The following is Part Two of an interview with Ted Coiné and Mark Babbitt, authors of A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive explaining specific strategies business leaders can use to get the most benefit and the best return on investment (ROI) from working with social media.
Read Part One
Not every business leader clicks with social media. Does every business need a “Social” leader?
Ted: “For every business leader, a thorough understanding of how the social world works is absolutely crucial. In the not-too-distant future, social media will be the way we communicate with everyone. It will be how relationships are developed and how alliances are formed. If you’re not a social person, find someone in your company who is to represent you—for now. Then, learn and adapt—quickly. Blogging is a great way to build credibility. No time to blog? Make a reputation for intelligent commentary on other bloggers’ posts. Take part in a weekly Twitter chat centered on your area of expertise. To get up to social speed, engage with and emulate an established Social mentor. During our research for A World Gone Social, Mark and I were struck by the results of a 2012 study conducted by IBM: Overall, 17 percent of companies currently had Social executives. Fifty-seven percent planned to have executives on Social within the next three to five years. Here’s our issue with that second statistic: If you plan to go Social, what’s stopping you from doing it now? In the Social Age, three to five years is forever. And too late.”
How, specifically, can business leaders use social media to strengthen engagement?
Ted: “In a global economy, business leaders must be available, nearly 24/7. Social networks have become our ears, eyes, and mouth—in that order. We monitor Twitter for tweets about our brand, products, team members, and customers. We watch LinkedIn Groups for the thoughts of industry influencers. We browse Pinterest to gauge interest in a particular topic or trend. We diligently observe Yelp, Glassdoor, and other niche review sites for real-time observations from our customers and employees. We set up Google Alerts or install Mention—a terrific tool for prioritizing mentions by keywords—so anytime our brand, products, or major team members are discussed by name, we know. Using Social media monitoring tools, we listen in a way that has never before been possible. We watch for input from myriad sources. And we respond, in an authentic, accountable manner, faster and more effectively than we did in the days of PR-scripted responses. When business leaders do this consistently and with sincerity, magic happens. Engagement reaches a tipping point—where advocates, ambassadors, and champions combine with customers, employees, and influencers to form a community. In the Social Age, this is the pinnacle of an established brand.”
That sounds like a lot of work.
Mark: “Social is work—hard work. There are only so many staffers who can be assigned to your social commitment. Imagine the power, then, in building a stable of the most passionate community members—perhaps those who are hungry to build their personal brand and gain valuable experience—to assist with repeatable tasks. These enthusiastic members often become not just vocal proponents of the community but direct contributors to the organization’s mission. The best of the best become organizers of your community outreach, often filling a volunteer post such as moderator of your LinkedIn group, manager of your Facebook page, monitor of your Pinterest account, or official greeter of your Twitter chats. As the leader of their organization’s online community, business leaders need to identify the most passionate community members—the organic evangelists for their brand or cause—and then build healthy, mutually beneficial relationships with each. Take a lesson from the best nonprofits in the world: Your community is only as strong as the volunteers who support the community.”
No business can afford to waste money, time, or effort. What’s the ROI on social media?
Ted: “What’s the ROI on being relevant to your target consumers? What’s the ROI on still being in business ten years from now? That’s what we’d like to say to every business leader who asks that question, because we are at a strategic inflection point, right now, and we feel strongly about the need for most organizations to be deeply immersed in social.”
Mark: “Yes, that’s what we’d like to say. Instead, we understand the pressure most every early adopter of social media is under to justify his or her activity—even existence—on social. And we appreciate how hard it may be for executives to go ‘all in’ when they don’t completely understand the process themselves. Bottom line: you can’t talk about social—or issues like overall ROI—without also talking about the technologies that have intersected with social media to cause what we call the ‘Social Circle of Life.’ That circle is made up of five components: social media, mobile technologies, cloud computing, big data, and analytics. As we make clear in our book, these components feed off one another and grow exponentially. Brand ambassadors attract prospects and converts via Social and mobile. New contacts and data points are stored in the cloud. Companies starving for business intelligence pull it into big data. Analytics tools process the data; reports and predictive analytics are generated. Action is taken. And the circle is complete, again. This all happens over and over, millions of times per day. And the companies that leverage this immense power, that embrace the Social Circle of Life, win.”
Do you have any parting words for current and aspiring Social leaders?
Ted: “We all know change must come. We deserve more. By ushering in a new wave of leadership—leadership for the Social Age—we can do better. Because we now know that, no matter how appropriate it was at one time, the way we’ve been taught to think and act as leaders is wrong. We must actively listen. We must become rebels. We must embrace our role as heretics. ”
Mark: “Absolutely. The best social leaders—those who initiate change—are Rebel Heretics. Your role as a social leader—a Rebel Heretic—is to determine how you will bring change to your organization, industry, and the communities that support your mission. You must be bold enough to be different, to wear your ‘Rebel Heretic’ label like a badge of honor. You must be bold enough to be passionate about your role and the mission of those you lead—whether it be a team of 6 or 600,000—into the Social Age. You must be bold enough to ask the tough questions, listen to the answers, and learn from what you hear. You must be bold enough to be yourself.”
Ted Coiné was recently named a Forbes Top 10 Social Media Power Influencer. He is co-founder of Switch and Shift, a blog focused on leadership, culture, and change in the social century.
Mark Babbitt is CEO and Founder of YouTern, a social community for young careerists that Mashable calls a “Top 5 Online Community for Starting Your Career.”