Recognizing that this post is going out on a social media blog and will be promoted on a newsletter mainly for social media practitioners and is being written by a guy who runs a social/content agency, you’ll have to pardon the heretical if not potentially self-destructive nature of the headline above. But, really truly folks, now is the time to ask this question.
After about six years of social centricity I, like many long-time students of this peculiar art form, am champing at the bit to move social out of its self-perpetuated isolation into the broader operational fabric of business strategy. To this end, here are five solid reasons why its time to drink the “social business” Kool-Aid and stop thinking about social as a separate department or discipline within an organization.
1. Isolating social forces inane metrics.
Trying to calculate the discrete return on investment of organic social activity is a fool’s errand, since there are way too many factors influencing any given purchase decision. This forces us to seek proxies like engagement rates, cost per engagement and social footprint growth, none of which can be linked directly back to sales. Even Coca-Cola with its 80+ million likes on Facebook can’t isolate the business value of its enviably massive social footprint. If it can’t, are you sure you want to bother?
2. Social is not an “or” anymore.
Very few businesses can afford to ignore their customers, so on one level, listening and responding to customers via social channels is simply the cost of doing business in 2014. Under this scenario, social is a critical part of the customer-service function of any business and as such, can and should have a profound (though nonetheless hard to isolate) impact on overall brand health metrics including likelihood to recommend.
3. It’s part of overall earned media efforts.
When organic social posts get shared, they can generate a tremendous amount of “free” exposure for a brand very much like traditional public relations. Social and PR are natural partners in the earned media world and can feed upon each other quite effectively. For example, companies like IBM that empower their employees to share content via their personal channels, can dramatically increase readership of previously earned “ink.”
4. Put the “media” in social media.
Even if we ignore the fact that Facebook has essentially become a paid platform, organic social media benefits tremendously when coordinated with paid activities. Mention a Twitter handle in your TV ads, and inevitably your follower count and engagement rates will go up. Or just add a little paid activity to your otherwise “organic” social promotion, and watch engagement rates increase at the same time.
5. But wait, there’s more.
Social can also have a significant impact on research, product development, recruitment, retention, vendor relations and yes, even customer acquisition activities. And while I can’t possibly support all of these roles in this short paragraph, the point should be clear by now—defining social as its own discipline means limiting its impact and relegating it to an afterthought versus making it a foundational component of your go-to-market strategy.
Drew Neisser is the founder and CEO of Renegade, a leading-edge social media & content marketing agency in NYC. A long-time content creator and social practitioner, you can find Drew’s writings on Fast Company, MediaPost, Social Media Today and TheDrewBlog.com. His monthly newsletter, The Cut, is prized among friends and clients.