Social Business Rules Workplaces – For Now

Social tools and strategy is generating plenty of hype in the workplace. But we've seen this story before.

Twitter's IPO caused a flurry of excitement in the tech world, with people breathlessly tweeting their opinions (in fewer than 140 characters, of course). Twitter, one of the many social companies that's now a household term, is in the big leagues. With Facebook and Twitter both now public, has social business reached mainstream?

In the six meetings I attend every day, social comes up in almost all of them. "What are we doing about social?" "How is the hiring going for the new social manager?" "How do we implement change so social becomes part of our company DNA?" Companies are scrambling to figure out how they can benefit from this "new" trend.

Working in knowledge management, I am all too familiar with these questions. Social is a huge part of my job. And when I talk to colleagues in other companies, social is just as hot for them. Everyone is figuring out what technology to build or buy and going through the never-ending process of trying to prove the ROI to senior leadership. Employees are wrestling with how to use these rapidly changing new technologies.

[Want more on how to refine your company's social strategy? Read 5 Social Business Adopter Types: Prepare Early.]

When I hear about the struggles companies are going through, I can't help but think about how I've seen this movie before. Remember e-business, and how companies all had to implement e-business? It was so hot -- if you weren't doing something around "e" then you were going to be left behind. There were fancy new titles like "chief e-business officer," e-business conferences, e-business companies, e-business books, etc. And where is all of that now? You and I know how that movie ended.

Today, every business is an e-business. There are no separate "e" initiatives; it's just the way companies operate. If you go to the InformationWeek home page you'll clearly see the hot trends: Cloud and big data have tabs, but e-business is long gone.

The same will be true for social: It will become part of the way we work. Every business will be a social business; we won't need separate social managers. There will be no social conferences, no social technologies. It will simply become ingrained in what we do.

But luckily for anyone in social business right now, we still have a ways to go. We are at the beginning of the social hype storm. Much more work needs to be done, work that includes continuing to show the value of social. According to Aberdeen, "Business benefits do not happen for companies that take a laissez-faire or ad-hoc approach to workplace collaboration." Companies that recognize the value of social are formalizing it, making it part of the employee workflow, incorporating it into their business strategies, and increasing its visibility, innovation, and sales enablement.

Even when the social hype ends, there will always be a next trend. There will be some hot topic that needs to be explained by authors, speakers, and consultants, and implemented with new technology, either internally, by building it, or externally, by buying it through a vendor.

Today social is already declining on the hotness scale. Big data and analytics are taking away some of the hype. Next year will bring something new and shiny that grabs everyone's attention. My plan for now is to enjoy the social hype movie -- even if I already know the ending -- and closely watch the coming attractions.

Consumerization 1.0 was "We don't need IT." Today, we need IT to bridge the gap between consumer and business tech. Also in the Consumerization 2.0 issue of InformationWeek: Stop worrying about the role of the CIO. (Free registration required.)

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