Keeping Up With Increasing Social Business Complexity

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A recent survey suggests that the No. 1 social business concern is maintaining high levels of audience engagement while respondents lowest-ranked concern is brand damage due to negative postings. That represents a clear shift from previous studies where the main concern was about brand control.

 Keeping up with social business—the process of interacting with customers, prospects, employees, partners, and other stakeholders—is rapidly getting harder and more costly. And the stakes for doing so keep getting higher as social business leaders keep raising the bar.

A new report from Ad Age, a leading marketing industry trade magazine promises to reveal how top brands manage, measure, and budget for social business success.  Big marketers have been driving the social media initiative and the latest study picked up a sudden shift. The No. 1 concern for the study respondents is maintaining high levels of audience engagement while their lowest-ranked concern is brand damage due to negative postings.  That is a clear shift from previous studies where the main concern was about brand control.

Although the CMO may be driving the social business bus, the CFO has a big stake in social media. It is evolving into a primary tool for recruiting and screening talent. It also is where companies will increasingly interact with suppliers and partners—folks the CFO wants to engage with.

And the social business scene itself is undergoing rapid changes. It’s not just about Facebook and Twitter anymore although they remain the 800-pound social gorillas. LinkedIn has been coming on strong, a beneficiary of the years of a limp recovery that sent business people scurrying to social networking. Other up and coming players are Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr with even more are in the wings. Each has a niche.

Will your organization need to participate in each? Probably not, but you will want to monitor them to see where your competitors and peers are and what they are doing. But most importantly, you will need to determine where your audience is. Different audiences, of course, may gravitate to different social business sites. In fact, according to the Ad Age survey, almost 3X more respondents are likely to create distinct social initiatives for each of their brands.

The social business environment has become sufficiently important and complicated that you will likely want to bring on outside consultants to guide you. In the Ad Age report, 66% reported being more likely to supplement their in-house social teams with an agency and 30% reported being more likely to use both an analytics/measurement vendor and a social media management system.

Social business also consumes in-house resources, leaving some managers to worry about having the resources available to manage and create a sufficient volume of content. [Full disclosure: this blogger develops social and online content for companies.] Marketers want their brands to be social; but in terms of content creation, as the Ad Age report says, it’s a brave new world. Social business is a 24/7 undertaking, requiring new content, usually daily but also continuously in fluid situations, such as during a public relations crisis.

And then there is the technology component.  Social business has spawned a demand for social media management systems (SMMS). Among large companies (over $ billion in revenue) 87.7 %, according to the Ad Age survey, use SMMS.  Even smaller companies, however, can benefit from SMMS, which offers a range of services. These include analytics, messaging, global user work flows and permission settings, social ad campaign management, and tools for ongoing social audience engagement. In fact, as was previously reported in wiredFINANCE, by 2017 the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO, according to Gartner. That includes SMMS and a host of other technologies and tech services to expand and enhance the organization’s entire digital presence.

As CFO you may need shared access to the SMMS platform as well if you hope to effectively and efficiently engage with suppliers and partners in the social business sphere. Social business also may prove valuable when doing research and due diligence involved in M&A activities. But if you need advice about social media, ask your children; to them social media is a fact of life. 

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