Back to Reality…

The last few blogs have been looking at the theory of social media in business, much has question-mark-1026526_960_720been covered and then applied to larger companies, often these companies have considerable budgets allocated to specialised departments who are dedicated to  the implementation and the continuation of the social business strategy. What I am interested to know is how do all these models effect the social business strategies of small companies? Do small businesses even have social business strategies? and, do any of these models apply to small businesses?

 

Selection time…

I was flicking randomly through my Facebook news feed and saw an interesting post on the local  community page of which I am member of.  An individual was sharing his business page with the local community ( and it was getting alot of interest I might add!) The business name is Harvest2Home , it is a family run business who buys fresh, pesticide free produce from local farmers and then delivers it free of charge. This business originated some time ago and relied solely on word of mouth marketing to ensure further orders, this continued up until about 12 months ago, when they decided to take the plunge and enter into the world of online communications, they had a website created and more recently have progressed to having social presence on Facebook.

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Simply by choosing the most appropriate way for them to communicate with the online community is part of implementing a Social Media Strategy and now concentrating on achieving an effective Social Business Strategy,  determining how they will incorporate their Social media strategy with their overall business goals and values.  According to Li & Solis (2013) the Altimeters Group identified 6 stages which a business goes through when creating and implementing their Social Business Strategy, each business may take different amounts of time throughout the stages, but nevertheless, all of them will progressively go through every stage.

 

Altimeters 6 stages

graph-1019845_960_720Stage One: Planning: Although Harvest2Home launched their Facebook page it remained dormant for a number of months as they listened and took note of the conversations which were taking place online about healthy eating and the types of products they were to offer.

Stage Two: Presence: Harvest2Home owner posted on local pages as an individual sharing his business page….this created alot of attention and people started to like his page as well as place orders.

Stage Three: Engagement: From what I witnessed, the conversations grew, more people began talking about clean eating and were keen to learn more, this enabled interaction between Harvest2Home and the online community.

Following Altimeters model, Harvest2Home are still at stage three, however, as the online engagement grows this will take the business to the next stage : Fomalised.

 

C.o.P

friends-1027840__180The term Community of Practice (CoP) is one that very much applies to Harvest2Home. Defined by Wenger (2006)

Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.”

I can not think of a better way to describe this family business, every day is different and they are actively learning, supporting and sharing information on how best to approach various situations.

The Community of Practice consists of 3 components:

Domain: The family members take on a variety of roles to make the business a success. From packers through to buyers.

Community:Every member gets involved and supports the others in the different roles.

Practice: Sharing the resources. An instance arose after a week of expanding their reach to another geographical location, Harvest2Home had such an overwhelming response that the logistics of the operation proved to be somewhat difficult!  Some of the other members of the team assisted in dispatch and after the event it was decided to extend their human resource pool and employ another driver.

 

Cisco’s S.O.C.I.A.L Model

Ciscos SOCIAL policy is based around a framework of 5 components;

Enablement is really about empowering the employees, at Harvest2Home, although it is mainly one person who is responsible for the interaction on social media the other members are encouraged to write interesting posts and engage where necessary.

Intelligence: Harvest2Home do not have the luxury of a dedicated team who listen carefully to the activity online, however, they are still able to respond quickly. They also use a selection method to determine whether to use the private message facility to respond to a consumer, taking the story offline, or replying on the page for all to see.

Engagement:As it is mainly the responsibility of one of the team to post regularly it is relatively well controlled. Generally with just one person posting to one main platform, the tone is consistent and ensuring unique, interesting posts are being regularly placed, is easy to track.

Measurement: The reach and volume are very easily recognisable with this business type as the geographical location of the individual is usually accessible on Facebook, this is also controlled to an extent as the owner can target new markets by posting in specific geographical locations to develop new interest.

Advocacy: Whatever comment is left on Facebook the owner will acknowledge it regardless of its content. These comments help the owner to identify advocates and engage with them accordingly.

In their social media playbook, Cisco’s claims to be great listeners as this assists in the identification of emerging trends, sales leads, competitive insights and so on, this is relatively simple for a company who is able to dedicate professional analysts to this. Harvest2Home are also still able to be great listeners and have proven to react person-ably to their consumers comments.

 

Final thoughts…

It would be interesting to revisit Harvest2Home in 12 months to review their Social Business Strategy, I suspect additions in human resources will be inevitable which may have some or maybe even great impact on the Community of Practice.

