For many businesses, the words “social media” and “marketing” are inexorably linked (and for good reason). Social media has long been relegated to the realm of marketing & PR, and it has traditionally been used as a broadcast channel. Businesses would load up their marketing cannons with promotions, announcements, and — occasionally — useful content, then fire at their audiences on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, and perhaps a few other other places. Ideally, these marketing broadsides would help drive folks into (or further down) a sales funnel.
Image courtesy of Flickr user DigitalRalph
Of course, today’s savvy social media marketers do more than just broadcast: they engage their audiences by asking (and answering) questions, offering advice, and, more generally, by taking part in actual conversations. And while this is certainly a step in the right direction, it’s still viewing social media through an antiquated, “marketing only” lens. As social media becomes increasingly prevalent in society (just check out the numbers below), the need for expanding social media beyond the realm of marketing & PR will become increasingly important.
Social Media by the Numbers
- 27% of time spent online is spent on social networks (Experian)
- Twitter has more than 550 million active users (Statistic Brain)
- Facebook has more than 1.1 billion active users (Facebook)
It’s no secret: consumer behavior is changing more rapidly than businesses are adapting. Those hundreds of millions of folks flocking to social networks aren’t going there for the sole purpose of consuming marketing materials…they’re going to research products, to find deals, to make (and receive) recommendations, and — perhaps most notoriously — to complain about products and services.
Clearly, the door is wide open for businesses to apply social media to more than just marketing. And this concept of using social media not just for marketing, but as part of an overarching business execution strategy, is known as “social business.” The IBM Institute for Business Value defines social business as…
What do you think of the idea of social business? Have you already begun to expand your social strategy beyond the realm of marketing and PR? IBM predicts that within the next few years, many companies will evolve their social strategies to include non-marketing aspects of social business. Specifically, sales and post-sale service (aka customer support) are poised to become important components of social business plans.