Got Culture? Use It To Drive A Successful Social Business

Cultural change will likely be a long-term outcome of a social initiative, but it shouldn't be the goal.
Highly functioning communities often look like well-oiled social mechanisms that make business better for everyone--the kumbaya of social business. But when you scratch below the surface of those highly functioning communities, you find a constant, writhing tension among a variety of cultural expectations and behaviors.

In the best communities, that tension drives creativity, collaboration, and innovation. But in communities that fail, it's often because the cultural context wasn't understood, respected, and accounted for in the community strategy. A beautifully laid out strategy will always fall victim to its cultural context, so it's imperative to incorporate that cultural context rather than ignore it.

Cultural sensitivity and planning, however, is a messy business and has gotten a bad rap because it's associated with hours of mandated HR videos or "sensitivity training." Culture change, similarly, has often been used in conjunction with reorganizing and "rightsizing," and you can almost hear the collective groans of employees when they hear those words.

The terms we use to discuss and describe culture are awkward and insufficient. Social strategists and community managers can help an organization articulate its culture and use it to make social initiatives successful. But it's not a straightforward task, particularly in a large company with many overlapping cultures associated with different locations and work groups.

Figuring out culture isn't easy. Here are three simple approaches that can help people developing a social strategy unravel their organization's cultural puzzle:

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