Michael Brito’s Smart Business, Social Business is a great how-to source for converting a business into an interactive social media environment. He emphasizes that a brand cannot become social without the internal business, itself, first evolving to become social. This involves breaking down barriers between different sectors of the business, which he calls “organizational silos,” and fundamentally changing the culture of the organization.
In brief, this happens through a concentrated effort to implement “organizational models, culture, internal communications, collaboration, governance, training, employee activation, global and technology expansion, team dynamics, and measurement philosophy” that situate social media as a prominent component of marketing strategy. Brito goes into great detail to describe the changes that need to be made in each of these areas.
He also shares a variety of social media tracking and measurement tools so that his advice is truly actionable. Brito emphasizes the need to integrate the best tools for the particular organization, basing this on factors such as the current software systems in use, IT capacity, and the need for company growth, or scalability. A whole chapter of Brito’s book is devoted to different technologies available, from social business collaboration tools such as Jive and Microsoft SharePoint to social listening tools such as Radian6 and Sprinklr.
Technology, however, is just one of the three prongs in social business development. A business also needs to establish a solid governance model so that its employees know to engage transparently, disclose affiliation with the company, engage respectfully, follow the company philosophy, and follow a variety of other guidelines that are laid out clearly for them. The organization also needs to plan how it will provide feedback on social media platforms, measure impact, and develop over time. This is the “process” prong; the third prong is “people.” Becoming a social business requires a shift in the interactions between different parts of the organization – improving communication between different parts and finding management personnel who will champion the shift to social media. The diffusion of innovations model of behavior change tells us that few will be early adopters of social media. But promoting interaction on these various Internet platforms throughout a company, and teaching employees not just what to do but how exactly to engage, can increase the rate of adoption.
Brito points to the importance of measuring influence and ROI, from both a business perspective and one of evolving social media proficiency over time. This can be challenging because there’s no standardized measurement method. Not everything in social media converts into a monetized value, and different organizations tend to use different tools to track influence, including things such as Twitter retweets, RSS subscriptions, the comment-to-post ratio, customer retention, likes, share of voice and conversational sentiment. These are just a small handful of the many ways to measure social media impact, and none are perfect, but they can be used to demonstrate the importance of social media, growth and change over time, which can be especially important for garnering and maintaining the support of management.
The book also describes how there are different types of customers that have to be treated differently. These include venting, passive, used-to-be, and collaborative customers, customer advocates, and future customers. Brito also distinguishes brand advocates from influencers – influencers have a large social media network and their own agendas, and may write about a company (not necessarily positively).
Brand advocates speak out in support of the brand simply because they love the brand and its products. A company might want to offer new products to an influencer for review, but it’s incredibly beneficial to create a system for promoting and rewarding content creation by brand advocates. This could be something such as creating a special community within the company website, or otherwise mobilizing brand advocates.
Most importantly, just as Brian Solis emphasizes in Engage!, messages need to be relevant to the audience, the community, the time of posting, and other contextual factors. Rather than simply pushing marketing messages at customers, companies need to provide helpful information through social media by answering questions, resolving conflict with pertinent information, and being interesting by offering content such as multimedia and contests. This positions the brand as an important provider of information that customers can trust and believe. Determining what is relevant requires personnel and time resources – the company must engage in intensive listening on social media channels.
However, this investment can have immense benefit, increasing reach because customers are more likely to comment, retweet, post, and otherwise engage in response to content they care about. Relevant content also increases organic search results because the selected keywords match what customers are searching for. This content will also increase the amount of inbound links a brand receives from from related and respected sources, which also helps with SEO.
Brito discusses the option of working with a social media agency to monitor online activity, create a social media strategy and implement the program. An organization has to take into consideration the expertise of its own online team as well as research various agencies to select one that matches its particular needs – the type of organization it is, the experience of previous clients, actual social media engagement by the agency, the agency’s social media philosophy, and other characteristics. Whether an organization creates its own social media strategic plan or uses to an agency, Brito provides guidelines on the most important components to include. In ascending order of specificity, these are the mission statement, goals and objectives, strategies, and tactics.
My client, Public Citizen’s infant formula marketing campaign, can benefit from the framework set forth in this book even though it is focused on social businesses rather than advocacy organizations. All organizations should work to change their internal culture before engaging extensively in social media. Creating a strategic plan and engagement manual, implementing social media listening and measurement tools, engaging advocates and amplifying their voice, hosting platforms for idea generation by employees and the general public, and securing a social media budget are just a few of the items in this book that are universally important to modern organizations. Although a nonprofit might not have the same investments of money, manpower and time for social media involvement than a large business, it can work under the general principles set forth in Brito’s book and maximize its capacity to make a real impact through social media.