If you were to make a list of up-and-coming business trends, social media strategies would be near the top. Barry Libert, author of the new book Social Nation: How to Harness the Power of Social Media to Attract Customers, Motivate Employees, and Grow Your Business,” offers 10 guidelines companies should follow so their social strategies don’t fall flat:
Pitfall No. 1: Running a Social Nation like a traditional business. If you want to run a social company, you first need to understand that almost everything you do is a two-way street. That is to say, you’re not going to prosper if your products and services are designed solely by folks on the inside. You need to embrace the perspectives and contributions of your employees, as well as those of customers and partners.
Pitfall No. 2: Underinvesting in social initiatives and abandoning them too soon. Understand that a Social Nation is organic–it won’t materialize with a proverbial snap of the fingers. Early on, you’ll need to invest a good deal of time, thought, and money in attracting fans and followers–and your efforts will need to be sustained. Only after you’ve built a firm foundation will your social network begin to sustain itself through participant contribution and recommendation.
Pitfall No. 3: Neglecting to find ways to encourage and inspire your Social Nation’s followers and fans. When you stop to think about it, you’ll realize your fans and followers are essentially volunteering their time and energy to serve as developers, sounding boards and advertisements for your company. So for goodness’ sake, respect what they have to say and take their input to heart!
Pitfall No. 4: Relying on a “build-it-and-they-will-come” mentality. Ummm … you don’t really think launching a new website and firing off posts at various online networking hotspots will bring fans and followers flocking, do you? Of course not! To some extent–usually a large one–you’ll need to purposefully reach out to potential community members and make it worth their while to accept your invitation.
Pitfall No. 5: Delaying the process of going social. Contrary to what you may wish, your company doesn’t have the luxury of waiting until it’s “convenient” to go social. Why? Well, you have competitors, right? And if you don’t start gathering loyal followers and fans now, there’s a good chance some other company will woo them first.
Pitfall No. 6: Underestimating the power of a Social Nation. If you believe social networking is just a window dressing your company “needs” (but not really), think again. Social media and community collaboration bring many benefits, including brand building, customer loyalty and retention, cost reductions, improved productivity and revenue growth.
Pitfall No. 7: Neglecting employees, partners, investors or customers when building your Social Nation. Yes, set up a “focus group” of employees to serve as community leaders who will shepherd your company into the social networking world, but don’t put all of the power in their hands. Social Nations are organic organizations, so the more people who are empowered to influence yours, the better.
Pitfall No. 8: Relying on traditional approaches when designing your Social Nation. A decade ago, you probably would have been horrified at the thought of releasing ideas and products into the hands of your customers before they were as complete as you could get them. With social networking, that monolithic approach is now becoming obsolete.
Pitfall No. 9: Developing your own social software and analytics solutions. You wouldn’t dream of placing “remodeling the office” or “handling legal issues” in the do-it-yourself category, would you? Few would. Instead, you’d hire someone skilled in those areas. Do yourself a favor and use the same strategy when it comes to building your own Social Nation.
Pitfall No. 10: Getting caught without partners to help you succeed. Libert has alluded to this one before, but it bears specific emphasis: make sure that you truly treat your community members as partners, not just as fans or numbers. Yes, integrating into the social web (Facebook, Twitter and other social networks) is key to your company’s future success, but being connected to the social web is only a part of what you need to do. Shifting your business strategically, culturally and operationally are key components to the equation.
To learn more about Libert’s new book, “Social Nation: How to Harness the Power of Social Media to Attract Customers, Motivate Employees, and Grow Your Business,” visit SocialNationBook.com.