social business plan template

I recently had the honor of speaking and training in Sopot, Poland for the Polish Insurance Association. The focus of the presentation was to provide a framework for how C-level executives and business leaders in the insurance and financial industries should approach social business and where their efforts should focus in the future.

Becoming a social business is a journey, not a destination.

Like many things in life and business, social business is a journey, not a destination. It’s as much about mindset as it is about tactics, technology and measurement. If you don’t take the time to plan so that you can set goals, objectives and obtain buy-in, your efforts at leveraging social technologies and new media may be far from worth your time.

Becoming a social business is not something that you can put a date on the calendar and state “this is the day we will be a social business.” Social business is a journey and the only guarantee is change.

It's time marketers and business leaders quit thinking quick fixes and cookie cutter solutions are going to help them move the needle for social business execution. Instead they must think value to audience, relationships that last, earned customer advocacy, business results, efficiency and sustainability.

Social business does not = Facebook or LinkedIn. Social business is about integrating social technologies and processes into the DNA of your business for the benefit of your employees, audience, clients and greater ecosystem. Read-> Difference Between Social Media and Social Business 

The key is to start from the inside out. Social business will reveal your organization as much or more than it will transform it. Your brand is only as powerful as the people within it. If you can’t trust your own employees, then who can you trust? Download white paper-> 10 Reasons Personal Branding is a Requirement for Business and Marketing Leaders

Key questions to kick-off your social business planning:

  • What do you want to accomplish and why?
  • Where are you going and who needs to join you on the journey?
  • What value you will you offer those who join you on the journey? Why should they care?
  • What does your audience need from you?
  • How will you provide your audience and community the most value possible?
  • How will you establish executive support?
  • What risks need mitigated?
  • How much will you govern?
  • How will you empower your team?
  • What resources and funding need secured to enable success?
  • What do you define success and how will you measure it?
  • What technology requires investment to help you achieve your vision?

Pack your bag for the journey, let's go! 

This is the first blog post in a series to help business leaders from organizations of all sizes develop a strategy, plan and tactics for social business that will deliver results and help sustain the business for the long term.

It is part of our larger series, “Get Fit Social Business Fitness” and will dive into the why, what and how of setting goals, understanding your audience, integrating new media, aligning to business goals, choosing technology investment, empowering employees and more. You can subscribe for updates here -> Social Business Fitness – It's a Journey, Not a Destination

Below are the 8 steps for developing a social business strategy. You can also view the entire deck I used for the presentation below or directly via Slideshare here-> Social Business Strategy and Plan: 8 Steps to Develop and Sustain Social Business. These steps and supporting slides were inspired by an amazing week in Sopot, Poland as well as the work of Brian Solis and Charlene Li.¹

8 Steps to Develop Social Business Strategy

1. Determine business objectives

social business goals and objectives

What are your BIG goals? How will you align to business goals? Remember, becoming a social business is not just about you. How will you provide value to your employees, customers, partners, stakeholders, and larger ecosystem?

Common business goals may include such things as social listening to learn more about your audience and target markets, thought leadership, nurturing relationships, earning support of loyal brand advocates, maximizing reach in existing and new markets, sales support, talent recruiting and of course lead and revenue generation.

You need to first define your business objectives. In later phases you will more closely refine and align social media and your social business investment with business goals where it can have the greatest impact.

2. Know your audience

social media listening research know your audience Do you really know your audience?

Who is your ideal customer? Create personas for them that include such details as online behavior, what social networks they are hanging out on, conversation content and sentiment.

Traditional marketing demographics are important but you must take it a step further if you want success with social media.

You must get in their head and know what it is they want from you and develop a strategy with specific tactics to deliver it to them.

Who are key influencers within your market? How can you tap into the power of the OPC (other people’s content and other people’s community) gracefully. How can you tap into the OPC and also give back as much or more than you take?

Read and Watch Video-> 10 Things You Must Know About Your Audience


3. Map Your Journey

social business fitness touch its toesWhat is your over all social business vision? Where are you going and why? Why is just as important as where. What does success look like? How will you measure results? Who needs to go with you and what is in it for them?

Be ready for the journey and know it is going to take time to train, empower, plan, implement and optimize.


4. Establish executive support

social business executive support employee empowerment This step is critical. You must have executive buy-in. You will not achieve executive buy-in without doing the first 3 steps in this list.

You must set goals, know your audience and the value you will offer them and map out your journey.

Your goal in this phase is to win the hearts, minds and corporate checkbooks of the executives. You want more than a sign-off and short term approval for a project. You must invest time to help them understand your vision, and ensure they buy-in to joining you on your journey.

