How To Overcome Social Business Performance Obstacles

For better outcomes, broaden your use of social software and tighten your focus on results.

Dion Hinchcliffe, Contributor

November 8, 2012

3 Min Read

As a result of these communal lessons in the digital world, social media arose as one very potent solution to the remaining barriers, yet it's often a pretty contrived overlay onto our traditional organizations. And this often hinders much of what makes it so powerful. In most organizations, social media is bent and "adapted" to our local business environments, rather than meeting it in middle. The data we just examined shows that when we deeply and widely connect socially in a business context to a much fuller extent, we see the most impressive results. However, the vast majority of our organizations are clearly not doing this.

How can we address this shortfall? This year, as I've been attending social business events and talking with practitioners, I see a new set of obstacles along with the original set that limited the first generations of digital communication technology. These obstacles are the information and technology silos that litter the inside of our companies, organizational fiefdoms at the departmental and division level, little or no ability to see the big knowledge picture, or engage meaningfully with the broader marketplace. Corporate culture is another well-known major obstacle to social business. So are regulatory and legal constraints. Many social business efforts are further fragmented or otherwise hampered by industry and government regulations around customer privacy (meaning they can't say much useful back to most customers in social venues). European Union privacy and customer data laws are particularly vexing, often creating social media silos where none should exist. Geography, traditional org charts and a blizzard of multiple competing social networks don't help either.

What is the solution to these obstacles to our social business efforts? How can we achieve the high performance that the social business equivalent of the 1% are seeing (something that's expected, unfortunately, as technology separates the leaders and laggards in general, especially social technology). Unfortunately, the solutions are still somewhat unclear and the challenge is something the industry will have to continue working on. But at least we now have a grasp on the key issues. Frustratingly for some of us, there is some evidence that certain organizations are naturally more amenable to social business, structurally and behaviorally. If so, the available data seems to show that this is a very small minority.

As for the rest of us, my research shows that having an open loop process of adoption (hoping that good things will happen) is the long road. Instead, create a more rigorous and data-driven closed loop set of social business operation. There's simply no more cost-effective way to guide and tune your adoption activities to get at the larger pool of value. Our goal is to achieve the big double digit ROI of social business that we've talking about and measuring in some places. That isn't something that we just assume we'll get by rolling out social tools en masse, without consideration of the big picture. We must aim for it using the right process and supporting tools. For most of us, this will require some important changes. But now that we realize what the conditions for success look like, this goal might actually be reachable for many of our organizations.

Social media make the customer more powerful than ever. Here's how to listen and react. Also in the new, all-digital The Customer Really Comes First issue of The BrainYard: The right tools can help smooth over the rough edges in your social business architecture. (Free registration required.)

About the Author(s)

Dion Hinchcliffe


Dion Hinchcliffe is a business strategist, enterprise architect, frequent keynote speaker, book author, blogger, and industry analyst who works with business and technical leaders in large companies to apply emerging technology to drive digital transformation and growth. He is most recently co-author of Social Business By Design from John Wiley & Sons (2012) and has personally led large-scale social business and smart mobility strategy initiatives for Fortune 500 and Global 2000 firms on three continents.

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