Creating online conversations and touch points with customers and prospects yields indisputable business value for start-ups and entrepreneurs. In some cases, exposure through social media can create solid brand equity and lay a stronger foundation for capital-building opportunities. Embracing a social business model also positively impacts an organization's agility, allowing it to gather real-time feedback and be responsive to changing customer needs and market forces. While the concept of social business is constantly evolving, in 2013 social businesses are going to be challenged to derive business value out of their social "connectedness."
The convergence of social, mobile, and CRM technology presents ample opportunities for entrepreneurs to forge relationships with their potential investors and customers on a deeper level. At the same time, building and upholding a social business model would allow entrepreneurs to be more plugged into their market's social ecosystem and increase brand allegiance.
Although marketers and 'social' enthusiasts are quick to recommend social media and social networking as a low-cost promotion technique, entrepreneurs should carefully design their strategy before flooding their business with tweets, Instagram images, Pinterest boards, and countless blog posts. In the midst of all the marketing hype and media buzz around social business, three myths are often pushing start-ups into a mode of 'social' inefficiency.
Social Media Equals Social Business - What entrepreneurs need to know is that pairing their traditional company-centric content with active listening allows them to maximize the chances of building positive sentiments and recognition around their company. Today, one of the most effective ways for brands to gain market relevance is by assuming the role of a social curator of industry news, insights, trends, and ideas.
Social media platforms allow businesses to drive customer relationship-building that is grounded in continuous online listening. This is not a new concept. Effective social businesses take that concept a step further and apply the insights gained through social interactions to other facets of their operations. From developing new products to finessing their go-to market strategy, social businesses know how to gather mine, analyze, and operationalize social intelligence.
You Need an Omnipotent, Bulletproof Strategic Plan to Get Started - Very often, concerns over potential negative feedback and unsavory comments can put a start-up in a strategy paralysis mode. Strategy paralysis occurs when entrepreneurs prioritize controlling all the conversations about their brand over listening and participating in industry discussions that can be advantageous to their business. While creating a social business should start with a well-devised plan that defines a company's brand voice and character, the true value of this model is mostly derived from instantaneous, personable, and genuine interactions with audiences. Social strategy should serve as a roadmap for time and resource management but also allow room to unlock free access to start-ups' business culture, character, and talent.
Prospects and investors make purchasing decisions based on perception of risk, emotional attachments, and personal preferences, not stock branded messages. A startup's social media strategy should not be a straight jacket but a virtual bullhorn for ideas and insights.
Incremental Value Means No Immediate Value - Social platforms can be powerful amplifiers of key marketing messages. However, just like Rome wasn't built in a day, social media can't propel business growth overnight.
Many entrepreneurs struggle to understand how social media activity is producing measurable impact on their business' bottom-line. In reality, social media unlike advertising or other traditional forms of marketing, is best measured based on incremental value. To that end, businesses should establish mechanisms and key performance indicators (KPIs) to track website views, direct inquiries, newly gained brand ambassadors, business referrals, etc. If a social media program is properly managed and implemented, the KPIs will translate into business assets and brand equity over time.
In addition to fighting the battle against insolvency, many startups are fighting an even more difficult battle -- the one against irrelevance. Social media can help entrepreneurs design interactive customer journeys and equip them with market insight that holds the potential to serve as a catapult for growth.
At the end of the day, entrepreneurs should remember that social media is only a starting point for building a nimble and responsive social business capable of withstanding changing market winds. Social businesses are marked by their ability to activate social tools to achieve open collaboration, foster meaningful dialogues and sustainable brand communities in the long run.