Are you a social business? By this, I mean are you aligning your social strategy to business goals? In a new Altimeter Group Report, “The Evolution of Social Business“, my co-author Brian Solis and I found that this was not the case. Only 34% of businesses we surveyed felt that their social strategy was connected to business outcomes. Brian goes into detail about our findings in this post.
Our research found that organizations typically go through six stages of social business evolution. But this doesn’t mean that you have to wait until Stage 6 to realize business impact. Rather, it’s not only possible but crucial to focus on achieving business results right from the very beginning. The six stages are as follows (for a deeper dive into each, please download the report):
A great example of this from the report comes from Shell. They launched the Shell Facebook presence only in January 2012 and they mostly post content on the page and moderate comments. But they see tremendous benefit from this activity because their business goal is to understand and improve their reputation with customers and partners. They ask the question, “To what extent is Shell meeting customers’ energy needs in socially and environmentally responsible ways?” The key here is that this is not an effort isolated to Facebook — they measure reputation across ALL media channels so that they can see their activities impact reputation differently. Moreover, they measure this DAILY. Shell may be early in their social business journey, but they make sure that they see business impact from their efforts.
Creating Your Social Business Strategy
The focus on business goals is the key to having a coherent social business strategy, which we define as “the set of visions, goals, plans, and resources that align social media initiatives with business objectives”. That alignment and focus on business objectives forms the foundation for the strategy, no matter where the organization is on their evolution. Just 28% of respondents in our survey felt that they had a holistic approach to social media, where lines of business and business functions work together under a common vision. A mere 12% were confident they had a plan that looked beyond the next year. And, perhaps most astonishing, only half of all companies surveyed said that top executives were “informed, engaged and aligned with their companies’ social strategy.”
But there is hope. we found a set of best practices common across all development stages. We call these the Success Factors of a Social Business:
Define the overall business goal and align social media strategies against it.
Establish the long-term vision for becoming a social business.
Seek and earn key executive support and sponsorship based on the business case, not the trend.
Beyond marketing and service campaigns, develop a list of prioritized initiatives that will demonstrate business value at the enterprise-level and in key functions/lines of business and plot them on a two-to-three year roadmap.
Train and educate executives and employees not just how to use social media, but also how social media can impact business objectives and how to develop and run programs that do so continually.
Get the right people involved at the right levels. An effective social business strategy takes a unified approach with cross-functional support. It’s a combination of social media savvy and business acumen.
Invest in technology only after your vision and strategy are set. Technology and social media in general are only enablers to the overall mission and purpose you set forth.
Applying The Social Business Success Factors
From the research and from our work with clients, we have found that these success factors become especially important when the organization moves from one stage to the next. Some of the most common issues we’ve seen organizations face include:
Getting executives to buy into the social strategy — and fund it. Factors #1 and #2 which use business goals and a common vision to align the organization, become crucial. Sometimes this can be accomplished with a short education session, but more often, it requires that social strategy be built into the very fabric of the executive’s work and priorities. This is done only by strongly linking social activities to the 3-5 strategic goals that executives care about. If social doesn’t help the executive accomplish their mission critical goals, then it won’t ever make it on to their radar.
Creating a coherent strategy for social business. As crazy as it may sound, we’ve been working with clients to create three year roadmaps for their social business strategy. That’s not a typo, although it may seem impossible to do this in a fast-changing technology landscape. The key is to focus on the long-term strategic business goals of the organization and to make technology decisions ONLY after the vision and strategy are set.
Establishing governance. This is the perennial question, “Who owns social media?” This isn’t a simple issue determined by company size, maturity, or industry. It’s base much more on how the organization sees social playing a role in the company in the future, and creating a roadmap to bridge the reality of today to the future. One organization we worked with envisioned a multiple hub-and-spoke model with product and country teams. But to get there, they realized they needed to be temporarily centralized first, move into a basic hub-and-spoke with defined responsibilities, and a migration path for governance to pass into the spokes in a few years after training ensures that the skills and capabilities are in place.
Engaging and transforming the organization. This is perhaps the most challenging problem facing senior executives — they see the need to redesign and retool the organization for greater flexibility, adaptation to a changing landscape, and resilience in the face of increased competition. CEOs see social technologies as a way to harness and bring together employees, customers, and partners, but don’t have a roadmap to be able to do this.
By keeping in mind where you are in your social business evolution AND using the success factors, you’ll be able to start tackling some of these tricky issues. We’ve seen firsthand that this is not an easy journey, but it is one that you can successfully navigate. I’d love to hear how your journey is going — what stages are you in and have you encountered similar challenges? If so, how has our organization managed to move forward? Add your comments below or send me an email with details — we’re always looking for more case studies!
