Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Using social media as crucial business analysis resources 2: what do businesses say about themselves?

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on January 4, 2015

This is my second installment in a series on social media as a source of actionable business intelligence insight (see Part 1: capturing new sources of opportunity and competitive advantage .)

I briefly outlined a series of points in Part 1 that I will discuss in the course of developing this series. And I begin more fully addressing them here with what I would argue to be the essential starting point for any business-oriented social media discussion, or any online business marketing or communications discussion in general:

• What types of online content do businesses intentionally and otherwise put online about themselves, and about what they stand for and what they do?

I will, of course, go on from this first step discussion to delve into the issues of information and opinion that is posted online about a business from the outside too. But a business itself essentially always starts any online conversation that relates to it, as outside marketplace-oriented and related participants primarily begin their side of any of these conversations as a response to the message and image that the business offers.

To clarify a possible point that arises there, I would argue that the actual market-facing products and services offered can be seen, at least from the perspective of this discussion, as core elements of that overall business-sourced message offered, and both for their direct marketable offerings provided themselves, and for any customer support services added on to make them more competitive in their marketplace.

What basic ongoing message does a business bring to its markets and to the outside world? I have already started addressing that with the offerings they bring to market. They convey a message of the level of quality offered by this business and its level of care in meeting consumer needs, and through what is offered, how it is packaged, marketed and presented, what it costs and whether consumers would see all of this as being worth buying at the price offered. The full customer experience enters in here, post-sales customer support included. But collectively, this constitutes the business’ primary, core message.

If a business cannot get this part of their overall message right it does not matter what they say beyond that or where or how they say it or how often they do. An implicit message of over-priced and under-qualitied can and will poison the rest of any conversation too.

• Your business’ marketable products and services are, for good or ill, your most powerful and compelling message. All else simply serves to widen your communications reach and clarify the details of what you have to say while doing so.

The majority of what I will be delving into through the rest of this series will focus on those Marketing and Communications department and other-sourced add-on messages, and certainly as I address the topics approached here from the business side of these conversations. I note the above points here to establish a foundation for that for all that is to come, and when addressing either business or marketplace-sourced sides to this communications flow.

And I begin that by challenging a basic, common assumption: that it can make sense to think of business-involving communications in terms of taking place in distinct and fundamentally separate channels. Marketing is often and I add too often thought of and partitioned into separate channel efforts, and with cross-channel marketing added in as if an extra.

In the online context, I would cite by way of example:

• Traditional central publishing model, information providing web site elements that simply seek to provide information, and one-way as one channel type, and
• Overtly interactive, two-way communications oriented communications elements such as a business Facebook page or Twitter feed as a second (or even as a second and third.)

Everything that a business says, and by whatever means, is and should be seen as an invitation for feedback and comment. Similarly, everything that outside consumers and other commentators have to say about a business should be seen as an invitation for that business to reply back, and an invitation to enter into a genuine two way conversation, and one that can create connections through any or all available channels in supporting the same single conversation flows. And this means open-ended conversations and in directions that cannot always be anticipated in advance.

To take that at least somewhat out of the abstract, consider an online clothing retail business that has an extensive information-rich web site with interactive tools and resources for entering into conversations with customer support and with sales personnel: order fulfillment specialists. The more overtly two-way communicative of these web site components are the interactive parts, right. And the information rich components that do not in and of themselves comprise two-way communications features are not? That only holds true until, for example, a first customer reaches out through an online chat tool or via a proffered toll free phone number to ask why the models they see in all of their more content-only, non-interactive web pages of that site fit into one narrow demographic as for age, race and so on – and to note that those models do not represent them or members of their family.

So I begin this portion of this series by raising two fundamentally crucial points:

• Your business’ marketable products and services that serve as your source of revenue generation, and that comprise the basis for your competitive strength in your markets are your most important, core message communicated, and
• Every point of communication and of potential information sharing is at the very least a direct invitation to interactive, two way conversation – and needs to be developed and maintained with that potential in mind.

I am going to at least start to delve into the details of this, and into overly social media-based conversations in my next series installment. And as part of that, I will discuss both business-originated and outside-sourced messages and communications agendas as they arise and develop on all involved sides. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and also at Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory. And you can find this and related material at Social Networking and Business and its continuation page.

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