The Three Elements of an Effective Social-Business Strategy

Paul Greenberg defines social business as "the company's response to the customer's ownership of the conversation." After taking the audience's pulse at the Sales & Marketing 2.0 Conference, I realize that Greenberg's definition is already a traffic light behind Main Street. The rapid rate at which companies integrate social media into their business operation is astonishing.  Search Engine Journal reports that in 2007, only 17 percent of companies used social media. The prediction for 2012 is 43 percent. Today, more than 80 percent of companies use social media for recruiting. One company represented at the conference reported that 20 percent of its new leads come from its social-business strategy. Another company reported that leads created through social media are three times more likely to close than leads generated by marketing.

While individual social-media tools add little value and offer no ROI, a social-business strategy leads to quantifiable results. Here is my definition of the new face of social business: the alignment of content, conversations, and collaboration with the comapny's business strategy.

On a tactical level, a social-business strategy relies on three core elements:

Content. Ownership of a product or service is always preceded by ownership of the related content. Content is like a currency that companies share to earn interest in the marketplace. Good content leads to better conversations. Good content educates customers. Good content catches customers. For example, at HubSpot, all 100 salespeople are asked to create and maintain a blog. The results: more traffic to the company's Website, higher search-engine optimization ratings, and unprecedented sales growth year over year.

Conversation. In the new world of social business, the sales pitch has been replaced by a fluid conversation between equal partners. The focus is on situational fluency. If the prospect has already completed 80 percent of the fact finding in the purchase process, it's the salesperson's job to deliver the remaining 20 percent within the allocated time frame set aside for the conversation. In their one to many conversations, smart companies have shifted their strategy from thought leadership to community leadership. Good community leaders set conversational boundaries that prevent members from going on rabbit trails or engaging in Wild West behavior. It takes a well-managed community with clear boundaries to close more business.

Collaboration. New social CRM tools, such as Jive, Lithium, or Salesfoce Chatter, have given companies the opportunity to collaborate across the organization, eliminating silos while maintaining a steady focus on business at hand. Smart companies extend the collaboration pipeline to include their customers. Be elevating customers to the status of equal partner, companies can co-create their future.

While the benefits of transforming a company into a social business are clear, what's not clear is the path to get there. While the Internet has the potential to replicate on a screen our mind's agility, the number of available tools to create an effective social-media strategy is staggering.

Success doesn't depend on choosing the right program like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, but on business leaders' embracing the fact that social media isn't a choice, but a mandate for business survival.

-Gerhard Gschwandtner, Selling Power, Twitter: gerhard20

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