Question: What is your #1 advice for social media strategists and managers?

Answer: Stop talking about social media.

Type “social media” into a Google search bar and you’ll find roughly about 4.7 billion results in .30 seconds. Next, try “social media conference.” You’ll see something along the lines of 1.2 billion results in .25 seconds. Social media is important but I’d argue we aren’t celebrating it for the reasons we should. Instead, we are forcing social media to conform to traditional thinking and processes rather than adapting business philosophies and supporting methodologies to meet new opportunities.

Every day, I hear about how social media strategists and managers are frustrated with the lack of executive support. Yet, many aren’t doing themselves any favors. Executives don’t speak the language of social media. They speak the language of the C-Suite and their audience are shareholders and stakeholders…not necessarily customers or employees or “people” in its most human sense.

So, in the face of skepticism or fear, the best advice that I can offer you is to learn the language of the C-Suite when making the case for what it is you believe is the right thing to do. Making the case for social media has less to do Facebook or Twitter or “likes,” views or “retweets” and more to do with using these networks to glean or introduce value. To earn the attention and respect of the C-Suite and ultimately customers is the ability to connect the dots to the very things that every stakeholder values and communicating it in a way that is approachable and appreciated. This takes a thoughtful approach to rendering value in a contextual means that hits home with different people their way.

Social media alignment

Altimeter colleague Charlene Li and I conducted a series of research interviews and surveys over the last year on this very topic…how social today’s social media strategies align (or do not align) with business goals. We shared our findings in a newly released report, “The Evolution of Social Business Six Stages of Social Media Transformation.” Needless to say, we found a significant gap And, it is this gap that makes communicating value to executives difficult if not impossible.

Charlene and I found the following interesting results:

  • Only 34% of businesses felt that their social strategy was connected to business outcomes.
  • Just 28% felt that they had a holistic approach to social media, where lines of business and business functions work together under a common vision.
  • A mere 12% were confident they had a plan that looked beyond the next year. Perhaps most astonishing was that only one-half of companies surveyed said that top executives were “informed, engaged and aligned with their companies’ social strategy.”
The value of take-aways

In the early days of social media, emergent networks changed how people connect to one another and the information that’s important to them. With each update, shared experience, and event, the world shrank. People were and are becoming increasingly connected and as a result they are more informed. With information and connectedness comes the reality of increased customer expectations. Value, engagement, entertainment, personalization, people must take away something meaningful from the exchange otherwise there can be no relationship. A relationship is after all a mutual exchange where all parties believe that connectedness is beneficial.

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and every network thereafter are merely communities, ecosystems, and platforms where information is exchanged and relationships are formed and abandoned. How you make the case for engagement and how to deliver or extract value isn’t directly tied to the nature of the environment as much as it is the facilitator of the way and the weight that value is defined, expressed, and measured.

If we’re not providing solutions we may in fact be contributing to the problem. See, social technology isn’t the answer; it’s part of the answer. Yet social strategists are often caught up in a socialized ecosystem of catch-up and that’s part of the challenge and the test. There’s always going to be a new network or another shiny object. There are always new case studies or expert theories flooding blogs, conferences, and books.

Again, the best advice I can give you is to stop talking about social media as a means to an end and start thinking about how social media becomes a means toward triggering meaningful activities or outcomes that align with business priorities or objectives and customer expectations.

This is the time to get back to basics. This is the time to take a step back.

Social media is not the crux of you argument. It is an enabler.

What are you doing to lift the conversation from tools to value? Are you prepared to translate the promise and opportunity of social into customer engagement that aligns business goal, social media strategies and customer value?

 

Brian Solis is the author of the book, What’s The Future of Business. He is also a principal analyst at Altimeter Group. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.