Warning: this going to sound self-serving:
Marketing has to stop being a vertical within the business and must become horizontal across all business lines. Period. End of sentence. Businesses, fundamentally see the concept of social business as a fad. As if, suddenly, the employees within the organization will no longer be connected to one another and no longer engaged on a smartphone or tablet (meaning they are not only hyper-connected but completely untethered). It’s somewhat laughable that you have businesses that block their employees from channels like YouTube and Facebook, when all the employee has to do is put their hand into their pocket to be connected on those channels. From the public facing side, consumers are beyond having expectations for a business to be social. In fact, if a business isn’t social, it’s a non-starter. Do you do business with any companies that treat you like a number? We still do (think about banks, cable companies, airlines, telecommunications and a few others). They’re doing their best to become more social, aren’t they?
Why does it work for some and fail for others?
While this is painting very broad strokes, it comes down to vertical integration versus horizontal integration. When a business claims to be moving in the direction of becoming a social business, the brands that fail are the ones that have a social media department within another department (usually marketing and/or communications) and their work is predicated on things like campaigns currently in market or individual initiatives. This, in essence, is the ghetto-ization of the social business spirit and will, ultimately, lead to failure. When it’s implemented horizontally, you have a top-down and bottom-up seismic shift that becomes a value-based system by which the corporation is governed. In plain English: everyone has skin in the game. It’s not a campaign, it’s who you are. It’s a statement to the world that our business is made up of people and our consumers are people, too. People do magnificent things in business when they can have real interactions between real human beings.
Someone has to make the call.
A marketing director wanting to implement social components into their business is unlikely to change the world. It has to come from the top. Social business touches everything from human resources and operations to business development and product development. The major record labels within the music industry are making their struggles even worse because they don’t have a social business framework. They were always in control (of the artists, of the music’s distribution channel, of what the fans would hear) and they took that power on with the pretentious attitude of management that is similar to how kings used to rule their lands (the rest of us were merely loyal serfs). When the c-suite makes the call, everything changes. Don’t believe me? Just ask Michael Dell over at Dell or Tony Hsieh over at Zappos. These two business leaders (and there are many more) didn’t sell social business through their organizations as a marketing and communications initiative. They sold it through as customer service. We’re not talking about customer service in terms of the call center, we’re talking about the core of customer service: why are we in business?
We are in business to serve the customer.
Nothing more. Nothing less. The more we attempt to resist social business models, the more painful these next few years (and decades) will be. We can expect, more local, more mobile and more socially-enabled consumers. Does anyone debate this? Does anyone think that this is a fad? This Blog post isn’t about making a case for social business, this Blog post is about opening up all of our eyes to the reality of the future: all businesses must be social. If we don’t turn marketing into a horizontal that runs pervasively throughout the organization, I worry that our competitors will. And when they do, they will not only eat our lunch, but they will marry our beloved consumers.
I think we all love being horizontal… it’s time to make our marketing horizontal as well.