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7 Lessons From Social Business Leaders

Companies can learn from these leaders in the use of social networking technology for business.

4. Show Employees How Social Is Relevant To Their Jobs

Gloria Burke, director of knowledge and collaboration strategy and governance at Unisys, wishes she had started earlier to tailor training to different types of jobs. Focused training works, as does encouraging employees to share lessons about how social tools work or don't in a particular job. "Nothing drives the adoption of something new more than a colleague telling you it works for them," Burke says.

Unisys's social business initiative has succeeded partly because of a top-down push from executives who recognize its importance, Burke says, and because of the groundwork laid by prior knowledge management initiatives over the past decade. The IT services company uses NewsGator's Social Sites for SharePoint as its company-wide enterprise social networking platform. Sales and marketing teams also use Salesforce's Chatter collaboration software.

Gloria Burke, Unisys
"Nothing drives the adoption of something new more than a colleague telling you it works for them." -- Gloria Burke, Unisys

John Knab, director of IT applications, doesn't worry about the overlap because the trend is "everybody is going to have some social component to their platform." Chatter may be the better tool for some sales-specific conversations, but salespeople also need access to NewsGator when they need to reach the broader organization.

What's most important is helping people in sales roles achieve the goal of "market agility," says Burke. One example is using a mobile device to post a customer's question to colleagues during a client meeting. Using a search of employee social profiles can find an expert in order to "get the answer before they even leave the office," says Burke. "That's impressive to the client." In a case like that, the tool of choice would be NewsGator because it reaches more people, across different areas of expertise.

5. Overcome Cultural Challenges

Not everyone uses social networking outside work, some don't like it, and there are a lot of fears and inhibitions about using the technology. Companies need to recognize this reality and not just foist social software upon employees unsupported and expect results.

At Cemex, the support for and use of social media by the company's top executives helped to increase trust in the community. To overcome resistance and fear of social media, Cemex went as far as creating 12 profiles of people who would use its internal social network--based on factors such as job, experience, and age--and tailored training and communications to each profile. "We did an analysis of different profiles within the company, and did a map to get to the hearts and minds of the people in the company," says Cemex's Garcia.

Those who successfully implement social software and practices have learned the importance of thoughtful rollout and ongoing support.

6. Don't Hamstring Use

At the same time companies must win over employees who resist social networking, they also need to tap into the knowledge and energy of those that have been using Facebook and Twitter for years and are the true experts.

Restaurant operator Red Robin made a conscious decision to implement its Yammer collaboration network without a lot of rules around how to use it, other than basic acceptable use policies. Restaurant workers adapted pretty readily to social media interaction because Yammer looked and functioned a lot like Facebook, which "they use in their daily lives," says CIO Laping.

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