If you compare the services springing up around social media compared to any other technological advance in the last 20 years or so, you might come to the conclusion that this phase in our digital evolution has turned into one of the biggest land grabs since high level web domains were opened up.
And you know what? You’d be right.
From social dashboards to URL shorteners, social monitoring platforms, business intelligence data, social scoring platforms and much, much more, social media has opened a veritable Pandora’s Box of businesses looking to be the next Radian6 or Buddy Media.
The problem is, it’s not just enough to see the financial successes in the space and think, “We could build that.” No, to be a successful social business, you can’t just be a social business – you need to truly BE one.
The Social Gold Rush Mentality
The main problem lies in the success – real or perceived – that businesses in the social space have achieved. While people were still getting used to the idea of Twitter and Facebook back in 2006 / 2007 from a personal angle, savvy early adopters in the technology space saw an opportunity.
Businesses had been paying hundreds of thousands of dollars offline for focus groups and expensive data analysis, in order to better understand their customers as well as their competitors.
This data would enable brands to – arguably – target ad campaigns and media buys more effectively. It’s why you’d see certain ads on the side of buses and bus stops geared towards a specific demographic on that route, while different ads would run on different routes.
Of course, the issue was being able to track the effectiveness of these ads. Step up social media.
When it became clear that public data could be trawled by technology using keyword searches in the same way search engines worked, the scene was set for the first companies to monetize social media.
Additionally, data could be provided that dissected these conversations and helped brands see the potential decision-making moment an interested consumer turned into an intent-to-buy customer.
This led to not only social monitoring software, but also social scoring software as the conversations being trawled began to show spikes and popularity curves for certain individuals.
Once that realization kicked in, and businesses saw the amount of money being charged for these services – as well as the amount of funding being given to them – the social media gold rush began.
The problem was, not every company understood social media – it was simply a money grab.
We Tweet Therefore We’re Social
There’s nothing wrong with making money in business, of course. Heck, if we don’t, then we’re not in business for very long.
The problem with just wanting to be in social to make money, though, is that it can lead to anything but success.
I’ve seen countless “social business platforms” that are anything but. There’s a big difference between building something to offer a solution, and actually understanding the solution the platform is being built for.
Social media is a strange beast. It’s constantly fluid with frequent changes in how we use it, and what can be done with the tools available to us. It has weird platform-specific nuances and user behaviour.
Because of this, it’s not a medium for everyone – and nor should it be. However, it’s most certainly not a medium for any business that doesn’t understand social and, more importantly, what it means to be a social business.
IBM, who’ve received widespread praise for their adoption of social media internally and externally, define their idea of what it means to be a social business:
When you inspire your workforce to innovate and collaborate more productively, you create tangible business value. When you anticipate needs and deliver exceptional experiences, you delight your customers and create advocates. When you integrate your business processes with the right social tools, you secure a competitive advantage and pioneer new ways of doing business.
This is why it’s so key to truly understand this space we play and work in; how it affects businesses and their customers; and how it defines the technology that will be built to provide true solutions versus Band-Aid quick buck platforms and services.
Having a Twitter account doesn’t make you social, just as having an Instant Messaging app on your phone doesn’t make you an expert communicator.
You want to succeed and make money in social media? Treat it like you would any other business strategy:
- Understand the medium;
- Believe in the medium;
- Carry out due diligence in the medium;
- Set your goals, and trust and empower the people employed to meet them;
- Integrate, and be inclusive of the various teams across the business or organization.
The simple truth of the matter is clear enough if you want to succeed and be profitable in social media, and be a true social business: create for the needs of others, with people who understand these needs, instead of just creating for your personal pocket.
So, the question is – which side of the social business line do you want to fall on?