Did you know that 71% of executives believe that human capital is a key source of sustained economic value?²  It is critical you empower your employees and determine how you will scale your efforts and integrate across the organization.

Read-> 10 Tips to Get Your Team on Board with Social Business

5. Develop your roadmap inclusive of strategy and tactics.

social business roadmap strategy Here is where the rubber meets the road. It’s time to develop an executable plan. This is where you clearly align your investment in social to business goals and initiatives across the organization where it can make the most positive impact.

Be patient and plan! We work with organizations of all sizes and shapes and two of the top reasons we see them fail is they are unprepared and impatient.

Failing to plan is planning to fail. Take time to slow down to speed up. It is not about the next big thing as it is about building a strategy and plan that is able to be executed, not just fill up inboxes and conference rooms with pretty presentation slides.

You must work hard to eliminate silos and random acts of marketing (RAMs). RAMS will consume every last morsel of ROI before you can spell ROI. You must ensure your teams are working together toward a common goal, objectives and vision. They must all be on the journey together and be able to pick one another up when they fall down.


6. Governance and guidelines

social business governanceHow will you mitigate risk and provide a safe environment for your employees, stakeholders and community members?

How will you ensure your brand is protected while at the same time empower your employees to be natural and organic brand evangelists?

How will you ensure communication is at the core of your social business implementation?

Who will take lead on integration, infrastructure development, measurement, content marketing, technology investments and risk management?

Consider implementing a center of excellence for prioritizing initiatives, developing processes and guidelines, establishing roles and responsibilities, empowering employees, measuring results and even keeping up with the ever changing trends.


7. Secure resources and funding.

social business budget investment funding What resources are needed to implement your strategy and plan to achieve your goals? What will you keep in house and what will you outsource to agencies or other supporting resources? Think scale via agencies combined with internal empowerment, employee development and center of excellence development.

This again is a critical stage for obtaining buy-in across the organization. You must always be working hard to ensure your team members are still buying into your journey and are key contributing members committed for the long haul.

For this phase think endurance, agility and efficiency.


8. Invest in technology

social business technology investment This is the stage my fellow geek counterparts get most excited about. Another one of the top reasons many businesses fail when implementing social technologies and practices are that they start with the technology.

Did you notice that selecting and investing in your technologies are last in this process? There is a reason. You must know where you are going and why, who you are serving and what value you will offer all those on your journey before you invest in technology.

Becoming a social business is not about “getting on Facebook” or chasing social technology shiny objects. It’s more about nurturing human beings and building relationships with them.

If you focus on inspiring your audiences and helping them achieve their goals as a top priority, you will achieve your results by default and organically.

Your technology investments must align to your goals, audience needs and vision. Understanding this phase combined with proper planning and goal setting is what sets  apart those that see a positive return on investment versus those that don’t.

You must define what you want to measure before you can select the technology to help you measure it.

If you put all of your trust in a social network you do not own, you are setting yourself up for failure. If you focus on relatinships and value first, your audience and community will follow you wherever you go. It then won’t matter if it’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ or the next best thing that comes along in the future.

Put equivalent and even more effort onto the online and digital properties and technologies that you own. Establishing thought leadership will require you have a home base for your community to come back to. Develop a blog and integrated platform that leverages the social technologies, not 100% depends on them.

It’s not just about what the technology can do for you but what you can do with the technology!

Is your business ready for the journey?

Where is your business in the adoption of social technologies and methodologies? How have you set goals, got in the head of your audience, established a roadmap for success? How are you empowering your employees and stakeholders? Feel free to share what is working or even what is not working for you. We are all much better working together. After all we are all on this journey together and the only guarantee we have is change!

Need a partner for your journey?  

Don't know where to start on your journey? We can help you get started on the right foot and develop a plan that will create real results! Give us a call and let's discuss how you can better leverage new media, social technologies and processes to increase business results, better connect with your audiences and achieve your goals. We offer a full suite of social business and digital marketing and consulting services. We even deliver customized workshops, training, keynote speaking, and more. Contact us and let's get you on the track to success!



“Get Fit Social Business Series” 

social business fitness program We are going to help you get integrated and stomp the Random Acts of Marketing (RAMs) once and for all in this new series, “Get Fit Social Business.”

Subscribe to the series to be notified of upcoming training, podcasts, videos, Google Hangouts, events and even an upcoming 2014 social business planning webinar!

1 Source: “The Seven Success Factors of Social Business Strategy”, Charlene Li & Brian Solis
2 Source: ”2012 IBM CEO Study: Q24 “What do you see as the key sources of sustained economic value in your organization?