When talking about the explosive growth of social media, there may be nothing I hear more from small- and medium-business owners than this:
“We know we need to get involved in social, we’ve tried! Our team just doesn’t buy into it. They have a way of doing things, and it’s really hard to change.”
Like a perfectly thrown dart, this nails the bull's-eye and simultaneously it depicts why many entrepreneurs are struggling to make social work for them.
But before I make what would seem to be the easy application of blame on the employees, I’m going to throw a quick curveball: The employees aren’t at fault whatsoever. If your organization is failing to embrace social media then it starts at the top.
The good news is, even if the resistance has won so far, there are ways to build a more social business that are palatable, and it starts by turning the idea of the social enterprise on its head and building your social prowess from the inside out.
So how do we make social businesses out of companies that just don’t have the culture? With buyers becoming more linked to content and social in their purchase journey, doing nothing just isn’t an option. Instead, we turn to what is possible.
Here are four secrets to building a social business from the inside out.
1. Target small wins. This affects top-down strategy and the employees responsible for marketing. In many small businesses the patience for success with social media is short. And when I say short I mean they want ROI in 30, 60 or 90 days. While this is possible, it is also somewhat unlikely. I always remind business owners to think about their sales cycle from new prospect acquisition to close. With social media it will be at the very least that long. This is why small wins are key. Small wins can be simple growth of audience by adding followers or likes. It can also be the application of tools to automate certain social activities like finding and sharing content. In the early part of a social business roll out, small wins must be the focus or you will likely be sorely disappointed by the lack of immediate success.
2. Start simple. Nothing overwhelms people from doing something new more than when it feels foreign or difficult. For those that aren’t comfortable in social asking them to just jump in and start tweeting, Facebooking and Pinning seems like a lot -- maybe even too much to handle. The companies that I have seen succeed in getting started in social get their employees to focus on just a few channels and outcomes.
For instance, for a B2B, LinkedIn may be the best approach for driving new interest in a product so the ask may be fore sales to each share a new piece of company content with five of their current clients that may be interested in what the content is about. Then, the request is for them to follow up on the share by requesting a meeting in the coming month. If a few of them are able to turn the content into a meeting or a new sales opportunity that will help build confidence to expand the effort.
3. Create connected silos. There are few people in the world who recommend silos for anything anymore. Somewhere in business school the idea of cross-function overtook the ability to see value in separation. For building a social business, creating silos of success around a department or functional area is a great way to start. Imagine how the customer-service department can start with social as a channel to communicate with customers. They can improve response time and increase touch points almost immediately. This has nothing to do with whether or not marketing is using social for bringing on new customers, but what it does do is build a success point in the organization that can be used to spread the gospel of social. Success builds success, right?
4. Leadership buy-in. If there is one fail point in creating social businesses, this is the one. Too many companies have leadership teams that just don’t get social, nor do they participate. Now I’m not one of those people who says that the leadership team needs to hangout on social all day, but between tools, executive support and the abundance of great content out there, leaders that want social business should show a little social acumen themselves. What I recommend is that they spend just a little time to learn about the various channels and how each of them are used. Every business has certain social channels that make more sense than others. The next thing is that they participate, even if just sparingly. Showing from the top down that social is not just a talking point will go a long way. As much as we want people to do as we say, ultimately they will respond better if they see that you also walk the walk.
By focusing on the above four little secrets, it is possible to make great strides in taking advantage of perhaps the most powerful platform in the world for connecting people and ideas which, by in large, is what turns consumers into customers.
Related: 10 Tips for Mastering Twitter