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Thursday, June 28, 2012

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A social brand is not a social business. Read on to discover the differences... by Brian Solis

I’m writing this post while visiting Antwerp, Belgium as part of the Social Business Sessions I’m hosting along with The Fusion Marketing Experience. While here, I had an opportunity to spend time with several Belgian journalists. One of the notable conversations was with Erik Verdonck of Pub, a local magazine focused on the advertising industry. The three themes we touched upon are not only timely, but representative of the challenges that face marketers and strategists around the globe.

1. A social brand is not a social business. Please explain both concepts and the difference between them.

The path from a social brand to a social business begins with recognizing the difference between the two. A social brand engages in social media with a primary emphasis of marketing. A social business is result of internal transformation where social technologies serve as the catalyst to improve internal collaboration across functions and lines of business. A social business in effect is a confluence of technology philosophy and supporting processes and work. I like to say that a social business is not something you “do,” it’s something that you become.

2. What is the main difference between the ‘Like’ button on Facebook and other direct response triggers?

Facebook’s Like button is often confused as an “Opt In” by marketers. All too frequently people who have clicked the Like button are thought of as a captive community where customers have opted in to marketing and engagement. Likes do not represent the actual size of a community, yet many organizations confuse the overall number with actual audience size. The difference between Like and other direct response triggers is that the Like is an act of fleeting value that must be earned over and over again. Often, it’s an “in the moment” action that expresses affinity, interest, alignment, and sometimes endorsement. And as an expression, Likes are a form of social currency and their value goes up and down with each engagement. If we approach the spirit of community from this perspective, we can then focus on delivering higher yields for each Like and as a result, foster greater reciprocity and true social commerce. Doing so will increase overall engagement and the responsiveness of the community as a whole.

Traditional response triggers are exchanges that are rooted in what I refer to as the A.R.T. of Engagement…Actions, Reactions, and Transactions. Likes represent potential reach. But businesses cannot take or assume satisfaction in these numbers as they’re reflective of the people reached and not the people who could be reached.

Contests, campaigns, gimmicks, while effective in intermittent bursts, are not sustainable nor are they indicative of organic engagement. They generate numbers but not true engagement. Facebook represents a tremendous opportunity to design and steer customer experiences. Whether it’s for marketing, service, sales, co-creation or collaborative engagement, Facebook is a social hub where the various needs, expectations and roles of customers can be met by a fully engaged social business, not just a social brand or social marketing initiative.

3. How would you measure the return of social media campaigns? What should marketers look at?

Part of the problem with social media measurement is that the metrics used to determine success are only indicative of activity and not progress or change. For example, many businesses place value on Likes, Retweets, comments, and reach. I see these as raw numbers and not as indicators for progress or change. While this activity is reflective of real-time interaction, it’s only part of a larger swathe that envelopes social media success.

I think of Euripides…”A bad ending follows a bad beginning.” Or said another way, a successful outcome follows a successful beginning. To do this, businesses must think through what success looks like and they must do so looking beyond the competition. It cannot be assumed that similar companies are thinking about Euripides. They are engaging in social media because that’s what they’re supposed to do.

In the end, we must not forget how social media ties to business objectives. We must first understand where we are and where we need to be. Developing strategies where cause and effect are the catalysts for performance inspires strategies rooted in significance whereas metrics and KPIs document real transformation. I like to think about ROI in this regard as Realization of Influence…tracking the relationship between cause and effect or the change in behavior.

As such, packaging raw numbers requires deeper consideration to demonstrate progress toward business objectives and priorities.

These can include:

- Brand Lift/Awareness
- Brand Resonance
- Advocacy
- Sales/Referrals
- Endorsements
- Sentiment/Perception Shift
- Thought Leadership
- Demand
- Trends
- Audience/Community
- Behavior
- Influence

About Brian Solis
Brian Solis is principal at FutureWorks PR, an award-winning PR and Social Media agency founded in 1999. FW PR bridges the communications gap between companies and their customers, and between products and their specific benefits for their target markets. Solis blogs at PR2.0,, and regularly contributes to many industry trades. He is also frequently quoted in articles relating to technology trends and Marketing/PR strategies.