Social Media is not Going to Save Your Business

To truly see opportunities within social media requires viewing the consumer landscape through a different lens…

Social media is enjoying yet another gust beneath its wings. Google Plus is rekindling the love affair of social networking among the early adopters and mavens who friended their way to higher Klout scores and also social network fatigue. The numbers of social network users are soaring well past 10 figures. Even celebrities such as Bono, Justin Timberlake, Ashton Kutcher, Lady Gaga et al, are not only living social, they’re putting their money where their cliques are by actively investing in emerging social technologies.

Can you believe that today, skeptics still remain? What’s most concerning is that many of them are primary decision makers responsible for the future direction and corresponding relevance of their businesses. Some of you either work for this leadership team or you are part of it.

“Social networks are where people share what they had for lunch. No one’s listening anyway. You saw what happened to Myspace, Bebo and Friendster. You see that Google+ is already killing Facebook. No one sees the point of Twitter. See what we saved by not jumping on the treadmill?!”

No, social media is not a fad nor is it merely a soapbox for inane, narcissistic or self congratulatory over sharing. And no, social media will not cower in the shadows of “what’s next.” We’ve reached the end of the destination web and are long past the attention rubicon. Social is now a fabric of everyday technology and digital engagement. It’s is only gaining in momentum and permeance. Those businesses that miss this opportunity will find a slipping point that may eventually give way to Digital Darwinism, the evolution of consumer behavior when society and technology evolve faster than you.

Benchmarking Against the Opportunity

Many businesses realize the potential of social media and are savoring a seemingly compelling way to reach customers. Many are even boasting millions of fans and followers. But what they too underestimate is the power of people. It’s not so much about technology as much as it is about the democratization of information and the equalization of societal influence. People are now part of the equation and are willingly shedding their “audience” moniker and vacating the branded auditoriums of yore in favor of building their own stages, their own personal theaters. Consequently, customers are becoming influential as they fill the seats to their performance. They’re creating dedicated information networks and as a result, consumers have evolved into a connected and more discerning audience with an audience of audiences.

How businesses embrace this opportunity says everything about how they view customers and the relationships they’re shaping as a result. Equally, how businesses measure success in this new frontier also says everything about how they value customer relationships. Hearing it this way makes the measurement of Likes, followers, views or +1′s seem trivial. And, thinking about customer value and how to deliver it where attention is focused makes us rethink website traffic as a KPI. Instead, businesses must embrace a new perspective, one that takes the lessons rife within social media to build a more meaningful engagement strategy for building customer relationships and growing new opportunities.

Have you defined the customer relationship you’d like to develop in 2012?

Have you revisited the company’s vision and mission for the connected customer?

It Takes a Leader to Lead…Not Follow

eMarketer recently visualized the findings of Jive Software and Penn, Schoen, & Berland study that examined how social media impact business strategy. 78% of participating executives believe that social media is somewhat or very important to the future success of their business. Amongst medium-sized businesses, this appears to resonate as 51%, the highest in the group, see social media as very important to business strategy and direction.

In aggregate however, 22% of small, medium and large businesses either don’t know or don’t see the importance of social media to long-term success.

Executives need help in understanding the significance of social networks in fostering customer relationships and how doing so affects the lift for sales and brand resonance. On average 27% of executives view social media as a top strategic priority and another 47% see it as necessary, but not necessarily as a priority. Again, medium-sized businesses lead the way with 49% placing social media as a top priority moving forward.

Surprisingly 26% of executives do not see social media as a necessary or strategic priority or they’re not sure either way. Are they wrong? We cannot measure what we do not know to value. Executives need help in understanding the opportunity. This is why we must leave behind the training wheels of social media 1.0 and graduate to a new era of greater social media significance, one where business priorities and customer needs and value coalesce.

The Future of Business is not Created, It’s Co-Created

Customer influence is growing and when they’re not focusing attention on one another, they’re focusing activity toward the things that move them. As we know, brands and organizations are the recipients of sentiment, both good and bad. It’s what we do with the feedback and insights that define the brand in the future. In addition to brand, competitive advantages will lean toward businesses that embrace customer engagement to shape and steer experiences and innovate future products, services and uses.

In a separate study, eMarketer learned that customers do indeed want deeper engagement with the brands and products they care about. At the same time, companies that embraced a culture and philosophy of co-creation are realizing that open collaboration is instrumental in keeping a competitive edge.

Companies also tend to restrict their co-creation activities to discrete moments in the product life cycle. But the greatest benefits can be realized when collaboration centers on building value that enhances a product’s daily use.

The study found that companies benefit from customer insights which in turn delivers customers benefit through product satisfaction. This in turn increases sales while saving customers time and increasing their productivity.  Of course, co-creation promotes loyalty and builds pride and a sense of recognition, which equally lowers customer service costs while building a strong community of customers and advocates.

