“Social” is growing up. What was a trendy moniker in front of just about every new product or business process is beginning to recede; not because it’s failing, but because it is becoming the norm.
There are now some 900M people on Facebook who are redefining how we interact with each other, not just as friends, but as co-workers, colleagues and clients. In the enterprise, we don’t need to call it "social" anything; it's just how work is done today.
From financing, marketing and public relations, to sales, product management and support, almost every facet of a company is influenced by social strategies, so much so that to try to operate in the "old ways" (before social) just doesn’t make sense. Let’s look at some of the standout examples.
Almost every company needs funding at some point and the incumbent ecosystem of suppliers includes everything from angel investors to banks. But there is always room for more sources of funds it seems. Not every opportunity has the right risk profile for a bank, or the right growth rate for a VC.
Micro-financing small businesses through services like Kiva or Kickstarter -- enabling smaller investments through more people -- is allowing more people to build products and services than ever before. Yes, there is an inherently different risk profile when investing in these small businesses, but the individual investor isn’t investing much, perhaps the higher risk is acceptable. And it seems to be working quite well for companies like Pebble!
Marketing & Public Relations
Can you imagine trying to market a product without a Facebook page or Twitter account? How about a Tumblr blog or Pinterest page?
Arguably, social has had its most significant impact in marketing, and it looks as though we are still in the very early days. Brands today not only have voices, but they can listen and respond directly to customers in very affordable ways, be it through Google Groups or Facebook pages.
Today’s marketing practices are a far cry from trying to impress an audience with a good-looking product and snappy jingle: brands now need to act like corporate citizens. They need to build ongoing relationships with their constituents who hold them accountable to their words and actions, or take their dollars elsewhere.
This may delve a bit into the marketing side, but the social aspect of selling serves two purposes. First, it drives sales. Features like Amazon’s popular “People also bought” callout is a fantastic way to naturally show complimentary products offered side by side. This simple feature shares what accessories go well with a specific product based on the buying habits of other shoppers.
Second, it helps users validate their decisions. People today read reviews. There are numerous review sites that allow everyone under the sun to not only write reviews, but to rate others’ reviews that they like or dislike. There are even review sites of review sites. And did I mention we were only getting started?
The three basic tenets of product management are: knowing your product, knowing your customers, knowing the market.
As a product manager, you need to be able to balance the needs and wants of your target audience against what you can deliver with your available resources in an acceptable time frame for the market (and in a way that sets you apart from competitors). So, how do you add "social" to this process? Through sites like UserVoice, Get Satisfaction and others.
It has never been easier to take the pulse of the marketplace and collect the wants of your current and future customers. These services allow your customers to tell you directly, in their own words, what they like and don’t like about your product. As with the review sites, others can vote up or down good ideas. Using these social strategies will give you a clear picture on how to evolve your product, which is a significant challenge for Product Managers.
The very nature of support is social. If someone buys your product and needs help, they will be talking to others about it, and looking to you for support. The newer social strategies for social support revolve around building external communities where your customers can find answers to the most commonly asked questions, and in a best-case scenario, help each other out.
There are several types of community management packages out there today; most allow just about anyone to sign up and start asking questions and if you provide the right incentives, answering them for others.
As you can see, describing just about anything in business as "social" is redundant. Much like the move to "digital" or "dotcom" as businesses moved to the Internet, the pervasive use of the techniques behind "social" are now commonplace. So, let’s all just save the ink and call it business.
Image courtesy of danzo80 (Shutterstock)
Editor's Note: You may also be interested in other articles by Walker Fenton:
-- Top 5 Rules for Creating User Friendly Mobile Apps