In my capacity as Relationship and Sales Director for The Ahain Group I ask myself this question all the time. Where does “Social” feature in C-Suite Executives or Owner Managers overall business strategies. Do they understand the difference between Social Media and Social Business? Can they differentiate between them? Largely the answer is NO! More business management understand the need to follow their customers online but they do not think through their business objectives for moving to the digital channels. More worryingly they can not differentiate between a business philosophy and an adjective. A Philosophy not an Adjective “Social Business is a philosophy, a way of business where social technologies supported by new approaches facilitate a more open, engaged, collaborative foundation for how we work.” So said Brian Solis in a recent post. Use the word “social” in front of the words media, channels, platforms and it is just an adjective, he argues. Is he right? Damned right he is…. Time and again I have attended meetings and had conversations with C-Suite Exec’s and Owner/Managers who can not tell the difference. It is as if they forget their main roles in their business. We have all read the reports from HBR and other research labs about the results of their C-Suite surveys. How the exec’s define their roles in business, Striving to meet the business objectives Creating opportunities Solving problems And yet, when someone puts the word “social” before the words business or media, all the above goes out the window because the online tactics are not tied to the business objectives, the tactics are not creating opportunities and instead of solving problems the tactics end up creating them instead. Tactics are NOT strategy There is a pattern to this I have to say, three years meeting the senior management of companies large and small has opened my eyes to this issue. In general the conversation moves from strategy to tactics far to early in meetings I have attended. It has forced me to question my ability to explain the difference between Social Business and Social Media, but I am relieved to learn I am not alone, Brian Solis and others have suffered a similar faith. It is as if a red mist descends in the Execs, their eyes glaze over, a bit like Homer dreaming of his favorite Beer or food, the lights are on but no one is home and drool seeps out the side of their mouths 🙂 Social Business as defined by Brian Solis above is a philosophy for the entire business, develop your strategy, identify your objectives and then, and only then, if your research and the business plan demands it, use Social Media to reach your online community. But, but, but do not do this at the expense of your existing offline community, Social Business has to be an inclusive approach. Research allows you to identify the correct channels, then and only then should you be deciding tactics. Where I do see a difference is with the under thirties that have attained senior positions early and are totally comfortable with digital, the so called “Digital Natives” but there are not too many about. This age group sees the link between their business objectives, strategy and how they should be linked to tactics because they do not differentiate between online and offline. To the digital natives there are no real differences between the two communities, both need to be addressed by the overall company marketing strategy using integrated marketing tactics. Older management are still intimidated by the technology and platforms but here’s the thing, the communities are just people reached using different channels. Trial and Error is fine, seriously? “If you deprive yourself of outsourcing and your competitors do not, you’re putting yourself out of business.” Lee Kuan Yew, former Prime Minister of Singapore. Another part of the learning curve for me while attempting to develop new business for Ahain comes right after the discussion jumping too early to tactics, after the drooling, I can see a light go on in the exec’s eyes. The penny drops and he/she thinks, we can do this ourselves, how difficult can social media be. We can save ourselves a bundle of cash, lets not outsource to the domain experts, lets make it up as we go along, what can go wrong? Well a lot actually! Mistakes online are one thing, wasting money/budgets is another thing altogether. There are bundles of examples of companies getting it wrong, just type the words social media mistakes into Google. The bigger issue is the blowing of budgets. Poorly thought through strategies have led to bigger budgets needed to repair the damage of the first efforts. One company I met had been fined because they had broken the rules on email marketing, then declined our efforts to become their consultants and had their Facebook page taken down over breaking the terms and conditions of Facebook, running like and share competitions. One mistake after another because the CEO would not outsource to consultants, result, blown budgets and damage to the Brand. Conclusion: bring in the resources to support your overworked marketing department. There is a lot of work in developing an online strategy, there is even more to executing one. Budgets are tight and need to obtain maximum return. Senior business executives should leverage the domain expertise at their finger tips to gain maximum results. But first they must decide if they want to embrace a philosophy or an adjective. 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