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5 Social Business Mistakes You're Making

10 Social Business Leaders for 2013
10 Social Business Leaders for 2013

(read about them all)

Social networking is part of consumers' lives, period. No, it's not yet like the phone -- where everyone has one in some form or another, whether it's a trusty old landline or the latest and greatest smartphone -- but for an increasingly growing population, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, et al., have become commonly used communications and productivity tools.

In the business realm, social is not quite at that point. It's probably not even close. Part of the issue is the many ways that social practices run counter to more traditional business conventions, and part of it is the relative immaturity of the technology.

Here are five common mistakes that organizations have made when making the leap to social, as well as recommendations for how you can avoid them.

1. No Involvement From The Top

Many social business tools are inexpensive or free, and easy to get up and running. This has led many a small team or department within an organization to take it upon itself to set up a social business platform. That's all well and good (except maybe for the IT department), but when a decision is made to expand the use of a social business tool, or to use the social capabilities added to many traditional enterprise productivity tools, it's time to get the big guns involved. Social business tools may not die on the vine (no pun intended) without the active engagement of top-level managers, but they are much more likely to flourish if end users see that the expectation for participation goes all the way to the top.

[ For more advice on how to make social work for your business, see 6 Ways To Make Promoted Tweets Pay Off. ]

2. No Reason For Social

Many a social business implementation has failed because an organization did not tie the technology to a particular business need. Social for social's sake won't work. The idea of "a solution looking for a problem" is probably as old as IT itself, but it seems to come up all too often when it comes to social. Organizations need to clearly identify the business applications for social technology, and then select a social business platform that will best meet business needs.

3. Only One Reason For Social

While it's not OK to just throw social business tools up against the wall to see what sticks, companies that focus on only one application of the technology may find that they hit a brick wall relatively quickly. It's important to be open to new ideas about how social business tools can be used within the organization -- just be sure to take a purposeful approach, with measureable goals in mind for new applications.

4. No Rules Of Engagement

Because social came up first on the consumer side, many organizations just assume that end users will know what to do with social business tools. Most social business platforms use familiar social metaphors such as likes and status updates, but what's OK on a personal Facebook account, for example, may not be (and often isn't) OK in a business context. (This is true also when it comes to public social networks used for business purposes.) Without some kind of training on and policies for social business, organizations are opening themselves up to a host of problems.

5. No Use Of Social At All

While social technology is still relatively new, especially when it comes to business use, to dismiss it out of hand is a big mistake. It's becoming as important to establish presence on social networks -- for marketing, customer engagement, customer service and so on -- as it is to have a company website. The same is true for the use of social technology internally. Attracting customers -- and top new talent -- may depend on it.

Is your organization making any of the mistakes we've laid out? Do you have some best practices to share? Please let us know in the comments section below.

Follow Deb Donston-Miller on Twitter at @debdonston.