Why companies should invest in Social by Design (part 1)

Applified recently hired a social media manager. Having worked with a diversity of clients the last year, we noticed that the level of online connectedness differs a great deal among organizations. Needless to say, we believe that it is essential for companies to have a clear online profile and to spend time strategizing on how they can interact with employees and customers on new media. You didn’t do that yet? You definitely should when introducing mobile solutions for customers. As a result of mobile solutions, traffic to your website augments, and customers will increasingly expect to find you on the media they use. They expect to be able to communicate with you on those media, and to experience your willingness to follow up on their thoughts. 

Last years it has been proclaimed that organizations should mobilize their employees to engage on social media. You can get some help from outside, but you have to do it yourself… Hard fact is however that many still don’t share a voice online. Especially a great deal of small and medium sized companies have not yet defined themselves well on those media, let alone have started listening and interacting with their customers. Quite a few have added social components to their website (their present internet presence), but have they really gone social? So what’s the reason or problem? Excuses as well as good reasons explain this lack of presence. For example, people don’t find the time to do this; don’t really know what they should post or how to use those media correctly. They were put off by negative examples or have insufficient knowledge of potential benefits. We believe it takes more than a lesson in social media, and more than a plan. With the help of Applified’s social media experts a social strategy customized to the goals of your organization is proposed. The organization gets taught on the potential benefits of new media for your company, guides you while developing an online personality, and actually starts executing the strategy together with your employees. Not leaving you alone for the time being, a great new possibility of embarking on a new path opens up in this regard. 

The goal of this blog isn’t only to convince you or your company to start using social media. Rather, we would like to explain the concept of Social by Design. A concept that is key to current social media strategies. You might have heard this before, for it isn’t new, though probably used much more in the US than in the Netherlands. But do you know what it really involves? 

Social by design, a socially designed organization as a concept, got fame with its introduction by Mark Zuckerberg. Indeed, Facebook is the easiest example of a company that was designed socially. From the very beginning, although it was started with a belief and a certain set of values, the exact what and how were determined and evolved by the crowd. Social at the core emphasizes the need for organizations to be open to adaptations to the business, based on interaction with their customers (Quora, 2012). However not always mentioned, we believe that interaction with and among employees should not be forgotten in this explanation. They often interact more with vital stakeholders than the company’s management does. So also action based on interaction with employees should add up to a business’ socialness.

To understand why this concept has gained interest and has become more important to embrace in business life, it is a good idea to draw a parallel with the development of the Internet. Where at the beginning the Internet was structured around data and information, it is nowadays much more interaction that attracts mankind. Social media enables unique, two-way dialogue between organizations and their customers – and among customers. A simple example: we don’t want to know in which Amsterdam boutique hotel we could stay, we want to know if that boutique hotel we find is also experienced as luxury by its guests (who we identify with). We trust in people’s opinions about static information. A fundamental strategic product shift in the Web’s selling point: from a focus on technology to people at the center. Social media is fundamentally changing the way we use the Internet: the social web in other familiar words (the Wallblog). During the last decades, the use of the Internet moved from ‘browse’ in the nineties, to ‘search’ around the millennium, and to ‘discover’ since the 2010’s. 

Back to social by design, according to Eric Fisher and Anu Saha (Quora, 2012), in order to adapt to modern social times, organizations should incorporate three core ‘social’ elements into the product design process:

1)   Community – the people your customers/users know, trust, etc.

2)   Conversation – the interaction of you customers/users (topics they talk about)

3)   Identity – how your customers/users see themselves and how they are identified by their communities

That’s interesting to think about. We believe that most companies don’t often consider these three enough. Did you ever think about the community in which your customer operates and the way a connection of your customer looks at your customer? Do you really understand the network your customers are in or do you merely try to get your content across? How do they communicate and cooperate? Taking this extra step could lead to great insights and a potential network of customers that is way beyond your current customer community. Trying to reach your customers in a way that you know their network is going to pick up your product is a consequential new opportunity.

Stay tuned for part 2!


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