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Something that has stuck with me is an idea from one of Amber Naslund’s webinars that I attended last year. Why are many big brands so uncomfortable with letting their employees represent their brand on social media? This is not a social media problem, in Naslund’s view. This is a hiring problem. You need talent you can trust.

The way I see it, social media is a tool. A tool that will either emphasize parts of your business that are great, or bring the not-so-great to the public eye, painfully.

Sometimes the problem is that big brands want to jump on the social media bandwagon so quickly that they never implement a social structure within the organization. But if it doesn’t work from the inside, then what you put out on the outside won’t work either.

Brands need to be social in every department, not just marketing or communications. Making social media a skill for each and every employee instead of a full-time job for one, will make your business social in operation.

Instead of looking at social media as your silver bullet to virality or some spaceship into relevancy, brands need to look at social media as a tool to make all aspects of your operation work better, and be better in the eyes of your consumer.

Social on the inside

The keys to building a truly social business are training, guidelines and empowerment. The transition will be slow, which is why some big brands spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on third-party agencies to take it off their plates.

Using a platform like GetSatisfaction, for instance, can make your customer service social by nature. It can be implemented on your Facebook page and all incoming support inquiries will be indexed so that if someone has an inquiry that’s already been answered, they will be prompted to look at that answer instead of creating a new case. This will save your customer support agent’s time, and the department money.

Public relations have embraced social media faster than most departments. No longer do you have to push your pitches via email and pray that media will pick them up. You can create and maintain relationships with press through Twitter, having short conversations daily rather than only talking to them when you need something.

Brands can also use tools like PitchEngine, which makes news releases social media friendly and turns PR professionals into media outlets in their own right. In the social business age, many PR pros have reputable blogs and Twitter accounts with thousands of followers which allow them to connect with mass influencers without using the mainstream media as intermediaries.

Creating social leadership

Image by ChrisL_AK, via Flickr

While social should permeate all aspects of your brand, it’s still important to have the right leadership to define overall strategy and look over individual elements of your social media presence.

This can either be one person or a panel of people, each responsible for a different area of social (PR, Marketing & Sales, Customer Service, Product Development, etc).

Collaboration has never been more important to bridge the silos that traditional business has created, and which are the enemy of social.

Big brands are the slowest to adapt, when people may expect (with all the money that they have) that they would be the quickest. Redesigning your business to be social by nature trumps having 100,000 Facebook Fans, because doing it right is more important than getting it done.