Want to know the fastest way to have your business’ Social Media and Content Marketing strategies go south?

Create a department for social media and have the planning, execution and metrics live there. In essence build a social media silo and have them handle all of the company’s social profiles and activity without outside involvement.

Now, want to know the most important component to building a successful Social Business?

Build an organization that educates and inspires its employees to participate in its social initiatives.

The nuance between success and failure may seem pretty small, but the difference is far different than it may first appear.

Learning Social Business from Some of the Best


Companies like Nike, IBM and Comcast immediately come to mind as companies doing powerful things with social media.

At Nike, they focus on making engagement easy by having branded support sites throughout social media. This way customers with an issue can get through to the right channel and get help more immediately. Many brands have followed this philosophy by creating multiple handles and pages for support needs versus brand promotion.


Nike Support


As a B2B with global brand recognition, IBM empowers its more than 434,000 employees worldwide by encouraging them to participate in social media through the sharing of knowledge and advocacy throughout their trusted and ever expanding social networks.

In the B2C technology space, customers can become incredibly frustrated when things aren’t working the way they are supposed to. Comcast is changing the landscape of service immediacy by helping connect customers to a better service experience through social media platforms like Twitter. The people they employ to man their Twitter service are both capable of fixing problems and highly responsive.


Comcast Employee Social Engagement


Although all of these examples are from large companies, there are two major takeaways from the above examples.

  1. Much of what these big companies do can be done by companies of any size. (Responsiveness, Empowered Employees, Easy Interaction)
  2. Not all large companies do this well, either.

Even Big Companies Need Some Basic Direction for Building Social Businesses


Last week I was working with a client who has more than 10,000 employees worldwide.

Struggling to understand how to move the needle, this highly sales oriented organization seeks to improve the reach, and more importantly engagement, between their content and social media efforts and their customers.

As I sat across the table from the head of the company’s Social Business, I asked him, what sort of understanding does your average employee have of the company’s social business initiatives?

It was in that instant I saw a light bulb go off.

What was funny is that nothing I said was particularly provocative. Really it was mere common sense.

Here we were, trying to understand how to move the needle with the company’s social media efforts and right at our fingertips there are ten thousand potential advocates and we are still trying to reach beyond to the second level?

Was this particular business a unique circumstance, or are they the rule? While I would like to think it was the former, in my experience far too many companies big and small that are trying to expand their social reach are missing their greatest advocacy opportunity…

Their own employees…

The Makings Of A Social Business Are Social Employees


Whether your business has 10,000 employees or 10 employees, ask yourself these questions…

  • Do our employees understand our organization’s goals to be a social business? Furthermore, do they understand the value of social media?
  • Are they familiar with the mechanics of social media and how they can use it to share the company message, educate customers and maybe even sell more whatever it is you sell?

When you consider the fact that you have a team of potential advocates at your disposal to share the company’s content and ideas and it isn’t taken advantage of you can only shake your head and ask WHY?

Of course this lack of effective social engagement may go back to those questions I asked above:

If your company has thousands of employees, how does Social Media education disseminate throughout the organization? Should the company offer formal training or is there a certain expectation of fluency and competency amongst employees?

At one time not everyone knew how to use email. Obviously that has changed now and the expectations have changed with it. Go tell your boss you can’t send an update to your client today because you don’t know how to use email. See how that one goes over?

Having said that, social media isn’t nearly that mature and there are still so many unknowns for even experienced users. These unknowns lead to the need for companies to have social media policies and guidelines that help users understand what is tolerated and what is not. These same guidelines should also serve as a means to better understand what is expected from an organization’s employees.

At Dell, they empower social employees through the offering of social media certifications. In addition they have social media champions programs to get more employees involved with events and social media mentor programs to help less familiar employees to become more fluent in how social can be a vehicle for better performance.

Not withstanding, advocates for social business will run into those in their organization that don’t believe in the power of social or express concerns about the company’s risk profile of allowing too much social activity. However, for those still raising these concerns, I would be far more concerned about missing revenue than someone tweeting the wrong thing.

Chances are there will be more poorly done social media in a company that doesn’t advocate its use than in a company that does. What do you think?

How Empowering Employees To Be Social Can Drive Social Business


Put the logistics aside for a moment, as there are endless mountains of books that can tell you and your employees how to do social media.

Now, ask yourself the following question:

What is more effective, having one or two social media advocates in our company begging the outside world to engage, like and share our message or having the vast majority of your employees all contributing to the company’s social presence?

If the answer isn’t obvious then I will be the first to say, “I probably cannot help you.”

However, the answer is obvious. Building an organization that empowers employees to be social is a tremendous way to extend the reach of the company’s message. And yes, the training and education need to be a part of it, but missing this opportunity is a mistake that brands shouldn’t (can’t) make.

Businesses that focus their employees on being social where their customers are move faster, reach farther and connect more successfully with their customers.

These businesses are social businesses, comprised of social employees.

It is 2014…Are you building a social business?


This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.