Companies today are striving to become social businesses, meaning they are integrating social media into the very fabric of their organization. It is no longer practical for social marketing and social customer service to occur in silos. This evolution has a major impact on the role of the social media manager. It places a new demand on a role that started out with a specific business focus. The role needs to expand into a team of people that guide governance, policies, centralization of tools and best practices.
Businesses have been integrating social media into their marketing and customer service departments for quite a few years now, thus propelling the social media role in to the mainstream. However, organizations that started their efforts in this way have quickly encountered a number of challenges as they try to integrate social into other parts of the business.
Organizations, particularly larger ones, have found that a "Wild West" scenario starts to occur as individual business functions and regions create their own social presences. Eventually, it gets to a tipping point where governance is required. The company realizes that it needs to put in place policies and guidance internally in order to focus the organization’s social media efforts.
The following are some of the areas to consider as you get your company in shape for the journey to becoming a social business:
- Social media monitoring (or a listening command center) needs to be centralized in order to create workflows to pass information between business functions.
- A center of excellence or training program needs to be put in place to train employees and provide guidance for communicating through social media that is consistent with the organization’s brand voice and standards.
- Vendor choice and usage is also something that can get out of hand very quickly. Choosing vendors that meet the entire company’s needs, and not just the needs of an individual department or area, ensures that a partnership is created wherein the company’s overall needs are best met.
- Reporting should also be centralized. There needs to be a consistent use of tools in order for consistent social media tracking and analytics to be possible.
The individual in the social media manager role has the opportunity to provide a larger vision to their executive team. They are now faced with the choice of focusing on team duties or contributing to a vision for moving the organization towards becoming a social business.
Expanding your social efforts
There are two ways to expand social efforts in an organization. The first is driven top-down by an executive. The second is organic and comes from the various business units in the organization. The first method only happens when there is an executive who is passionate about social media. Even then it may be difficult to secure funding for resources. For the second method, if you’re part of a global company, make sure that you check with other regions about how they use social media. Social media have become mainstream around the world. Europe, China, Brazil and India are moving forward in this area very quickly.
This process of becoming a social business is a gradual transition. It begins with finding early adopters within the organization who are interested in supporting a broader vision or the organization as a social business. Internal collaborative networks such as Chatter or Yammer are a great way to find people who are sharing ideas. Create a group and slowly add people from various business functions such as customer care, marketing, product development, and corporate communications. And don’t forget to add legal into the mix.
Once you’ve started assembling a group, set up a core team that meets regularly. Share ideas, create an agenda, and assign action items. Make sure that your enthusiasm is contagious! As you work through governance and creating standards, provide stakeholders with best practices and reasons why it’s important for them to follow governance. If the reasons are compelling then they will accommodate the wishes of the organization at large. Providing resources to those who do follow governance will encourage the others to join in.
Social media training can be a challenge when you have team members with a range of skill levels. Identify those with the most advanced skill sets and ask them to help create materials to guide others. They can also serve as mentors as the training program grows. It is important to make sure that the training materials are contextually relevant for each team member. A sales person will use social media in a much different way than someone from customer care. If you provide them with the basics and ways to measure and report on their success, then they can show their management that their efforts are worthwhile.
Be prepared for some people to say that their day is already full and that they can’t take on another task. Just as we have quit using fax machines, so too do people need to let go of things in their day that aren’t necessary and learn to integrate existing tasks with various social channels (that align with their team’s objectives).
Social is no longer optional
Service is now all about delighting the customer. Consumers expect brands to know them and what they like and reach them in that way no matter where they are. For example, in the airline industry, customers can now purchase tickets online or off. They can choose to receive tickets via email. And when traveling they can provide up-to-the-minute comments and feedback on their experience that gets pushed out to any variety of social media channels. They may even tweet their experience in the moment and later blog about their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the airlines. Companies need to consider all of the multitude of touchpoints they now have with their customers and provide service in all of them.
The journey to becoming a social business doesn’t happen overnight. It requires an investment over a period of years. It will change the types of employees your organization looks to hire. The culture of the company will need to shift to be collaborative and think about problem-solving in new ways. The benefits are overwhelmingly in favor of this shift. The primary benefit is that your customers will be pleased with the excellent service you're giving. And your teams will appreciate the new culture. It will allow them to work more efficiently and effectively as they work to best serve your customers.