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The $2.8 billion distraction.

That’s the amount Asia-Pacific businesses spent on social media advertising last year.

$2.8 billion dedicated largely to extending TVC budgets, reinforcing brand pillars and pushing more products. And that number is expected to more than double within five years, according to Forrester.

How different might today’s businesses be if that $2.8 billion had been spent another way? Imagine if businesses had shifted investment from telling consumers they had changed via social media to instead showing them they had changed by genuinely meeting their needs. Or even creating products and services shaped by customer conversations in social media.

You only need to put your customer hat on to realise just how far most businesses are from that reality, and just how powerful a distraction social media has been. Time, money and effort is being spent on merely telling the same stories through new channels, with many businesses expecting customers to marvel.

They’re trying so hard to convince customers of their ‘customer centricity’, but with a façade so thin it just can’t hide the tired, old structures which make customer-centric decisions impossible.

Business are listening to customers and empowering employees, but they continue to do so selectively — on their terms — and remain surprised when neither group embraces their ideas.

Industry needs real change.

Change that starts with redefining ‘social media’ and separating them from the more valuable ‘social principles’ which will change business performance. Social isn’t social media. Nor is it a set of channels used to reach customers.

Social is ground-up, top-down belief in collaboration, access and authenticity as principles driving business behaviour. Yes, there are specific capabilities — social listening provides invaluable customer intelligence, social customer care supports real-time issues resolution, and social media marketing enables enhanced targeting and personalisation — but it’s the social principles which underpin forward-thinking business decision making.

Social presents the single biggest opportunity to businesses today. But most are terrified of acknowledging its strategic role as it would mean flipping the business-customer dynamic on its head. And no one wants to relinquish control just yet.

Exploring social’s potential as a strategic driver of business decisions is not risky. What’s risky is limiting social to social media — a set of channels — where internal arguments will always be over whether anyone outside their 20s uses them, who in the business should ‘own’ them, or how much media spend they should attract.

This attitude restricts business progress and accelerates business failure. Success lies in looking past the channels; looking at the potential for business improvement when you genuinely and deeply consider how social can help meet and exceed customer expectations; and investing in understanding the role of social to drive faster, smarter, more effective business decisions.

So, what can you do?

Ask three very honest questions to assess your business mindset and where you would like to be:

  1. Are we currently focused on social media or social principles?
  2. Do we genuinely listen to our customers and understand our role in their lives?
  3. Do we make business decisions guided by this knowledge, or our own capabilities?

If you can imagine your business being collaborative, accessible and authentic with customers, you’ve already understood the opportunities at hand.

From there, social media strategy actually ceases to exist. You’re talking about business strategy, with social simply one way you will maintain relevance, connection and commerce with customers. You’ll then be in a position to unlock whole-of-business improvements powered by social, and we’d love to join you on that journey.

Author: Roger Christie

Roger Christie is Founder and Managing Director of Propel. He understands the importance and value of a customer-centric approach to business, and has worked with a range of public and private sector organisations to help them leverage data, technology and operational change to deliver practical business solutions. Over the past decade, Roger has advised boards and executive teams across government departments and ASX top ten corporations, and understands the challenges facing organisations looking to excel and remain viable in an increasingly competitive, discerning marketplace. You can connect with Roger on LinkedIn and Twitter, and follow his thoughts on Medium.

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