How Smart Businesses Reorganize For Social - InformationWeek

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Government // Enterprise Architecture
03:31 PM

How Smart Businesses Reorganize For Social

Companies are stuck at departmental levels when it comes to taking full advantage of social media. Here's how to implement a company-wide social business initiative that delivers strategic results.

In isolated pockets of many large companies I see people trying hard to deliver good social media--a.k.a social business--results. A few internal "change champions" usually have a pretty good idea of what it takes to produce local results that will make the organization proud.

By looking at these examples, we can see that the groundwork required to be effective in social business is largely the same across most industries and geographies. A company needs forward-thinking vision and preparation, cultivation of the proper skills, a focus on creating effective social business processes, and perhaps most of all, the budget for additional staff and infrastructure. Unfortunately, as successful as these departmental efforts are, they often don't spread across the enterprise.

That's because the action in social business is largely still at the departmental level. Marketing has long been engaged in social marketing. The customer support department is ramping up social customer support. The collaboration team is crafting social collaboration efforts. And the intranet group is figuring out the path forward with social intranets.

[ Get your share: Why McKinsey Values Social Economy At Up To $1.3 Trillion. ]

These points of light are extremely helpful but they're good at hiding the progress and lessons learned from the rest of the organization. They create social silos of different tools, policies, and staff. This has led to important discussions about how to structure social media efforts to make them more consistent, reduce duplication, and maximize shared results.

This column continues the discussion from Social Business By Design (2012, John Wiley and Sons), the book I recently co-authored with Peter Kim on the methods that organizations can use to better prepare strategically for social business.

More Social Business By Design columns

On top of this there's the perceived problem of social business adding more work and overhead to what the departments already do, a tough proposition in hard economic times. The shift to social isn't evident; without a strategic perspective, it just looks like more work, not a trend.

Thus, the overall move from old communication channels to the new social ones is often perceived as wastefully additive, and not necessarily a linear shift at all. A few months ago, I was speaking with the CIO of a Fortune 500 company, and he complained that he had hundreds of full-time social support representatives, each of which had to be trained in social media. Never mind that he had several thousand traditional customer service representatives already. The reality is that the bifurcation between the old channels and the new means they often don't seem to fit very well together.

All of these issues are symptoms that an organization needs to refine how it strategically thinks about and activates social business.

The case for strategic organization for social business

To be clear, there's little doubt that for now, social media is indeed an additive component to how we engage. Our legacy methods of connecting with each other such as e-mail, mass media, telephone, and other 20th century channels will be around for a while yet and will even remain primary channels for some companies for at least the next five years. But their growing ineffectiveness, lack of cost-effective scale, and limited ability to accumulate and exchange value is ultimately dooming them as relics of the pre-social era.

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Marty Thompson
Marty Thompson,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/29/2012 | 6:25:52 PM
re: How Smart Businesses Reorganize For Social
Good stuff, Dion.

What I am seeing is that many companies are hesitating for at least a couple of reasons. First, they are looking at social media as yet another communications channel, and are getting caught up in the double sided coin of using it as is, or trying to somehow integrate it into a centralized operational view. Second, integration concerns, the influx of large amounts of data (seemingly out of context with other data, such as that leveraged in CRM applications), and the notion that big data isn't ready for social, continue to haunt the decision makers.

But I find it strange that organizations would hesitate for these reasons. Many of them that are in social paralysis are currently using social channels for marketing, customer support, sales, etc. And when we tease all of these individual efforts apart, we find that each one tends to have fairly well defined goals associated with them, at least they are tactically sound.

Organizations need to step back, rethink social as an integral part of the building blocks that help inform their overall strategy, and align social with goals they probably have right now. This requires a fundamental shift in understanding the new reality of a socialized world. This, in my mind, is the first and most important step in moving towards the promise of social business. Call me a heretic, but it has very little to do with technology. The technology titans would love to say otherwise, but they are stunting the growth of social business to some extent.

Dion Hinchcliffe
Dion Hinchcliffe,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/27/2012 | 2:29:54 PM
re: How Smart Businesses Reorganize For Social
Exactly, and I think customer service is well situated to incorporate social business because they've had to absorb many new interaction platforms (e-mail, IM, chat, etc.) In fact, evidence has been good that this is happening with up to half of large companies recently.

It's the other parts of companies that are having a harder time moving from push technologies to engagement technologies, the latter which have very different modes of use and ways to drive business value.
Deb Donston-Miller
Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/25/2012 | 12:06:40 PM
re: How Smart Businesses Reorganize For Social
If social media doesn't make sense right now for a company externally (for example, a pure B2B organization), then it might internally,

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
User Rank: Apprentice
8/25/2012 | 2:25:41 AM
re: How Smart Businesses Reorganize For Social
I think that any company that does not utilize or realize the significant effect social networking could have on their business, then they are seriously missing the boat. It is 2012 and social media is everywhere around us and constantly be accessed all the time, to have that potential customer base that companies can tap into is a major advantage if usage is done properly. The article mentions marketing and I cannot think of a company that would have no use for social media regardless of the product or service that is being offered. Could anyone give me an example where it would be counter productive due to the nature of the business. Obviously military and private contractors are excluded.

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