It is a common debate as to whether social media should be managed in-house or out-sourced. I believe this is not the correct question. The question should be how can we become a social business? In practice, the actual management may be part in-house and part out-sourced, it is not black or white, but one of grey. The main point is that becoming a social business is more than just in-house marketing adoption of social media, it is an enterprise wide culture.
Here are six key aspects that becoming a social business that deliver value to your company.
Close to 90% of consumers don’t trust communications from companies on social networking sites. This may be due to companies pushing messages and not actually being social, or simply that human nature trusts individuals more than it does companies. We commonly hear the phrase ‘people buy people’, and this is especially true in B2B channels with long buying cycles and multiple decision makers. In an increasing array of social media channels, the most effective ways to build relationships with people is at an individual personal level. The best way to manage and implement this is through a social business, where a social culture exists and individuals are empowered to be socially active. Out-sourced and agency managed services can commonly fail deliver the same personal level of relationships.
No one can replicate the credibility a CEO brings by operating effectively on social media channels. It carries the perception of leadership, transparency and authenticity. The BRANDFog 2012 CEO Survey says more than 82% of respondents are likely or much more likely to trust a company whose CEO and team engage in social media. The study also reports that 77% of respondents are likely or much more willing to buy from a company whose mission and values are defined through their leaderships’ involvement in social media. Yes, some comments can ghost written, agencies and consultants can advice on strategy, yet the authenticity of C-level interaction cannot be replicated. Board level participation also acts to lead by example. If a framework, support and guidelines is in place it helps to enable uptake of social media throughout an organisation.
In complex B2B channels, subject area expertise is vital in creating compelling, engaging content that drives online authority and thought leadership. Delivery across many social media channels is the same. In technical professional forums, discussions and debates, conversation is typically held at a technical level. A level that many communication agencies may not be able to offer value in. Responses and postings are also held at an individual level therefore communication from an agency lacks authenticity and screams marketing message. From a research and development perspective vital insight on market desires, challenges, issues and opportunities can also be crowd sourced and monitored across social channels.
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Nurture to sale
With relationships being central to effective social media practice, sales professionals are key in driving prospect progression towards a sale. Effectively building and nurturing relationships is strongest at a personal level with relationships between people and teams, not just brands and companies. Social media channels provide a new avenue to identify sales opportunities, with both new prospects and existing customers. Additionally, it represents much more than just a channel for communication by helping sales keep up to date with customers experiences, challenges and successes, all of which provide opportunities to deepen relationships and reasons to pick up the phone with a positive conversation.
Dealing effectively with customer issues can go a long way to minimising potential risks, and demonstrate good levels of customer services and customer. If a customer is unhappy, they may take to social media regardless of your blessing or visibility. With an open channel of communication, social media allows responses to help manage the situation. Monitoring brand #hashtags and products is a good way to understand sentiment and identify any items for action promptly.
A key element of any business is recruitment. Attracting and retaining top talent is a long term must for any company wishing to succeed over their competitors. Social media provides an platform to research prospective employees, just as they would research and prepare for an interview with you. More proactively you can nurture individuals with demanded skill sets and desirable experience for when suitable opportunities arise. Word of mouth is also more visible, with peer endorsements and skills validation often publicly open helping to create a broader picture than traditional references may. Whilst many recruitment agencies can also utilise these benefits, the internet has provided companies the ability of reducing dependency on these suppliers thus lowering recruitment costs.
Agencies and suppliers can effectively help with integration and social media management at a corporate and brand level, but are challenged to replicate the scope of services and coverage a social business can. The role of agencies and suppliers has evolved. In addition to offering value in their knowledge of the channels, skills and experience in using them, and promoting best practices, the greatest value they offer is through helping to reform and evolve organisation culture – helping to transform them into a social business.