Overall I am actually quite amazed at how these models can be applied to such a variety of tomatoes-1002158_960_720companies.  If I had taken a guess at the start of my research, I may have decided the odd model or some of their components may apply, but we actually see there is a definite structure to successful social communications within every business regardless of size or nature. The most common theme which was highlighted in the models was the importance of listening carefully and over long periods, as it can provide invaluable assistance in growth and development of the business.

 

References:

 Cisco social media playbook 

Li, C. & Solis, B. (2013). The evolution of social business: Six stages of social business transformation. Altimeter Group. 
[online] http://www.slideshare.net/Altimeter/the-evolution-of-social-business-six-stages-of-social-media-transformation 

Wenger, E. (2006). Communities of practice: A brief introduction. http://wenger-trayner.com/introduction-to-communities-of-practice/ 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Is Size Really an Issue?

How it is…

First thoughts are that ALL businesses, regardless of size, should be using social mediatape-measure-145397_960_720.png.  It’s obvious….go out and shout about your product, use the platform to promote your product and spread your good business name, interact with your customers and reach new potential customers ….it’s bound to produce positive results, isn’t it?  Apparently it’s not that simple.  According to research, small and medium sized businesses who joined the flow of companies signing up to social media and began ‘tweeting’ and ‘posting’ have seen little or no results from their efforts.  Large companies, however, continue to value this tool and integrate social media into their marketing mix.  So whats going wrong???

Social media is very much about interaction and not so much about advertising what you want.  It is user driven, so if the user has no interest in your posts then that is where the message will stop.  If however, the posts are intriguing, inviting etc then this will trigger response from the user and interaction begins.  This can be a very slow process which requires patience and regular posting, few small and medium sized businesses have the resources to commit to such relationship building but that is exactly what social media is about….relationship building.  It builds brand loyalty which may not show in monetary terms on the bottom line instantly but customer retention and loyalty is often worth a great deal to businesses in the long term.

And then of course there is the other factor of larger companies being able to employ specialised team members who understand the latest tools available on the different social sites and are dedicated to this part of the business alone.  Often in smaller companies, it is the owner who sets up the social media pages and writes the posts, thus not maximising the capability of the available tools to their full potential.

 

How it could be…

Not all companies have a budget dedicated to social media, in particular small businesses and non-profit companies fall into this category, but that doesn’t have to exclude them from reaping the potential benefits of social media sites.  LinkedIn, for example, is a particularly good site where individuals post their professional profiles, this offers great potential for networking with like minded people and small companies and non-profit companies should take advantage of this facility when recruiting.

Small businesses are often operated by someone who has technical skills in a particular field but may not necessary be educated in social media.  Chances are there is a young person close by, either a teenage son or daughter or even an employee, who is very comfortable with the ins and outs of social media sites….get them on side and start building meaningful relationships with your customers!

It is important to recognise how social media has changed.  Gone are the days when people  would check their social sites as a past time in the evening, hands-1167618_960_720maybe even just a couple of times a week, but with the development of android phones and tablets people are now constantly connected, they leave their home where they were connected to the WIFI and their 3G or 4G kicks in until they reach their place of work which will then connect them via WIFI.  This instantaneous connection to the web gives people more opportunity to access their social sites, email, chat etc as and when they like, meaning that businesses need to be proactive and ready to respond and interact with their customers.

 

Some Observations…                                                                                                       idea-1019741_960_720

Increasingly I am viewing the social sites I belong to in a different light.  Once over I would log in at any spare moment and check what friends and family are up to. Now however I often find myself looking beyond that.  For instance one thing I have been drawn to is the way many large companies are increasing their reach of potential customers.  Many of these large organisations post a competition to win a prize of sorts and all you have to do to enter is to ‘like’ their page, comment on the post then ‘share’ the post with friends.  If only 5% of friends do this from each share the amount of visibility that one post would get is incredible and suddenly because those taking part in this are ‘liking’ the page the organisations reach has grown considerably too.  This is an incredible easy way to grow the number of people who are listed on a companies data base at relatively low cost (just the give away prize, as it is an incentive it should be exactly that and not just a $50 voucher!). Very easily implemented by any business whatever the size. If you have any other ideas how small businesses can use social media effectively I would love to hear, clearly it is not as simple as creating a page and leaving it roll!

Every time I research another blog it never ceases to amaze me how technology is developing at an ever increasing rate, so it’s understandable that many of us find it  difficult to keep up.  What is being highlighted is how important it is to not get left behind! Keep sharing!

 

References:

Casserly, M. (2013). Why small businesses are losing on social media. [Article] Forbes.com, 31-33 Forbes.com 4/17/2013 Page 31