As we’re learning, it’s not enough to be present on social networks. It’s not enough to engage in customer conversations. Leadership organizations, not just marketing departments, must realize that social media are not a cure for the ills of common business malpractices. The rules of relationships still apply and in fact are only amplified.  In social media and in the real world, the pillars of any great business must embody service, innovation, experiences, performance, value, and now co-creation. Remember, customers are not looking to build a community with your company simply because they can. Community rules require the cultivation of affinity and belonging through relevance, empathy and the consistent delivery of tangible and intangible benefits.

Companies must now be engaging and worthy of connection now and over time. And more importantly, businesses must embrace a culture of change to become adaptive and survive Digital Darwinism.  Social media will not save business, but it will challenge them to evolve, to adapt…to do better.

As a wise executive of a leading global company once told me, “If you come to me with a request for budget and resources for social media, to make it a priority for our business, you will lose every time. If you tie social media to our business priorities and objectives and demonstrate how engagement will enable progress, you will win every time. Social media must be an enabler to our business, just show me how.”

Connect with Brian Solis on Twitter | LinkedIn | Facebook | Google+


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The New ENGAGE!: If you’re looking to FIND answers in social media and not short cuts, consider either the Deluxe or Paperback edition


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Image credit: Shutterstock

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  • http://jasjeetsgill.wordpress.com/ Jasjeet Gill

    Found this article to be a very good read. The quote that was used in the end really put the whole article together for me and brought home the point. The grapghs that you provided in the article also drove home the point that you were trying to make in the posting. Thank you for providing this information because I do feel that it is vital and important in social media. These are key points that I can also use in my own perspective as I step through the door of social media.

  • http://twitter.com/CAAdvertising C.A Advert Solutions

    There are many good articles put out every day on social media, but I find yours to be consistently well written and from a unique perspective. It’s nice to see a view of something from a different angle. Thanks!

  • http://www.screen-machine.co.uk Tony

    A captivating and well written article, however what about the small business!
    I own a struggling t shirt business and do not have the money to compete with larger companies with bigger budgets. As usual, with all technology the winners are the ones with the money and it’s to the detriment of the economy. Small business is very important to any country’s economy and because of the big spending corporates taking over the web, we cannot get on the search engines any more. So the larger businesses get all the orders and can choose their price.
    So all your fancy words and bar charts are great for the rich, but the poorer hard working people can do nothing but watch more of our potential taken away from us.

  • http://www.FaceForwardMedia.com SEM Services

    Understanding and properly utilizing social media is critical for the majority of today’s business – I love your perspective that it propels companies to change & adapt.  Nice article. 

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  • http://durhamplumber.tumblr.com/ Stevenwheater

    I am only just getting started with pushing my small business into the Social media network. What convinced me that it was worth doing is when I thought about how I currently got business. Most of my work came from word of mouth recommendations, Facebook is just a modern way for people to spread recommendations rather than face to face. A friend of mine has a small electrician company and he swears by Facebook marketing in particular.

  • http://twitter.com/rhobi1 rhobi

    Those “primary decision makers” you mentioned do understand and enjoy social networking on LinkedIn. I bet that over 90% of them actively use it on a weekly if not daily basis. Building or saving a business on social networks that were never designed for business may not be the perfect solution. Tying LinkedIn functionality to eCommerce on the other hand, now your talking. Facebook, MySpace etc… are mainly used for person to person, not business to business. Maybe we should compare apple to apple not apple to Google. As others have hinted about, social networks are becoming more powerful than the golf course for closing deals, and it’s cheaper.

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  • TJaytology

    Its quite amazing to know that the era of social media has now made a solid force throughout the professional world, and not in a way that is redundant or needy. Social media, hands down, is a necessity. There are 500 million users on facebook. All these users in some way or another look to connect with former friends, monitor associates or employees, connect with businesses or make a statement in an expressive society. Why would businesses not utilize an opportunity to make their mark through social media. Businesses and social media are teaming up to connect to a greater audience that couldn’t be imagined before this partnership. College students are becoming more familiar with fortune 500 companies at earlier stages, and people who typically don’t engage in big business are finding it more interesting to do so. Social media may not save a business, but it certainly is changing the potential success of one in ways unimaginable a decade ago.

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  • Rtishcreations


    Can you believe that today, skeptics still remain? What’s most concerning is that many of them are primary decision makers responsible for the future direction and corresponding relevance of their businesses. Some of you either work for this leadership team or you are part of it.”
    THIS ROCKS! :)

  • Melonie Dodaro

    Very keen observations you got here.  Social media is here to stay, and morph into someting even greater.  It’s how different companies leverage social media for their business objectives that will make it a very powerful tool. 

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ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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