Forget social media, think social business


If you want social media to benefit your company you need to understand social business. And that entails a lot more than just accruing new Twitter followers or generating more Facebook ‘likes’, writes Karen Fewell of Digital Blonde Ltd.

Mention the words ‘social media’ and it is no understatement to say that the reaction is usually mixed. There are lovers and haters of social networks, and I totally understand the reasons why.

Most of it comes down to the nature of the industry itself. 85% of people working in social media have been doing it for less than two years. They don’t have enough social media experience combined with sound business strategy. Therefore, mistakes happen, campaigns fail and businesses don’t see any return on investment.

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So before you read on, put your thoughts on social media to one side because there are many businesses seeing massive returns. Forget the words ‘social media’ and think ‘social business’ instead.

As with many things in ‘social’, there are a number of definitions of ‘social business’ floating around.

From my perspective I want to make it clear that social business isn’t a buzz word, or a trend, nor is it something that can instantly be achieved. I agree with the definition of a social business provided by the Altimeter Group: “The deep integration of social media and social methodologies into the organisation to drive business impact.”

The key part of the definition is ‘drive business impact’. Many of you will think that is obvious, and I agree, it is. However, when I ask people why they have a Twitter account or any other social presence, it is amazing how many businesses don’t know.

This problem doesn’t just relate to the foodservice equipment industry, or even the wider hospitality industry.

The Alitmeter Group report on social business revealed that two thirds of the companies surveyed were active in social with no real link to business goals.

You absolutely have to know what you are trying to achieve and how you are going to measure it. A business measure of social is not how many followers you have. Measuring money saved or business generated as a result of social is.

Social business means taking social out of the marketing, communications and PR departments. These teams all have a part to play in social but so do sales, R&D, product development, HR, customer service and all other departments in your company.

Companies are now creating social excellence teams led by a digital specialist and with representatives from each department. To see the benefit of social, think about it in two areas: information and data; and speed of communication between employees, suppliers and customers.

I can’t tell you everything you need to consider about social business in the scope of this article — I would need a book to do that! However, every equipment business that I speak to wants to know how social increases sales.

To look at this, you first need to look at how the sales function of a business is changing. Traditional B2B sales pull heavily on the time of the sales team. Research shows that B2B purchasers now self-service 57% of that sales process with online research to find companies, online research to determine knowledge and expertise, and online research to gather opinions of others about what they need and who is the best person to help.

To allow your potential customer to self-serve their sale, your business needs a digital footprint made up of your website, blogs, Slideshares, social network content and discussions, as well as natural customer recommendations.

I was asked by Catering Insight to give examples of equipment manufacturers that are doing well on social. I can’t tell you that because the ones that are doing well are not necessarily the ones that are most active on the networks.

Remember, though, that if your content isn’t shared, in my opinion it isn’t social. Your only measure of how well you are doing should be that you are meeting your clearly defined business objectives and that you have the measures in place to prove that.

At the end of the day, there is so much more to social than first meets the eye. If you want a quick guide then read my good friend Jeremy Waite’s ‘80 Social Media rules’. They are amusing but also helpful.

Karen Fewell is Director at Digital Blonde Ltd, a digital and social media agency that specialises in the hospitality and catering sectors. You can follow Karen on Twitter @DigitalBlonde.

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Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls

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