Becoming a social business doesn’t happen overnight. After all, just launching a new Facebook page or a new Twitter account doesn’t mean that your business is “social.” Being a truly social business means that social media is part of your company’s culture and corporate DNA. It means that both front-line employees and top executives are using social media as part of every new initiative or strategy.
Back in 2013, the Altimeter Group outlined the six stages of social business maturity that would result in the final transformation of a company into a social business. That study (“The Evolution of Social Business”) was more than theoretical conjecture – it was based on survey results from nearly 700 social media professionals and executives.
The transformation starts with a planning stage. This could mean running a few pilot projects or other proof-of-concept projects. It also means listening to customers and other stakeholders to see what they are thinking about. And it also means reviewing resources to see what’s available to be invested into social media projects.
After that important first step, a company must begin to build its social media presence on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. This requires thinking about how to use those platforms strategically, in order to meet core business objectives. For example, if your company prides itself on best-in-class customer service, you’d probably want to make Twitter a core component of your social strategy.
Then, it’s time to think about building engagement with customers, forming communities, and finding your super-fans across social media. In short, your company needs to become part of a larger social media ecosystem. You are starting to build feedback loops, in which you are constantly refining what you post on social media, and how you connect with customers, fans and partners.
Those first three steps are what most people commonly associate with becoming a social business. But as the Altimeter Group pointed out, you’re still only halfway to becoming a truly social business. You also need to formalize the role of social media within your organization. Who is the primary “executive sponsor” of social within your organization? For some companies, it might be the CEO. For others, it might be the CMO or CTO. Obviously, if there’s buy-in from the CEO, there’s a good chance the company really can become a social business.
The next step is integrating social media strategy with the overall strategy of the company. If your company has different departments, units or affiliates, they all need to understand the role of social. And the right reporting relationships have to be set up such that the right C-level executives can see, for example, the impact of a recent social media campaign on a new product launch.
The last step is perhaps the most exciting step – it’s when social has been so ingrained into everything that your company does that it’s possible to talk about a “social culture.” Your HR department is now using social media to recruit new employees. Your marketing department has a social media component for every new splashy campaign. Your customer service department has embraced social media as a way to boost overall customer satisfaction.
At that point in time, your company has truly become a social business. It’s not just that you are implementing new social strategies, it’s also that everyone in the business has a social-first mentality.