If you’d like to learn more about how Altimeter can help your organization move quickly and efficiently through the social business journey, please get in touch with us at email@example.com.
In this post, I’ll show you 5 ways your business can benefit from Twitter chats.
#1: Connect With Customers and Prospects
Hosting an event is a great way for a business to bring its potential and current customer base together to learn, engage and build a deeper relationship. Not all businesses can host a conference or seminar, but every business can host a Twitter chat.
The key to hosting a Twitter chat that helps your business connect with potential and current customers is to choose a topic that resonates with your customer base. Whole Foods, for example, hosts a weekly Twitter chat that discusses (you guessed it) food.
HubSpot hosts aweekly Twitter chatthat discusses the science and data of inbound marketing. Their Twitter chat is run in conjunction with a weekly webinar on inbound marketing, which makes it a great lead generation tool for their business. Especially considering that, according to theHashtagifytool fromCyBranding, the #scichat hashtag gets an average of 12 million weekly impressions.
HubSpot combines lead generating webinars with Twitter chats.
As the host of a Twitter chat, you can expect to gain lots of new followers each time you hold the chat. In addition, you’ll build your social influence (i.e., Klout) when you’re retweeted and mentioned during each chat.
As your chat grows in popularity, your business will become synonymous with the Twitter chat topic, and thus achieving recognition as a leader in your space.
#2: Build Authority
Many businesses use social media with the goal of building themselves up as an authority in the eyes of their customers and in their industry as a whole. Appearing as a Twitter chat guest to answer questions about your area of expertise is a surefire way to boost your authority.
So, how does one get invited to a Twitter chat as a guest expert? The best way is toactively participate in the Twitter chats you’d like to be a guest on. Get to know the host of the chat and tweet with him or her on a regular basis. Staying in the forefront of the host’s mind and acting as a valuable resource in the Twitter chat is bound to lead to a guest opportunity.
If you want to take a more proactive approach, send an email and let the host know that you’d love to be a guest on the chat sometime. If the host is familiar with you and believes you’d be a good fit, he or she just might agree.
With the goal of lead generation in mind, be sure that you update your Twitter profile appropriately before the chat. For example, if you’re a social media expert who is going to be a guest talking about Facebook, include a link in your Twitter bio that takes new followers from the chat to your Facebook services page, book or product.
As the guest of a Twitter chat, you can expect to gain lots of new followers during the chat as well as if/when the host writes a recap with the highlights of the chat. You might even get some business leads from people who find out how knowledgeable you are about your topic during the chat.
#3: Create One-on-One Relationships
As an active participant in a Twitter chat, you have the chance to demonstrate your knowledge to customers and colleagues. The more often you participate in a specific Twitter chat, the more relationships you form and the more recognition you gain in your industry.
Each time you participate in a Twitter chat with valuable comments and advice, you’ll gain new followers. You’ll also generate leads for your business as people in the chat visit your profile to connect with you, so make sure your Twitter profile is updated tohelp people learn more about you and your business.
#4: Stay Informed
Not everything has to be about your business’s bottom line. Attending Twitter chats in your industry as a spectator can be a great educational experience.
In Cases on Formal and Informal E-Learning Environments, there’s a chapterdedicated to a case study on how higher-education professionals used the weekly #sachat as a learning resource for student affairs.
As a spectator, your goal is to find Twitter chats where other professionals and experts in your industry meet to discuss common issues. Marketing professionals, for example, will find lots of Twitter chats with educational opportunities in the Ultimate List of Twitter Marketing Chats by Raven Tools.
#5: Promote Your Brand
If you know that a particular Twitter chat attracts your target customer base, then it makes sense for you to approach the host of the chat about sponsoring. Sponsorship packages vary based on the Twitter chat you’re interested in, but many include some of the following opportunities:
Mention of your business as the sponsor for the Twitter chat during the chat itself, as well as in articles and social updates on other channels used to promote and/or recap the chat (Facebook, Google+, etc.).
Promotion of your products and/or services during the Twitter chat.
Positioning of your business as the featured guest of the Twitter chat that allows you to work with the host on questions that help you market your business.
Advertising banners on pages/websites devoted to the Twitter chat.
Yet, as 2014 nears, the site branding the title “front page of internet” can boast the following stats:
Getting a link submission on the front page of Reddit yields incredible potential, both in terms of exposure and generating sales.
