Views & Opinions

The 3 Essential Questions of Social Business

OMG! That is one boring headline! Not even sure it’s link-bait for Twitter.

That said, I’m going to call it like it is. We are still seriously blinded by the flashbulbs of social media. Everyday I see PowerPoint decks full of copy-and-paste logos of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn proclaiming, “If we don’t do this, we’re dead.” I don’t really know what these presentations and the people who deliver them are saying. Do what? Stuff? Really? Is that what we’re talking about? Doing stuff?

Especially in B2B, this is the case. If I see another Facebook logo on a B2B presentation, I might barf a little. You sell machines that pump out auto parts! Or logistics software! Or industrial strength windmill lubricants! (I made that up.) Do you really think the dude who’s going to write you a check for $10 million is out there on Facebook saying, “Today, I went sledding with the girls. Then I made a turkey sandwich (here’s a picture of it), and now I’m going to buy 4,300 drums of lube from Mega-Fast Windmills!”

Social networks are like anything else you do in business. There are certain fundamental questions that you need to ask before you spend or make money. Let’s take a look at three that I obsess about on a daily basis.

1. What Are the Opportunities?

So you want a Facebook page. Or to start a LinkedIn community. Or to Tweet the b’jeeb out of your daily life. Why? What are you trying to accomplish? What will success look like and how will you measure it? Launching these social puppies is easy. (I wish it cost $250,000 to launch a business Twitter account. Someone would care.) Solving a problem for your customers or associates isn’t. In analyzing these networks, you need to seriously question how you will be adding value to your customers’ experience, your brand, and your operations. If you’re going to launch a social presence, articulate very clearly what need you’re filling or what problem you’re solving.

2. Who’s Going to Use This?

Back to our windmill friends on Facebook. What if you learn that most of your buyers’ IT departments do not allow access to Facebook on their corporate networks? We have a bit of a problem, yes? Look, I’m all in favor of collaboration and knowledge sharing and open access to the people within companies—but it’s equally important to know whether the people with whom you want to collaborate can even do so or desire to do so. I’m guessing they do, but having absolute certainty is critical. Most of the social ghost towns were developed by companies that didn’t understand how their customers wanted to interact with them.

3. Do We Have the Skills Internally to Succeed?

As I’ve stated here on a weekly basis, I don’t believe becoming a social enterprise is a marketing function. It’s a business function that crosses all silos and departments. So to that point, if we have properly assessed both the opportunities and the audiences we’re focusing on, then we need to understand and plan around the internal capabilities of our colleagues on staff. If our assessment indicates that we have a wonderful opportunity for human resources to recruit talent via LinkedIn, have we trained them? Are they prepared?

Similarly, if our opportunity assessment indicates that our customers really need knowledge from our technology or scientific community, we need to build plans around how those professionals are going to manage their time (and attitudes) around becoming more customer-facing. Often, this is not going to come naturally for them. Training on how to use the tools won’t be good enough. You’re talking about training left-brained people on right-brain skills. If you don’t do this properly, you’ll be that marketing person wandering around the office wondering why no one cares.

Seems simple, right? Not so much. But please do yourself and the market a favor by stopping what you’re about to do and answer these three questions. The world doesn’t need another social presence that goes nowhere.

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