Why social is the #1 equaliser for brands

There are two types of businesses in the world when it comes to social — an organisation 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 organisation'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 organisation’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 utilise social to stay ahead of the competition, it will not only encourage further adoption and investment, but drive the overall organisation 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 favours 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 organisation.

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 kind 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 organisations, before their competition can monopolise 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 organisations 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 organisation’s biggest advocates.

According to Edelman’s Trust Barometer content shared by employees at every level of an organisation 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 organisation, 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.

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