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Social ROI

3 Stages of Business Evolution Social Media Consultants Face

Take Flight Most professionals would agree that we don’t become comfortable with social media overnight, but rather, through gradual stages of exposure and engagement. An organization evolves as it passes through the social media adoption continuum.

A blog entry by strategy consultant Maxime Teller illuminates this notion of social media adaptation.

I sense a real need to establish and distinguish the roles of a consultant in social business processes.

While companies gradually pass through the social media adoption phases (education, observation, broadcast, participation, relationships, collaboration). I’ve identified three central stages that are part of developing social businesses. The social business stage a company resides in defines their perception of the distinct roles consultants play.

Three Consultative Stages of Social Business

Stage 1: The Tactical False Start

At this stage, companies have recognized the value in establishing an online presence through social media channels. Through education, observation or broadcasting they’ve acknowledged the gravity of social media; it’s not just a passing trend, but here to stay.

Accepting social media comes first. Understanding its usefulness comes later. At this point, the challenge lies in our perception of social media. At a glance, it seems like a “marketing tool.” Focus is placed on logistics: setting up accounts, broadcasting messages and campaigns, with a focus on the immediate “what” and less on the underlying “why.”

We get ahead of ourselves. This can be understood through an old expression: “putting the cart in front of the horse.” We’ve jumped in the cart (implemented new tools) but we aren’t moving without a horse (strategy). We won’t experience the benefits until we develop a strategy to get us from A to B. Only through experience do we come to know social media as a means of collaborative engagement.

What this means to you

The consultant (you) often assume the role of technician (as defined by the E-Myth) and you’re paid for the execution of tactics in place of the development of strategy (which you still do). However, this tactical approach can be used as a catalyst to push an organization to the next level. Accounts are ready but knowing how to use them requires guidance and mentorship.

Stage 2: Strategic

In this stage, organizations have started to see social media through a strategic lens. They may be in the broadcast or participation phase, but with open minds. They’re exploring its potential as a two-way communication medium for things like public relations, competitive intelligence, R&D, market validation and customer service. Because they've passed the education and observation phase, they place a high value on the "why" part, understanding that a well-defined strategy will lead to business success.

What this means to you

Assuming the role of strategist, you’re not only paid for tactical execution, but for the development and implementation of strategy itself. Depending on where the client is in the adoption continuum, they may not be open to the corporate culture shift needed to see a social strategy through. This presents you with a real challenge.

Stage 3: Thought Leadership

Organizations at this stage have developed relationships and collaborate with others. These are typically companies that have already "baked" social into the enterprise. They understand that building community and having a “pay it forward” mentality will translate to positive brand experiences (Ex: Ford, HubSpot, Radian6).

What this means to you

Taking on the role of thought leader pushes you above the “noise” (those competing against you for the organization’s business). Why? Because key stakeholders turn to industry leaders first for insight, advice, and direction before making a purchasing decision.

When I consider thought leadership in the social space, these people stand out in my mind: Brian Solis (Altimeter Group), Peter Kim (Dachis Group), and Dan Zarella (HubSpot). We can draw on the insight of established innovators to grow a social business, for ourselves and our clients.

Have you found yourself at a crossroads in one of these stages? What are your sticking points in helping your clients grow? Let me know in the comments.

How Business is Changing and How We Help

a share thing For as long as any of us have been alive, communication in the business world has been about:

  1. Getting the 'message' right.
  2. Distributing/broadcasting that message

Since media has become democratic and mainstream in recent years, with everyone from our kids to our grandparents participating in content creation and sharing, businesses now need to become social as well, leaving behind the old 1-way talk at you regime and embracing a new 2-way talk with you practice and posture.

The message is still important, as is being heard. But the message can't be protected, unchallenged, and "owned" anymore. It needs to live in the minds and daily dialogue of the people in the organization as they are put out in front of the company to share the message and grow the business.

Corporate communication has become human. Transparency, honesty, and active interest in what the customer wants now characterizes how businesses engage and grow.

Or it should.

Most businesses are having a difficult time adapting to this significant and very quick shift. The majority of businesses view "social media" as a new broadcast channel under the old model are failing as a result. Craft the message, post it to social platforms, and no one seems to listen, do they?

People connect with people, not companies. For businesses to be social, their people need to be social. The message is still important but it's  the interactions that an organization's people have with other people that is now shaping the brand more than any other factor. Through armies of support, resources, and value delivered live and in person. We're going back to the way business was done in a local setting in our grandparent's day - but now on a grand, global scale of instant and organic sharing.

The ones who are succeeding are the ones who are examining every corner of their operations for new opportunities to learn from their customers, grow for their customers, and become focused on their best reasons for being in business.

Social is Not Just a Marketing/PR Opportunity

Social presents new opportunities for every silo/role within a company.

  1. Business Development - what are your target customers saying they need that you can provide? How do the needs your customer communicates to you find their way into the next iteration of your product/service?
  2. Support - How powerful would your customer's experience be if you could hear them voice a problem with your product and have you reach out to help them before they even contact you?
  3. Human Resources - Get to know people before you hire them. Find talented team members who have a social profile that can be an asset to your company. Reduce the 'procedures' of hiring by relying on the people in your network who are also in the networks of those you are planning to hire.
  4. Billing - It's not about your processes, it's about a relationship and making sure both sides get what they need with as little pain as possible. What's the best model for your customer's to pay for what you're selling and the best method that works with how they work? Give them choice, they'll let you know.
  5. Marketing - Talk directly with the people who want to buy what you have to sell and enlist their help in sharing your offering with others looking for the same thing. It's the ultimate word of mouth and it undermines the exclusivity of the broadcast mediums of the old regime.
  6. Public Relations - Control your own message and stop earning the interest and approval of the traditional media to get your story out. Talk like a person with other people and grow with your audience.

Social is not a product to be bought

You can't flip on the social switch to be a social company any more than you can flip a switch to become a teen heartthrob or an expert in a chosen field. Take a deep breath. Take your time to participate in conversations on social platforms and figure out the best way to involve your business. There's no rush.

And we're here to help if you need us.

Now and as we grow, the Sociallogical team is made up of thoughtful, curious people who understand social business and have enjoyed success in growing communities using social media tools.

We have seen the operations and business models of countless businesses from the inside as team members, mentors, and builders. We have insight to help you make decisions and plan strategies to best take advantage of the your new opportunities in this new world of social business.

We're all in this together. It's a share thing.