Thursday, June 13, 2013
What Happens When Your Business Goes Social?
If someone in the C-Suite within your business has given the go-ahead to dive into social media, that’s both good and bad news. It’s good news because your business can now compete with others in your industry with a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Pinterest, YouTube, Flickr, and a myriad of other sites. But it’s also bad news because you’re steps behind. So as you consider your social media strategy, here are some tips to keep in mind.
The first five tips have graciously been provided by Ed Abrams, Vice President of Marketing and Strategy of IBM Midmarket (@Abrams981 on Twitter), and the second five tips are mine.
 Start Small: One way to ease your small business into using social collaboration tools and to make sure they get utilized is to begin one step at a time. Rather than implementing a whole new system, perhaps start a wiki for team status updates – this will get your company sharing and accustomed to the process.
 Culture vs. Technology: Culture is extremely important to a successful social business transformation, and it can be even more important than the technology you choose to use. Place an emphasis on promoting a business culture of transparency and trust from senior leadership to those working in the field. Encourage a culture of sharing so that employees feel comfortable sharing their sentiments and collaborating across teams and departments. With these cultural elements in order, an organization is setting itself up for a successful social business transformation.
 Education and Training: While most of us have become comfortable using social networking tools in our personal lives, not everyone recognizes the advantages of using these tools to be productive in the workplace. Educate employees about the new tools at their disposal and articulate how they will help increase efficiency. For example, host a workshop on how to create a community and share resources with a broader team using that community.
 Remember Your Audience: Social collaboration tools make it very easy to share data, thoughts, contacts, and more with colleagues AND customers. This convenience is useful for a productive work environment, but it also comes with its own unique set of problems if something inappropriate is shared. Make sure employees understand that it’s critical to think twice before sharing.
 Security Matters: Company information that is confidential must remain protected from unauthorized access. Some collaboration software handles security requiring IT assistance each time you add or remove outside team members. A better choice is software that allows new members to be quickly added or removed from a workspace with full security without requiring IT assistance.
 Brand Alignment: In order for the social media strategy to resonate with customers and employees, all social media content must be in alignment with the overall marketing plan. There should be a content calendar to facilitate posting and tie all of the different sites together. For example, content on Facebook should correspond in some manner with YouTube videos – the video content should not feature office picnics as opposed to product launch announcements.
 Voice of the Business: There should be a defined “voice” for the company in all posted content. If the tone of your business or industry is casual, remain with that tone. But if your business is in the financial services industry, the tone should be more serious and professional. For example, dancing and singing clowns probably would not be appropriate on your Facebook or YouTube pages.
 Practice Engagement: The core of social media is engagement. This does not mean shouting from the roof tops. THIS DOES NOT MEAN USING ALL CAPITAL LETTERS CONSISTENTLY. It does mean asking questions, using polls, asking for product suggestions, and inviting discussions. While some industries are more suitable for engagement via social media marketing, every business can benefit from customers who become engaged.
 Improve Service: Statistics show that many unhappy customers turn to social sites when they experience poor service. Therefore, use your social sites to provide real-time responses when customers and prospective customers voice their concerns, complaints, or issues via social media. Create positive customer experiences each and every time – and you will create priceless word-of-mouth marketing.
 Practice Collaboration: Invite customers to provide guest posts on your blog. Request video testimonials from customers and add them to your YouTube channel. Host chats on Google Plus and share slide decks on SlideShare. Before you know it, your business might be contacted by the media to share its expertise.
What tips would you recommend to a business as it builds its digital footprint? Please chime in.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.
Posted by Debbie Laskey, MBA