Though almost all companies participate in some way on social media sites by now, few understand that it is much, much more than just a marketing channel. Yes, social media can provide support in the areas of advertising, PR, customer service, product development, etc. – but it’s bigger than that. Social media is the language in which consumers communicate. It’s a philosophy, not a set of behaviors or tools. And companies that understand this concept of being social – not doing social – are considered social businesses.
Social businesses do things differently. Specifically:
1. Social Businesses Put Customers First
Social businesses hold the value of a customer’s positive word-of-mouth higher than the dollar amount they spend, and recognize that social amplifies word-of-mouth exponentially. Because of this, they go above and beyond for ALL of their customers (not just those with 100k followers on Twitter), both online and offline.
Offline, this plays out as superior customer service and brand-consumer interactions, like this story about Southwest Airlines and the little boy whose day was made when a flight attendant announced mid-flight that there was a famous artist onboard, and shared the picture he had colored with the other passengers. This wasn’t done because the airline believed that this little boy or his parents would fly Southwest more often, but because the company values positive human interactions over financial transactions. Though this occurrence can’t be directly to tied to an increase in sales, it was blogged about and shared numerous times.
In the online space, social businesses provide outstanding customer service, respond to all questions and comments (whether good or bad), and go out of their way to accommodate any requests made on social channels, even if these requests fall outside of what the company normally does. “Sorry, we can’t help you with that here” is not in their social media vocabulary. Perhaps most importantly, there is an organizational understanding between departments that allows for this level of customer service to take place (see #3).
2. Social Businesses Train ALL Staff On Social Media & It’s Implications
A social business knows that having a marketing team that is knowledgable about social media is only the beginning. Since every employee interaction can potentially result in a blog post or tweet about the experience – good or bad – every employee must be trained on what this means.
Beyond understanding how anything said to a customer can either turn into a glowing recommendation or a social media crisis, they need to be trained on and given the freedom to go above and beyond in ways that can generate positive word-of-mouth. Employees need to know that anything (within reason) is doable and allowable if it will make the customer happy. While this isn’t exactly a new business concept, it holds significantly more weight in our uber-connected digital world.
3. Social Businesses Break Down Organizational Silos
Both #1 and #2 above rely heavily on the ability of social-thinking organizations to break down departmental silos and have everyone work as a team for the sake of the customer. If a customer tweets a technical issue on Twitter, the social media team needs the ability to seamlessly communicate the issue with IT, who can fix the issue and report back so that the customer can be alerted of the resolution. If there’s a question posed on Facebook, the customer service team needs to quickly and efficiently receive notification and respond with a solution in real time (which will never be a problem if all employees are trained on the urgency of social media requests). In some cases, even Legal, HR, or R&D departments will need to be involved.
The key is that information can flow smoothly between departments so that appropriate solutions can be put into place and more positive brand experiences can occur.
Becoming a social business, especially for long-standing brands that have been around for decades, doesn’t happen overnight. It requires serious organizational and logistical changes, extensive employee trainings, and more active/better integrated social media programs. But when thought about from the standpoint that, today, your social media presence is your brand, its well worth the effort.