The Keys to Social Business Success

The social engagement game has changed. The last two years have been a race to conquer social business. Facebook’s IPO, enterprise software acquisitions and companies doubling down on their social strategies all affirm what many of us have sensed all along: Social business is critical to reaching and communicating with today’s connected consumer.

It’s not all about your brand’s megaphone, though; it’s about the connected consumer’s user experience. Facebook users spend 40 percent of their time in the newsfeed. But Facebook users only see about 16 percent of content published by brands they “like,” reinforcing Facebook’s commitment to user experience. How can your brand content add enough value to their experience so that they click through to your page?

Some experts claim the key to success in social business is not about the tool. I’ve read Lance Armstrong’s “It’s Not About the Bike,” and I don’t believe he rode to victory on a department store floor model. Talent and drive are heightened with tools that enable success. Recent strategic moves reinforce this, as the industry pushes to develop a comprehensive software system that allows social strategists to manage more people having more conversations across more social channels.

So far in the race, the pack — social media management system providers — has advanced from listening to engaging. Social business is a marathon, not a sprint, to be won by those who sustain engagement over the long haul. Brands recognized early on the value in being able to track and analyze real-time sentiment.

Vitrue and Buddy Media demonstrate a core competency in custom Facebook application development, allowing brands to offer unique, engaging experiences (contests, coupons and video channels) to customers. But when timeline prevented the use of custom apps as a default landing page, the message to marketers was clear: Creating flashy gimmicks or merely hosting a microsite within Facebook’s walled garden would no longer constitute quality engagement.

Just as the route changes annually in the Tour de France, the constantly evolving social landscape continues to transform. Early signals indicate a redoubled focus on creating and curating compelling content. Paul Adams, Facebook’s global head of brand design, suggests that relationships are built upon many small interactions over time. Just as personal relationships are a series of light touches — lunches and play dates, with milestones of birthdays, anniversaries and new jobs — brand relationships deepen with genuine engagement. On Facebook, the heart of brand-to-consumer interaction is in the newsfeed, where small touches invite larger interactions.

Now that we know Facebook’s content-ranking algorithm gives greater exposure to engaging content and multimedia, the next hill to climb is providing and promoting quality content. Brands need to engage in conversations, understand what resonates and seize the moment to promote what their communities like. Facebook’s new content-promotion capabilities add a new level of opportunity here. Failure to use the robust targeting capabilities available with promoted content or to restrain yourself from promoting every piece of content will increasingly result in irrelevant content overload, followed by a barrage of unlikes and unfollows. Back to Paul Adams: think many small, increasingly relevant interactions over time.

As social networks continue to roll out and tweak promoted content and ad products, brands that successfully strike the right balance of leveraging compelling content with paid promotion will win and deepen relationships with their connections. And the technology that helps them strike that balance and engage effectively will ride wearing the yellow jersey.

Jim Rudden is the CMO of Spredfast, a social campaign management tool.

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