What’s Your Business Objective?

The following question was posed yesterday to the Social Fresh East Facebook Group:  “Anyone have any thoughts on continuing education in our industry? Looking for an online MBA program, would love to hear some recommendations from the socialfresh crowd!”  It sparked quite a discussion, which included “What about a master’s program in social media / Internet marketing / digital marketing?”  To which one of my favorite social business minds replied, “No, no, no no. … the MBA gives you the broadest business background and strategy if properly taught. You need a strong foundation to build on first.”

This discussion reminded me of a conversation I had at Social Fresh East: “Social media is 1/3 customer service, 1/3 marketing and 1/3 PR.”  Vanessa, social media manager for a hotel chain, replied, “I think it’s 75% customer service.”

An analogy I like to use for social is this:  Remember working before Microsoft Office?  Well, MS software didn’t change what we did, but how we did it.  It’s the same thing with social media; it doesn’t change the what, it just changes the how.  Or for you Mad Men fans, they had switchboard operators and secretaries answering their phones & making calls (my mom was a switchboard operator in the ’70’s), in the ’80’s voice mail became standard, in the ’90’s cell phones and if a secretary answered your phone or screened your calls today many would consider it an invasion of privacy!  My real point is that whatever the reason for the call was back in Mad Men’s days is still the reason for the call today; set up a meeting, discuss specs / requirements, approve a contract, etc. … it’s just done via a different medium.

I was raised by a company who made Customer Satisfaction its number one priority.  Why?  Because of the old adage, “It’s far more cost-effective to keep a client than to gain a new one.”  The main focus of business is to make money and there are many ways to do that:  keep your current base through excellent customer service, create new products or services, get new customers, raise prices, etc.  Revenue flows from the specific actions and strategies businesses take based on their values and priorities.  In the traditional model, development creates the product or service, marketing creates the messaging, sales sells it and customer service provides after-sales support.  These are different people in different organizations.  In the social model, organizational lines blur and customer service, marketing, PR and sales can all be accomplished via social media.  One of my favorite social stories is Peter Shankman and Morton’s (video linked here); if you Google this you will find pages and pages of blog posts and articles discussing is this great customer service, marketing or PR?  All of the above, and the bottom line is their reservations increased 100% the first weekend afterwards and this one $300 gesture (food, time, driver, etc.) generated about $800K in paid media via viral, news and TV stories.

It’s easy to think just restaurants, hotels or retail can increase business via social, but in reality, any organization (business, non-profit, health care, education, sports team, zoo, you name it) can benefit from it.  What are your pain points?  Why do you receive the most calls or inquiries?  Write blog posts to answer these questions or give necessary information and distribute via FB, LinkedIn, Google, Twitter, etc.  The added benefit is that post is now searchable via the web if your customer decides to Google before calling, emailing or tweeting.  What are the mission, values and objectives of your organization?  Once you’re firm on those, you create social strategies to address them just as you would any other internal program.  Wouldn’t it be great if cable companies had video blog posts, you could just tweet them, receive a link back and watch a video to solve your problem vs. sitting on hold and potentially having someone come to your house when it’s often a 3 – 5 min fix?  Wouldn’t it save them a ton in customer and technical service labor costs if they implemented this?  The application ideas go on and on for any organization.

So I believe @cspenn’s advice to get the MBA emphasizes the importance of understanding business overall rather than solely understanding digital or social techniques.  Clearly businesses that think social is just “something else to do” don’t understand its power, but it’s important for those who do understand its power to ground their activity in the overall goals of their organization.  Every time you hit FB, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest or any other network, ask yourself, “What is my objective?  Do I want to increase customer retention/satisfaction, or brand reputation, or the understanding of our messaging & values, or sales?”  It moves people out of the “how many Likes and Follows” and into working horizontally across their organization to see how social can help customer service, marketing, public relations, sales, distribution, etc. so that eventually your whole organization benefits.

How are you mainstreaming your social efforts into your overall business strategies?

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