Do you know why you are striving for a social business?

Candice O'Sullivan
October 11, 2013

I’m constantly surprised by how many companies consider building a social presence a commercial imperative yet can’t articulate how or why it will help meet the needs of the business – other than the obvious: ‘more revenue’ and ‘everybody else is doing it’.

In these circumstances, social transformation typically stagnates because there are no clear objectives to drive or bring this new business function to life. Unfortunately, it is difficult to get started in this space if you don’t know what you are trying to achieve.

Social media in business

The fact is there are many different reasons to use social media. Understanding why you are using these newer marketing tools will inform what you do in this space, including where you develop a presence and what you do with your accounts once they are set up. This, in turn, will ensure you don’t waste time on social contributions that don’t make good business sense.

So what do these objectives look like?

The two most common reasons to use social media are to promote your content and to drive website traffic. In these cases, social represents an amplification strategy: a means by which to ensure your carefully crafted content doesn’t sit on your website unseen. By sharing links in the right places with the right people, you enable your content to work harder for you. This is an important first step in the lead generation process – being seen – which in turn allows you to become known, then sought after.

Listening with intelligence

There are other, less obvious, reasons to be social. Some businesses choose to maintain a much more passive presence in this space, simply using these platforms to ‘listen’. This allows them to gain valuable insights into their target audiences, undertake vital competitor surveillance, source new talent and keep their finger on the pulse of industry goings-on. They obtain useful data they can feed into their decision-making processes, even though they are not actively posting or sharing information.

For these businesses, this ‘one-way’ involvement is a deliberate choice; it simply represents a different kind of investment in social media, where the aim is not to push or pull but to strategically observe and leverage the knowledge acquired in the process for the good of the business.

Speaking with authority

Networking is a much more obvious reason for your business to become social. In this case, the business seeks to develop its ‘talent brand’ by encouraging its own professionals to become visible experts by openly sharing their expertise and knowledge in strategically relevant groups, forums or circles.

These virtual relationships help fuel brand salience, eWOM (electronic word of mouth) and new business enquiries. However, by definition, social selling relies heavily on the involvement of individuals outside (and beyond the immediate control) of the marketing department. As such, the activities in which a firm needs to invest to support individual employees using social platforms to expand their sphere of influence are entirely different from the kind of support its brand team needs to raise and maintain the profile of the corporate brand. That is, the ‘social role’ of a company’s individual expert is distinct from the departmental role of broadcasting company-centric news and alerts.

Horses for courses

These few examples represent just some of the reasons why your company might choose to be social. Of course, being a ‘social business’ is not an either/or proposition; you can do as little or as much as you like in this space. Your level of involvement may encompass all of the above activities and more.

The key point is that your marketing objectives should drive your social activity. If professional networking is your priority, you may decide that maintaining a deep, quality presence on LinkedIn is all your company needs to do in the immediate future. If website traffic is a priority, sharing content across multiple social platforms may mean you focus on building a broader but perhaps more superficial presence for the time being. These represent different but equally valid approaches to the task of being social. So if your company is looking to get started with social, begin by asking yourself what you are trying to achieve by using these channels and how this aligns with your business objectives. The path forward will become much clearer.

This post was contributed by Candice O’Sullivan, Director and Head of Strategy at Wellmark. You can find Candice on Google+ at +Candice O’Sullivan or follow her tweets on brand strategy, content marketing and related topics @candicepill.

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