Social Brand? Social Business? Serendipity? Or just great meatballs ?

“How cool is this ? They actually sent me a message directly”

Sadly the subject of social media has become so pervasive that it has started to invade dinner parties hence this outburst after a debate about the usefulness (or otherwise) of Twitter.

It turns out that the message was in reply to a tweet that a friend had sent extolling the virtues of British Airways’ meatballs in their Business Lounge at T5. Now I know this is not ground breaking but it was significant to me for 2 reasons. Firstly the “extoller” is an unashamed social geek with multiple work and personal social accounts and secondly, and perhaps most importantly, he is a BA Gold Card holder who constantly receives messages from BA re: offers and booked flights.

So what ? I hear you ask – well the point here is that despite a fortune being spent on frequent flyer schemes and ongoing targeted CRM, not to mention feel-good advertising, redesigned logos and obsequious straplines it seems it takes to a simple tweet to get a loyal customer to willingly share, discuss and talk with the highest praise about his company’s preferred carrier.

So social by itself does work ? or is it the sum of the parts ? or (more cynically) is this just a serendipitous tweet ? Well I think it is not any of these in particular, but in fact all them – in short BA is a ‘Social Business.’

There has been a lot of talk recently about being a social business – I read and tweeted an excellent article by Brian Solis – about the path from a social brand to a social business – Brian sums it up perfectly when he says:

“social media isn’t owned by marketing, but instead the entire organization. This changes everything….”

And here’s the rub….whilst we deal with a lot of companies where social is well and truly on the agenda with all being at various points in their social journey – from nascent Facebook accounts to exploring and embracing wider social initiatives such as influencer marketing, content development and Social Intelligence – most of the focus is not just confined to marketing it is placed firmly in the ‘social’ silo within marketing and in most cases this is the smallest of the Marketing ‘Russian Dolls’ with budgets to match.

So how do companies break out of this and use social as a means of driving real business value which will in turn increase focus and move social up the agenda so it becomes the largest of the Russian Dolls with all the elements of not just marketing but the entire business sitting therein?

The answer to this is simple – FOCUS ON YOUR CONSUMER – but it is surprising how many companies have lost sight of this in the clamour to create a social presence – instead the tail has started wagging the dog.

5 years ago Forrester presented a very simple formula for development of a social strategy – POST – essentially People, Objective, Strategy and Technology. The key to this was the order of the letters and Tech comes last. Jump forward 5 years and for ‘tech’ read social networks, application, microblog, forum or whatever other solution you have developed.

I appreciate that this is not simple though – starting with the consumer demands a cultural shift for many businesses but one fundamental rationale remains – the consumer now runs the show – they are your best advocates, salespeople, product innovators and maybe most importantly…..critics.

This focus pervades the aforementioned silos and helps social become a fundamental business driver with a matching investment and focus.

So I guess the message is ‘adapt or die’ and think about what can become your own company’s ‘meatballs’ !