Becoming a Social Business


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Social Business Design by David Armano

Social Business Design by David Armano

Social media interaction may have started with marketing and public relations, but as the public facing elements of our businesses started engaging in a dialogue with customers and other community stakeholders, we started to realize something very important: true social media engagement transcends marketing.

Enter Social Business.

For the social business, silos don’t work if you need to communicate and adapt quickly. Plus, what happens when there’s no one to analyze all of the feedback? Word of mouth can’t happen with just one person owning social media if your company is larger than a hundred employees or so and farming it out to an agency doesn’t really work without a strong internal commitment.

My friend Mona and I were having a conversation about this the other day and she compared business’ understanding of social media to the early days of the IT department when executives thought one person could handle all the technology needs. Twenty years ago companies thought one person could fill the role of Systems Administrator, Web Developer, Systems Architect, Help Desk, Project Manager, User Experience, etc. I thought this was a good analogy. To be successful, we need to grow beyond relying on a single person or department to own the use of social media.

Listening is always the first step to social media communication, so please keep in mind that listening, monitoring and gathering data should take place from the very start and continue along as you ramp through the process I’m going to describe below.

Once you have a high-level strategy in place you’re ready to start

I. Building capacity (in 3 steps)
II. Building an army
III. Managing tactics…

Build Capacity in 3 Steps

1. Insert Social Media Consultancy Into the Web/Product Development Process

Identify opportunities to add social components to any website or web-based products. A lot of user experience people are great at doing this, but their focus is typically on making sticky sites. It’s your job to make it so sticky they take a piece with them – voluntarily of course – I’m not talking cookies.

Examples of Product Opportunities include:

  • Make the cool stuff portable through unique URLs for each bit of content. This includes images, videos, etc.
  • Syndicate content – RSS isn’t just about individual subscribers, it enables aggregation and all sorts of other really useful things, including widgets.
  • Widgetize content – what tools or features on your website would make a great widget?
    If it would make a good widget, it would probably make a very useful mobile application as well – think beyond just making an app for the entire site. What are the best parts?

2. Define Overall Metrics

Metrics can always be tweaked as you go, but if you’ve already started listening, you should already be thinking about the best ways to measure.

I think of it as connecting dots. Think of your company’s overall objective (this will most likely be sales or profits) and how social media engagement helps this.

If your business is web-based, traffic and incoming links are valuable. If not, there are other things like sentiment change, increased mentions over time and larger trends that can be correlated with sales and other initiatives.

3. Redefine Culture

I’ve become convinced that pioneering social media integration needs more than a strategy – it needs a story.

If you’re a typical social media evangelist, you already know the story, but you probably already know it so well you forget to start at the beginning. Chances are if you’re in a fairly large organization that’s been in business for more than a couple years, the culture isn’t conducive to transparent, real-time communication.

You’ll need to include the philosophical stuff in every strategy document. While you may be sick and tired of hearing social media buzzwords like transparency, community, collaboration, humanization. They are still radical concepts to most business people. Learn to love them – they help rally the troops to your cause.

Then, speaking of troops…

Build An Army

Social media success is not a solo endeavor. The one common element in every successful social media strategy is that there are several people to support the effort – typically in an official capacity.

Sure it helps if one person can own the overall social media health of the organization, but pulling it off requires that several people integrate elements of social media outreach and our fluency into their regular job description.

Push to have job descriptions and commitments altered so they’re included in performance reviews. Part of changing culture includes measuring individual performance on these tasks. A volunteer army may work for the U.S. military, but even they collect a paycheck. It’s important that what they’re doing be seen as a valuable contribution to the business – not just something fun to do on the side.

Half-assed commitments kill momentum and social media engagement is almost always dependent on momentum to ensure real ROI.

If you’re in charge of social media or community, that means it’s your job to educate and coach just about everyone around you on how they can help facilitate word of mouth inside and outside the organization.

Note: Chris Brogan and Julien Smith talk about the how and why of “building armies” in their very excellent book, Trust Agents.

And finally:

Manage Tactics to Support Initiatives

Every good marketing team needs to run fast toward their goals. Having the above in place should enable your team to do this. With a solid foundation in place and several accessible representatives for your brand, you can begin to make a bigger impact each time out of the gate, whether it’s responding to a crisis, sponsoring an event or building excitement for a promotion.

My Experience

I’ve had all this stuff in my head for awhile, but getting focused and honing things into easily digestible steps isn’t always my strong suit. I tend to have a very intuitive approach to all of this stuff, which makes me a fantastic do-er and a poor manager an aspiring manager.

Many thanks to Brad Goldberg for drawing the diagram on the image pictured on the right, and for helping me sort out my many thoughts into something I could articulate.

Your Turn

I realize every business is different so maybe share some of the things you’re doing to forge a new path in your company. My hope is that others will find this process useful. I’m invested in the success of social business, so despite my often-sassy demeanor, this means deep down I am invested in your success, too.

Reposted with author’s permission from

Shannon Paul
PEAK6 Online
Shannon Paul works as the communications manager for PEAK6 Online, parent company of, OptionsNewsNetwork (, and where she oversees the integration of social media communication into PR and marketing strategies for the companys three brands that include an online retail stock and options broker, a web-based options news and education site, and an online community that allows people to learn about the stock market through investing in virtual stock portfolios.


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