In early March I posted on “Use Your Social Strategy for Return on Impact.” I concluded that post by mentioning that “six steps will transform you into a leader capable of achieving Return on Impact in the age of connected relationships,” and promised to discuss those six steps in future posts.

To lead in the current dynamic market requires different approaches than many traditional growth strategies in the past. You must use your social strategy to enhance the mindset of your senior leadership and your board of directors. This involves three tasks: Broadening your base; assembling and aligning the critical mass of talent in your organization to achieve your growth priorities; and winning mindshare among all your key constituencies. Let’s drill in on how to execute these tasks.

Broaden your base. World-class organizations create engagement by focusing their market outreach on delighting customers. Your most profitable members, sponsors, or customers all have strong emotional bonds with your brand. You must consistently recognize and strengthen these bonds. How do you emotionally engage and build a trusting relationship with individuals you cannot interact with in person? You have to think differently about engagement. You know your individual buyers are smart and getting smarter—they’re engaged in social networks where they are learning from every interaction that delivers recommendations. Each buyer draws on that network to interact, form relationships, make decisions, and buy products and services—all to solve the problems that keep them from doing what they want to do.

To broaden your base, find groups of individuals who have problems that are driving them crazy, and who are willing and able to pay for solutions to solve those problems. Engage them on social platforms. How? With compelling content. Your customers/members lean in to the conversations that promise to connect them with interesting people and ideas. Daily, low-cost interactivity give them compelling reasons to come back frequently, become engaged and involved.

Deliver real value to people looking for “who can I meet?” and “what can I learn?” Become a student of your market’s problems, and bring your leaders and board into the conversation so they can engage with the members, partners, and external knowledge assets. Leaders listen and learn.

Assemble and align the critical talent to achieve your growth priorities. In your organization, regardless of its size or governance structure, you have growth strategies. Approaches vary by industry, business segment, and circumstances. Organizations achieve growth either by offering its existing value to new members/customers, or through offering new value to existing members/customers.

Figure 4.4 - Existing and New Offerings to the Market

What most consumers don’t want is more of the same; over time, existing offerings lose their attraction and become commoditized. Any organization that isn’t broadening its base must find new value to offer that base, or it will lose ground. Any organization that offers existing value to new customers will broaden its base, but find it difficult to hold the ground it gains unless it can also develop innovations that bring new value to that base consistently over time.

In Return on Impact: Leadership Strategies for the Age of Connected Relationships (ASAE, 2012) I used the example of the Wisconsin Institute of Certified Public Accountants (WICPA). The group’s critical differentiator is the depth and scope of its educational offerings—far greater than any of its competitors. However, about 50 percent of their members are dispersed geographically outside the population-dense Madison/Milwaukee/Green Bay areas, so providing greater access to educational programming is a challenge and a key priority. WICPA sought member feedback and learned that it could add a great deal of value by compacting and customizing its programming. Today, WICPA’s conferences are organized by subject areas such as nonprofits, tax accounting, or specific industries. It is expanding its online educational offerings to serve its distributed population.

WICPA listened to its market, then aligned its talent around the growth opportunity it discovered—solving its members’ problem of access to education. That strategy is generating new value for the existing base, and a compelling value proposition for new members to join WICPA.

In the figure above, which goal is your strategic priority? Does your organization now include the talent you need to execute on that priority? You must assemble a critical mass of talent at the board and senior leadership ranks, and align them with the responsibilities and skills required for your growth strategy.

To succeed in the 21st century, social must be a component of your growth strategy, regardless of your approach. Social can be a unique and effective enabler of growth. Give your board and leaders a role in your social strategy. Let them hear directly what the market conversation is saying.

Win mindshare among all your key constituencies. So you’ve got your leadership team listening, leaning in, and driving innovation that creates new value and reaches new markets. Or do you? To be sure you’re winning their mindshare, you need a means to measure it. Social analytics are the barometer of how well you’re doing. Metrics should measure against agreed-upon objectives and values to help create course corrections along the way. Social analytics should reveal how well you’ve aligned objectives with strategy, the effectiveness of your implementation process, and how well you’re moving your members or customers to their next logical decision point.

Your social strategy must include meaningful metrics. As social media took off, a cottage industry of vendors and platforms for social media measurement appeared—but too often the tail wagged the dog. Organizations allowed the tools to dictate what they would measure. Only when the organization understands what data is needed, can it assess the right class of tools to use. Do your due diligence to put in place the metrics you need to monitor your mindshare among your key constituencies—customers, the market, employees, key competitors, the media. Share your analytics with your leadership and board, in brief, actionable insights that make key insights stick.

Broadening your base, aligning the right players around the right goals, and winning mindshare are the steps through which your social strategy will enhance the mindset of your senior leadership and your board of directors. Develop a strong listening platform for your leaders and board that gives them clear visibility into the social conversation about your organization and brand. This isn’t a suggestion. It’s a critical business strategy without which you can expect to fail.

Nour Takeaways:

  1. Broaden your base by finding customer niches with problems they are willing and able to pay to solve; engage them on social platforms with your compelling content.
  2. Specify your growth priorities; assemble and align the critical talent you need to achieve them.
  3. Win mindshare among key constituencies; measure and share insights about mindshare with your leaders and board.
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