Acknowledge The Mountain
However, there are two over-arching obstacles most marketers face when attempting to achieve this:
The Reddit community is generally biased in their content preferences, primarily leaning towards humor/memes, inspiring/captivating images, nostalgia, liberal news, gaming, interesting and/or celebrity AMAs (live Q&As), and technology.
The Reddit community has a keen eye for marketers/PR practitioners and will massacre any attempts to blatantly promote a brand/product.
Learn The Ropes
These factors make Reddit unappealing at first glance; but fortunately, there is a learning curve.
Part of this learning curve involves changing the way we think about social media marketing – at least with Reddit as the medium. On Reddit, we need to understand the community and/or sub-communities (known as subreddits) we’re targeting, including the social norms and preferred content.
After understanding these values, we must also shift our goals from promoting to engaging.
Instead of thinking, “How can we sell?”
We should be thinking, “How can we help?”
By providing real value to the Reddit community, responding to comments with honest help, and mentioning a product or brand only when appropriate, we can see positive ROI.
The famous comedian, Louis CK, has performed multiple AMAs on Reddit, and is a prime example of how to properly engage the community. While he does command a cult following that basically ensures his success on any social media channel, highlighting his social mannerisms and product drops help us understand how to maximize Reddit as a Redditor –not a marketer.
Here are 4 vital lessons from Louis CK on Reddit
#1 – Disclose information right off the bat
Alright, so immediately Louis discloses information about his product; a new standup special. There are two reasons a disclosure like this is successful on Reddit:
He is offering a product that would normally sell for around $20 for an insanely low price. What’s more, it’s easily accessible right on his site.
His massive cult following already supports his content.
Let’s reflect this onto a marketing perspective:
Identify a pain point (such as a demand for a cheaper product) and disclose an exclusive offer for Reddit. You should not disclose any personal information; however, you should let redditors know you’re a sales/community representative for the brand. You should refer to a particular post where redditors expressed a desire for your offer.
If your brand already has a strong following, even a dozen can make a post successful.Ask your subscriber list if any of them are redditors and if so, what they’d like to see from your brand on Reddit. Just ask them!
#2 – Be yourself
Simply being yourself satisfies the expectations redditors have when they comment.
And they do have expectations.
If you’ve disclosed you’re a sales rep they aren’t expecting you to crack jokes like Loius CK, but they are expecting you to prove you’re not just another flak speaker.
Redditors want to know you’re a redditor.
This means answering questions in a conversational tone – and slipping in some light humor can’t hurt either. You can go above and beyond their expectations by writing detailed and valuable responses that are helpful or educational. In turn, this reflects positively on the brand you hope to promote, and reassures redditors your product is worth checking out, at the very least.
#3 – Strategize a social media promotion
Louis CK is not just a brilliant comedian. He also has a knack for making smart business moves and recognizing the potential of emerging platforms.
As we previously saw in the first example, Louis was promoting his $5 digital download.
This download was doing more than providing a sweet deal for his fans. This download stripped the normal business model of a middleman and higher prices. Instead, it defied all popular ticket-distributing platforms, and operated solely on his website.
He followed up by hosting the AMA (previously mentioned) and netted the following:
$4.5 million in sales in just 45 hours.
This tactic leads right into the fourth lesson:
#4 – Don’t focus on big money; please your fans and the money will come
As Louis and many news outlets have noted, this strategy actually nets him less money. By cutting the middleman and standing against the Ticketmaster model, his ROI lessens.
However, ROI is relative to the values you’re expecting. Louis understands the value of brand loyalty and how it quantifies.
As marketers, if we primarily focus on pleasing fans and fostering a community, we’ll inevitably drive sales. Referrals are relative to brand disposition.
But let’s get back to viewing this from a marketing perspective.
Posting on Reddit is much different from Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. You have little influence masked behind anonymity and all of your content is up for public judgment.
But here are some ways you can take action:
Join a subreddit that relates to your brand. For example, a construction software company could get involved in the construction subreddit.
Study subreddits by paying attention the most successful content, highlighting major themes, preferred media forms, and social norms.
Comment on posts by answering or asking questions. Offer a perspective that is unique to your position and brand. If someone ever asks for additional information, you can always send them a private message offering more disclosure. Essentially, you’re harvesting a lead by providing free customer service.
Try submitting posts in a niche subreddit based on the research data you’ve collected. This helps develop a better understanding of how redditting works.
Just like any new marketing endeavor, there is a learning curve. By investing the time needed to understand and market on Reddit, the potential to fuel various business pipelines opens up.