5 Steps to Becoming a Collaborative Social Business
How important is social business to your organization?
When asked this question by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte, more than 70% of executives in the professional services industry said social business was important or somewhat important to their organization today.
Each year, we learn of more and more companies around the world that are transforming their organizations and creating value through the use of social networks, software, and media that enable connections between people and information – or, what is more commonly known as social business.
But as this trend continues to grow, major challenges are emerging. In addition to the absence of a strong business case and too many competing priorities, the lack of an overall social business strategy was among the top barriers identified by social business executives in the Moving Beyond Marketing survey.
Currently, there is an overwhelming number of social business best practices, tools, and processes available online – a quick Google search of the phrase yields more than 1 billion results. However, before this complex organizational change can take effect within your company, you must first develop a clear strategy to guide the process.
As you explore the opportunities of this global trend, use these steps to make the social business path easier to travel:
1. Learn the terminology.
The phrases social technology, social media, and social network are often used interchangeably. However contrary to popular misconception, they do not mean the same thing. Begin your process with a clear understanding of the different terms:
Social technologies are the tools and systems that connect people and information, regardless of time and location.
Social media are those places where people come together in a digital environment to create and share information.
Social networks are the accumulation of the people you know, and the people they know, as well as how you all are connected.
By understanding the differences between these terms, it becomes clear that a social business must encompass all three to succeed – first, by activating your networks, then by leveraging media and technologies to foster business value.
2. Establish a clear objective.
Determine what you are trying to accomplish with your social outreach. For example, are you looking to improve informed decision-making by creating seamless working teams that act on real-time information? Efficiently solve organizational challenges using social technologies that allow you to quickly canvas your network for additional input and insight? Or gain knowledge on emerging trends that present new business opportunities? Avoid the need to start big, or have grand plans – focus on specific objectives that recognize the value of working in a digital ecosystem (and how you will measure your success in achieving these objectives).
3. Understand your customer and market.
Determine who makes up your audience. Will your network include employees? Customers? Partners? Or some combination of the three? After you determine whom you are seeking to reach with social, learn about what engages them in this digital economy. What are their likes? Whose tweets are they following? How do they perceive your organization?
4. Identify your influencers.
Look within your organization for the individuals that are digital natives. Who is already active in promoting the organization via connected devices? And how can your organization combine the content these influencers are sharing with the content that your organization is creating?
5. Select and/or develop your technologies.
Identify the social media sites already in existence that can be embraced within your organization. Or better yet, conduct a survey to identify social media sites that your employees are already using for collaboration. Can you leverage blogs, LinkedIn Groups, or Twitter chats? These channels are aimed to encourage commentary, engage your network, and facilitate the sharing of quality content. And for those looking for additional security or features, building an internal social technology may be preferred over using public social media sites.
Over the next two years, Gartner predicts that 50% of large organizations will have internal social tools. However, the research firm also estimates that through 2015, 80% of social business efforts will fail in achieving intended benefits because of poor leadership, an overemphasis of technology, and the lack of a company-wide social business strategy.
To ensure successful implementation of a social business initiative, it is imperative that leadership understands how their people currently work, whom they work with, and what their needs are to improve those processes. Has your organization taken steps towards becoming a social business? If so, what has your initial experience been like?