7 Elements Of A Successful Social Business - InformationWeek
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Vala Afshar
Vala Afshar
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7 Elements Of A Successful Social Business

Social software and tools have made cross-functional collaboration easier than ever before, but beware cultural and philosophical barriers.

What is the common thread in the following statistics? Thirty-six percent increase in brand awareness, 66% less time to bring products to market, 20% improvement in customer conversions, 15% increase in successful innovations and new ideas?

Answer: These are just some of the quantitative results attributed to becoming a social business. With dramatic benefits like these, why aren't all businesses social by now? The fact is, becoming a social business can be quite difficult, especially without a well-thought-out implementation plan.

Today, social software and tools have made cross-functional collaboration easier than ever before but cultural and philosophical barriers still get in the way. Even with all the well-demonstrated benefits of collaboration -- improved internal and external communications, better use of constrained budgets, better customer relationships and shorter meetings -- the concept of the social business introduces elements of threat, loss of control and risk. For managers accustomed to hierarchical control, fully embracing social business can mean moving outside their comfort zone.

[ Want a better bottom line? Read Social Collaboration's Big Payoff: Increased Sales. ]

There exists a digital divide in business. On one side of the divide are those who view technology as a distraction, something that must be closely monitored and controlled. On the other side are those who embrace the technology megatrends of social, mobile and cloud. To innovate and thrive in today's rapidly changing environment, businesses must become social and bridge this digital divide.

To that end, here is a seven-step checklist for becoming a successful social business -- a checklist that has worked well for us at Enterasys.

1. Define A Meaningful Purpose.

Start by understanding where you want to go. Make sure everyone's goals are aligned. Your company culture will play an enormous role in becoming a social business, so take the time to understand and steer your company's culture in the right direction. If your people are not comfortable, they'll drop into what Christine Comaford calls their critter state. Provide the right company environment and you can move them into their collaborative smart state.

Make sure everyone sees the benefits of a social business. It won't mean more work; it will mean less email, fewer interruptions, less guesswork, fewer meetings. It will make work life more innovative and more fun.

2. Simplify The User Experience.

Ensure the tools for social business are easy and fun. They will get used as long as they are simple and integrate well into the general work environment and daily routine. At Enterasys, we use Salesforce.com and most employees keep it open and available on their desktops. When Chatter became available as a social communication tool integrated with Salesforce, it was a natural fit that helped speed adoption.

Be sure to encourage the use of online and mobile tools such as Evernote, wikis and blogs for taking meeting notes. That way the notes can be posted, shared and even edited immediately. Include social handles in all tools and interactions to make their use as easy as possible. Today people tend to keep Tweetdeck open on their desktop or mobile device and use it almost as often as email. Some people have completely switched from email to Twitter.

Becoming a social business rarely requires redesigning the organization. In fact, social businesses tend to avoid frequent reorganizations. The social tools are the lubrication that keeps cross-departmental and cross-functional information flowing freely, reducing the separation between groups.

Executive Chatter
Internal social discussion within our executive team.

3 Designate A SOCIAL Executive Sponsor.

Gartner estimates that 80% of social business projects will not achieve their intended benefits due to inadequate leadership. The executive leader must be S.O.C.I.A.L. -- sincere, open, collaborative, interested, authentic and likeable. Find -- or create -- an executive sponsor who meets these criteria: You're Not a Social Business Leader If ______? (10 Hints).

In some companies, the CMO might be the executive sponsor. Or it might be the VP of services or the chief customer officer. In a small startup, it might even be the CEO. Consider whether your company needs a chief social officer. The key is to find the most likeable, collaborative individual who has a large-scale influence -- and by the way, that might not necessarily be an executive. Embracing collaboration throughout a company requires participation and support from senior leadership. You are not a social business if your CEO and her direct reports are not actively using social technologies to collaborate and engage.

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User Rank: Apprentice
7/26/2013 | 11:17:40 AM
re: 7 Elements Of A Successful Social Business
Great article Vala, especially the bit about having fun. You might find this article BLOOM recently wrote for Marketing Magazine exploring British cycling retail brands Halfords and Wiggle and how being a Social Business can lead to exponential market smashing financial

User Rank: Author
7/25/2013 | 7:51:31 PM
re: 7 Elements Of A Successful Social Business
Practicing good digital citizenship is a pretty big tent, though, so I don't think it's enough to just say it's all good as long as you do that. Not pointlessly self promoting, not making shallow comments just to be heard, accepting that uncomfortable truths must be said -- building all that kind of citizenship into a culture takes a good bit of time and attention and learning.
User Rank: Apprentice
7/25/2013 | 6:16:08 PM
re: 7 Elements Of A Successful Social Business
Chris- Excellent point. But, aside from someone getting distracted and
using social for non-business purposes or forgetting to practice good digital
citizenship, can there be too much social? Would love to see examples of
excessive use of social in business posted here. ThereG«÷s indeed a potential
downside to gamificationG«ń or special rewards for behavior: when kids get treats
for doing homework, the homework may stop when the treats stop. But sometimes people need special incentives to thoroughly try something new that will ultimately benefit both themselves and the organization. It usually doesnG«÷t take long for people to realize the personal and organization benefits of the social tools after they give it a good try.
User Rank: Author
7/24/2013 | 10:16:01 PM
re: 7 Elements Of A Successful Social Business
How do you combat social for social's sake? if you measure and reward adoption, then adoption becomes an end unto itself. The answer probably relates to point 1, about being clear on purpose. But maybe there needs an element like "know how not to socialize."
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