There are two types of busi­ness­es in the world when it comes to social — an orga­ni­za­tion that does it because it feels it ‘has to’ to keep pace, and the ‘social­ly mature’ busi­ness that does it because it tru­ly under­stands social media engage­ment, and its val­ue on the bot­tom line. Social media is now the cor­ner­stone of mod­ern mar­ket­ing strate­gies, regard­less of the orga­ni­za­tion’s size, age, mar­ket posi­tion or rev­enue.

A busi­ness that is able to prop­er­ly use social and all it has to offer, will reap the asso­ci­at­ed ben­e­fits of increased cus­tomer loy­al­ty and finan­cial per­for­mance. It can also be used to attract high-qual­i­ty tal­ent and engage with audi­ences out­side of an organization’s tra­di­tion­al mar­ket­ing remit.

The dif­fer­ence in social matu­ri­ty for these types of busi­ness­es is large­ly down to exec­u­tive buy-in. If the C‑suite is unable to see clear val­ue in social invest­ment, then any strat­e­gy around adop­tion is like­ly to fall through. Con­vinc­ing exec­u­tives of the val­ue of social media is no easy feat, but break­ing down com­mon mis­con­cep­tions is a good first step.

By show­cas­ing how the busi­ness can uti­lize social to stay ahead of the com­pe­ti­tion, it will not only encour­age fur­ther adop­tion and invest­ment, but dri­ve the over­all orga­ni­za­tion for­ward as social becomes inte­gral to busi­ness oper­a­tions.

Breaking down barriers to social adoption

So what’s the source of the issue when it comes to gar­ner­ing exec­u­tive buy-in? Pri­mar­i­ly, it’s fear. The C‑suite is con­cerned about the per­ceived risk, “what if we get some­thing wrong and cus­tomers berate us on Twit­ter? Sure­ly it’s safer to avoid social plat­forms com­plete­ly?” But bury­ing one’s head in the sand won’t slow the pace of social and dig­i­tal progress, nor will it do any favors in regards to brand per­cep­tion.

The ques­tion now, in 2018, should be: “what is the risk of not being on social?” Com­pa­nies with active social lead­ers are pos­i­tive­ly regard­ed com­pared to those with inac­tive lead­ers. Brand per­cep­tion now heav­i­ly relies on exec­u­tives engag­ing on social, and lack there­of can neg­a­tive­ly influ­ence how a cus­tomer per­ceives a company’s authen­tic­i­ty, approach­a­bil­i­ty and trans­paren­cy. Make no mis­take, fail­ing to have a social pres­ence increas­es the risk of not only deter­ring away impor­tant prospects, but also poten­tial cus­tomers and rev­enue.

Social’s grow­ing dom­i­nance is not only restrict­ed to cus­tomer rela­tions. In fact, social is rapid­ly tak­ing over mar­ket share of the media. From CMOs to CEOs, read­ing news­pa­pers, lis­ten­ing to the radio and stay­ing up-to-date with the lat­est announce­ments is inte­gral to their role, so why should social be any dif­fer­ent? It’s now becom­ing a chan­nel that many con­sumers and news out­lets migrate towards. Being an active par­tic­i­pant could be the dif­fer­ence in how a CEO finds out a piece of news and reacts appor­tion­ate­ly. And being the last to know in today’s com­pet­i­tive land­scape can have a tru­ly detri­men­tal effect on an orga­ni­za­tion.

With con­cerns around risk now focused on the detri­ment to not being on social, the next hur­dle is around the per­ceived cost and time drain. ‘Why should I invest mon­ey in this if I can’t see a real return on invest­ment?’, ‘It will take too much of my time and there are more impor­tant actions I need to get on with’. The only issue with these kinds of views is that social is now the pri­ma­ry means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion for many, whether that’s between friends, col­leagues or prospects.

