Social networking found its way to being adopted by the masses because it’s powered by them. You don’t need to have an audience, or be famous, or have a well-known brand at the start -- but you can start to build a social network by finding people that have similar ideas or interests. But before you crash the social scene, you need to be aware of your environment.

Why Be a Social Business?

Ask yourself why you want to be a social business. Do you want to learn more about your customers? Do you want to build your brand recognition? Do you want to use social channels for lead generation? Start by identifying your business reasons. Social channels can help you:

  • Listen to what people are saying about your business
  • Know what the competition is doing
  • Know your customers’ opinions
  • Understand prospects needs
  • Build relationships
  • Build communities
  • Improve customer service
  • Share ideas
  • Conduct market research

Understand How to Use Social Channels

Companies fail in social channels when they attempt to use these channels as if they were broadcast channels while failing to engage with people. When companies operate in social channels with a “Hey can you tweet this…” mentality and think that the world will hear them, disappointment quickly rears its ugly head. Social channels will not work if they are used like traditional broadcast channels that only offer one-way messages pushed to the public.

Companies need to start by listening. Find the social channels and communities where people are talking about your brand and where customers or prospects spend their time. Listen to what people are writing or saying (don’t forget videos). In a branding course, I remember the professor saying that marketers position their brands but in the end it’s the consumers that have the final say. If you take the time to listen, you’re more likely to respond in way that corresponds with the people interested in your brand -- and that’s powerful.

Social Businesses Value People

Put aside terms like "eyeballs" and "users" and use words like "people." Though this may be initially read as being overly simplistic -- making the distinction between broadcasting to the masses and engaging people will be an important part of your social business culture. And when you engage with people you need to be prepared to accept that everyone is entitled to their opinion whether you agree with it or not -- always respect the people you engage with because your engagements will always reflect your brand. After all, whether your business is B2B or B2C, your business is selling to people.

Share and Share Alike

To be a social business you need to create a desire for people to want to share your messages. This can be tweets, blog posts, website pages, videos, photos, etc. What content will your company develop? You’ll want to create a content strategy and tactical plan for delivering that content. Companies that want to be social businesses need to make it simple for people to share content. Put share buttons throughout your website and make sure that they function easily. People will usually only take a few seconds to share content, so make sure the share buttons you use are user-friendly. Add links to your social accounts to your website, email signatures and newsletters, LinkedIn profiles, YouTube pages, Facebook pages, etc.

Share the content that other people and companies are sharing. When people see that you are paying attention to other people and sharing their content, many will be more likely to share yours. Of course you will want to keep in mind that the content that you share can be representative of you. If you would never talk to a prospect about a particular topic, don’t share similar content via social channels. There’s nothing wrong with sharing content that’s just for humor: it shows personality. Take the time to thank people for sharing the content you generate.

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