaboration is characteristic of family and community. The employee becomes the brand both inside and outside the business. He embodies the brand in every behavior be it through digital interaction or in offline activities.
A Social Business in Action
There are too few examples of social businesses at this moment in time. However, one such business that deserves recognition is IBM. As they celebrate their 100th year, they have created a global culture as a social business. Ethan McCarty, leads IBM’s global digital and social strategy team responsible for driving the transformation of digital communications and marketing at IBM. You can read his interview in Fast Company where he shares the story of how IBM has transitioned to a social business. I recommend you read this article to see a social business in action. You’ll be inspired.
So, ignore the announcements of new social media features from Facebook, Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn. Instead focus on becoming a social business. The technology features are enablers to a new way of winning and retaining loyal customers and employees.
Do you know other examples of a social business? Share it in the comments below.