A lack of brand pres­ence will mean these indi­vid­u­als nat­u­ral­ly find anoth­er com­pa­nies that they can engage with via social medi­ums… com­peti­tors. Fail­ing to invest in social risks cap­i­tal, so becom­ing social­ly mature and lead­ing by exam­ple is key for orga­ni­za­tions, before their com­pe­ti­tion can monop­o­lize the social advan­tage.

Flex accordingly

Peo­ple by their very nature are impa­tient — they want imme­di­ate results. Expect­ing to see suc­cess straight away pro­vides a very nar­row win­dow of oppor­tu­ni­ty to exper­i­ment with what social media has to offer and how it can help dri­ve aware­ness, rev­enue and cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion. For exam­ple, when many busi­ness­es began imple­ment­ing flex­i­ble-work­ing prac­tices, not all employ­ees start­ed work­ing remote­ly the very next day, but that didn’t negate the need to make those changes. Today, those orga­ni­za­tions with remote work­ing pro­vi­sions are already start­ing to see the pay­off with attract­ing a diverse range of tal­ent, as the shift moves towards a more flex­i­ble work life bal­ance.

It’s the same with social. Build­ing up a pres­ence and doing it well now will pay off in the future, as the busi­ness world grad­u­al­ly shifts to embrace social as the norm. Being ahead of the curve in this instance will cer­tain­ly pro­vide com­pet­i­tive advan­tage.

Social is also a con­stant­ly evolv­ing plat­form, with a user base whose opin­ions and thoughts change almost dai­ly. So what may have worked yes­ter­day might not work today. Stay­ing up-to-date and in tune with cus­tomer per­cep­tions will allow the brand to stay agile and adapt to the mar­ket. This is where the true val­ue of social lies. It is the abil­i­ty to have a con­stant fin­ger on the pulse of per­cep­tions.

Show and sell

Hav­ing con­sid­ered the three main points that exec­u­tives care about: mak­ing mon­ey, sav­ing mon­ey and man­ag­ing risk — it’s up to social teams to high­light how invest­ing accord­ing­ly in social will impact the bot­tom line and help them achieve busi­ness suc­cess. And don’t just tell them about the pow­er of social — show them. Build plat­forms on social lis­ten­ing that exec­u­tives can mon­i­tor them­selves on a dai­ly basis, from men­tions of brands and prod­ucts to cus­tomer con­ver­sa­tion, indus­try news and com­peti­tors. Not only are these con­ver­sa­tions impor­tant, but it will be inter­est­ing for the exec­u­tive to have their own insights and proof points.
See­ing how com­peti­tors and cus­tomers are engag­ing on social will be key in moti­vat­ing oth­er exec­u­tives to fol­low suit to avoid being left behind. This is the key to demon­strat­ing the very real pos­si­bil­i­ties of what social offers in regards to wider busi­ness goals.

The next step in the social jour­ney is demon­strat­ing how inte­grat­ing it as a core com­po­nent of oper­a­tions is vital to social matu­ri­ty. Exec­u­tives that hire a team to focus pure­ly on social as a bolt-on func­tion to mar­ket­ing will not be enough to impact cus­tomer expe­ri­ence and brand per­cep­tion. Social input needs to stem from the knowl­edge and opin­ions of employ­ees from all depart­ments — often an organization’s biggest advo­cates.

Accord­ing to Edelman’s Trust Barom­e­ter con­tent shared by employ­ees at every lev­el of an orga­ni­za­tion gets eight times more engage­ment than cor­po­rate con­tent, and it is reshared 25 times more fre­quent­ly. Sim­ply push­ing brand­ed con­tent on social is not enough to be heard by cus­tomers. Exec­u­tives and employ­ees that are appro­pri­ate­ly engaged can pro­mote and share con­tent, and be a part of the jour­ney in achiev­ing social suc­cess.

Busi­ness­es must wake up to the poten­tial that social offers the orga­ni­za­tion, from ROI and employ­ee engage­ment right through to greater brand loy­al­ty. The risk of not being on social far out­weighs the risks of being on these chan­nels, and it’s well and tru­ly time for exec­u­tives to under­stand and embrace it.