How To Succeed As A Social Business Sponsor - InformationWeek
Software // Social
09:06 AM
Vala Afshar
Vala Afshar

How To Succeed As A Social Business Sponsor

Follow these five steps to become a more effective leader and seamlessly shape your company into a social business.

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Your company understands the benefits of social business and is now determined to become one. You have reached step three of the "Seven Elements Of A Successful Social Business," which calls for designating a social executive sponsor to lead the charge.

In some companies, the CMO might be the executive sponsor. It could also be the VP of services or the chief customer officer. In a small startup, the CEO might be appointed that role. The key is to find the most likeable, collaborative individual who has large-scale influence. That might not necessarily be an executive.

This five-step guide will help the social executive sponsor through his first 90 days and turn him into a hero in the process. But be warned: Transitioning to a social business might not be easy because it often involves a cultural change. There might be managers in the business whose natural instincts are to shut down any use of social media when they see it during working hours. The job of the social executive sponsor is to make the benefits of the social business clear to everyone and instill in them a long-lasting, collaborative social business culture. Here's how to do that.

[ What will a "social business" look like seven years from now? Read Picturing Your Social Business In 2020. ]

1. Create your vision
As the new social business executive sponsor, start by taking time to learn the true meaning of the social business. Establish your credibility on the subject: You will need to live it, which can only happen when you are fully immersed in it. Understand the success factors, the markers of social business DNA, and the need to focus on people.

Probing and listening to staff and coworkers will help you develop this vision. For example, when CIO Denis Edwards began his new role at global public relations firm Edelman, he dedicated his first month to "100% learning." This included conducting a survey to better understand expectations. Another example: Steve Gallagher, the newly-appointed CIO of Harvard, described how important it is to create a strategic vision as the first step toward leading with passion. 

2. Gain executive buy-in
Christine Comaford stressed the importance of securing acceptance from the executive team in "Sink or Swim: A New Leader's Guide To the First 90 Days." The entire organization reads signals from the top -- both the spoken and visual ones. If an executive staff member has not completely bought in to the program, the direct reports will sense it. 

As the executive sponsor, you need to apply your horizontal influence to convert the executive staff into advocates. To be successful, the program needs commitment from all departments. It cannot be siloed. Spend time with each staff member to help them develop their staff training plans and foster cross-departmental planning. Ask about and address any doubts they might have.

The allocation of resources for expenses and, perhaps more importantly, time, will provide evidence of high-level commitment. The organization needs to communicate that it is important for employees to spend valuable time on social activities. Goal sheets should be revised to specifically incorporate social practices.

The user experience might be the most important factor in gaining adoption of the social business software. Whatever tools you choose, make sure they have an intuitive user interface and a very quick learning curve. People have been using email for 30 years. The new social collaboration tools must be easier to use than email or people will not adopt them.

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Kristin Burnham
Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
12/2/2013 | 11:40:22 AM
Executive endorsements are key
I think businesses underestimate how important #2 is. If you don't have executives onboard and publicly endorsing and supporting your goals, reaching those adoption numbers becomes more difficult.
User Rank: Apprentice
12/5/2013 | 7:08:27 AM
Social business evangelists
Why is it that when people tallk abut the undoubted benefits of social business (or indeed social media) they feel impelled to use such emotive language as this. It's like you are running a schol for trainee evangelists, whipping them up to doorstep people and convert them to the Truth.

If social is the way to go for your business (and frankly some busiesses are so far away from being ready that no amount of semonising could make it appropriate for them), then you can make the case coherently, logically, dispassionately. Of course you need to be persuasive, and tenacious. Butrelyiing on rhetoric will, in the end, produce zero results.
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