Monday, July 15, 2013

Summer Reading Series: Get Bold with Your Social Media

With summer well underway, are you progressing with your catch-up reading? My summer reading series has provided introductions to a customer service survival guide, a branding manifesto, and a leadership guidebook. With this fourth installment of the Debbie Laskey Summer Reading Series, I introduce you to Sandy Carter of IBM’s Social Business Initiative and her blueprint entitled, Get Bold Using Social Media to Create a New Type of Social Business.

In today’s social economy, who doesn’t have a passion for connecting? If you want to know what your competitors are doing, or want to learn about a prospect before going on a sales call, it’s too easy to Google it. But, in the words of Sandy Carter, you must “have a bold agenda to engage your clients, your partners, and your employees…This book is just a start. I continue to learn from my colleagues, peers, clients, and partners.” Here’s how to follow Sandy’s path to getting bold with your social marketing efforts.

Your business must have three traits to succeed in the social economy:

[1] It must be ENGAGED: A social business connects people to expertise – information is shared, creativity is shared, and brand exposure is shared – and the results are trust and solutions to business challenges.
[2] It must be TRANSPARENT: A social business is constantly learning – tools and leadership models are embraced from many sources, and analytics are used – and the results yield solutions from inside and outside the company.
[3] It must be NIMBLE: A social business leverages social networks to use real-time data to make better decisions – this allows employees to quickly adapt.

While your company may understand these three traits, is there a Social Business Culture? If not, here are some tools to create one:

[1] Define the role of management and employees.
[2] Empower everyone to participate.
[3] Educate and enable.
[4] Build a culture for participation started inside and top down as well as bottom up (everyone might not participate, but everyone must understand what it means to be a social business).
[5] Experiment and have a structured approach to learn from mistakes.

Do you have social computing guidelines? If you’d like some examples, check out this site for nearly 250 policies from large companies as well as non-profits:

As you develop your strategy, your company must leverage six principles of engagement:

[1] Focus on a goal for your engagement and define your goals upfront.
[2] Focus on your subject matter expertise and value to the reader – not on selling.
[3] Be consistent in commenting and engaging.
[4] Have a content strategy – don’t post content that is too far off-topic, and be timely.
[5] Focus on relationships, not numbers – don’t concentrate on the number of likes or fans.
[6] Integrate social techniques – share a message on several social platforms and be consistent.

There were countless examples provided in the book, and here were my favorites. The television channel, The History Channel, leveraged Foursquare, the social check-in site, so that when someone checked into a historical location, there were historical facts about that site. Imagine learning that you just checked into a small hotel where George Washington slept or that you just rode the first elevator in a city. Another fave is how has integrated Facebook birthday reminders on its website and into emails as well as leading its industry when it comes to resolving issues in real-time.

So what are you waiting for? If you want your company to be a Social Business, it must “embed social into your soul.” Your social efforts must be just as important in your day-to-day operations as finance, R&D, personnel, sales, technology, PR, and marketing. Your social efforts must align with your overall growth strategies. This is the only way that your social efforts will create a competitive advantage and substantive value for your customers. Be bold!

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.

Read Sandy’s Blog:

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