If you’ve checked my “social business” Twitter account, you won’t be surprised to hear I’ve been reading quite a lot about social business, social media, content marketing and several other buzzwords.
At this point I’ve come to an important conclusion:
Many articles about content marketing and what it will mean for your company are full of marketing BS.
They are completely focused on marketing and what that team, or the organization as a whole should be doing to get social business right.
Not a lot of help if your middle name isn’t marketing. Is it?
The main idea of most articles is that you’ll hire them to organize “social business workhops” or to take care of the actual transition. That’s obvious enough.
What I don’t read enough about is what happens if you succeed. Maybe they tell you that after you invite them to talk about your plans. I sure hope so.
The viral nightmare
Suppose you get everything right on the ‘marketing’ side of your business. You get your content sorted, your marketing team is social media savvy, and your campaigns are getting results. Actually it would help if things didn’t go quite thát fast…!
Because suddenly your marketers are up to their ears in questions and complaints coming in through social networks. Your sales people can’t handle demand. The phone at customer service is red-hot.
This is a really bad time to discover you should have trained your customer service team to handle social media for your business… three months ago!
If marketing and sales employees fail to keep up, anyone who is seriously displeased about a purchase is now also annoyed because their complaints via social networks don’t get an answer either… and if you’re really lucky they’ll end up on the phone with your call center.
How to prepare your business for success
You’ve done step 1: reading this article. And if you’ve read more on the subject, please add any must-read articles in the comments section!
Step 2: you need a plan.
- Plan A: All-is-well if you have the time and resources to prepare thouroughly.
- Plan B: “Oh… Beep” if you don’t.
- Plan C (recommended): Combine A and B. You’ll see why.
Plan A: if you have enough time and resources to change your organization
A rough plan A could look like this:
- Train your call center/customer service staff for business social media.
- Get them onto social media accounts for your business. They are to handle any feedback, positive as well as negative.
- Get everyone else involved who will be in touch with customers at any given moment. Marketing – sales – after sales – customer service, the lot.
- How do customers get ‘handed down’ the organization? How would this work if you added ‘social’ to the picture?
- Get your CRM system hooked up to your social media accounts. It shouldn’t matter who talks to a customer or which channel they use.
Once you feel you’ve got every relevant part of your company connected to the expected information stream…
Time for a trial run.
You have three options to find out if you’re prepared for the big one:
- A simulated campaign
- A real campaign targeted at a very specific group. Mind you: it’s online, so if your campaign is in any way interesting to people outside the group you want, you may end up with a runaway (viral) campaign at a time when you don’t know if your business will be able to handle the consequences.
- You don’t run campaigns. Business as usual, but social is now part of that business.
Plan B: the ‘what-if’ approach
Aim for a quick fix for any nasty side-effects of taking the plunge by asking yourself a few questions for hypothetical situations.
Examples of ‘what-if’ questions are:
What if: your campaign leads to so much demand you can’t possibly meet it? You can only say “No, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait… we’ll help you as soon as we can!” so many times before people get really annoyed.
- Can you identify anyone up front who can pitch in if it’s urgent?
- Can you give your customers any idea of how long it will be before they can expect their purchase?
What if: the social channels you set up are hijacked by complaining people? How or to which team or person will you refer complainers? Is that team available through social media?
What if: your intern gets hold of your business password and accidentally publishes a private update on your account? (Note: if you want to prevent this, I suggest you make it very clear to everyone they are never, ever to delegate their responsibility).
You’ll notice this is not a miracle cure – just risk management the quick-and-dirty way. Depending on the type of business you’re running, you’ll come up with your own set of major and minor risks.
A few thoughts on business change
All of the above isn’t just true for developments in social media. Every organization runs into challenges of scale. At such moments it’s either you lead the horse, or the horse leads you. Go on, you choose 😉
Social media may act as a katalyst and propel your business onto the next level backwards. Based on that observation I would have you consider to prepare your business for success – back to front.
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