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Social Business: From organizational chaos to corporate social media governance

Many organizations today spend a lot of time, resources and financial investment trying to understand the social landscape and engaging with the social customer. They are on a quest to become a social brand. They are investing in Facebook applications, branded communities and blogs; and many are using social monitoring solutions to listen to the conversation about the brand. A social brand is any company, product, individual, politician that uses social technologies in order to communicate with the social customer, their partners and constituencies or the general public.

Friends, fans and followers are certainly important to a brand’s marketing communications. However, while many organizations are trying desperately to humanize their brand, they are failing to understand that they need to humanize their business first.

And thereby lies the business challenge for many organizations today. Years ago with the expansion of Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks; and as the influence of the social customer became apparent, companies jumped in head first and “joined the conversation”. It became an expectation from the social customer.

But this caused organizational chaos from behind the firewall.

From the outside looking in, most wouldn’t recognize the challenges that social media has created in the enterprise. The anarchy, conflict, confusion of roles and responsibilities, lack of communication and collaboration; and organizational silos that exist behind the firewall is not visible. Employees tweeting confidential information, bashing competitors; marketing and PR teams fighting for ownership of social media and 25 Facebook pages all saying the same thing are just a few examples. These challenges make the process of becoming a social brand impossible. So for many organizations, this quest to becoming a social brand and a social business is one of a simultaneous effort.

A social business is any company that has integrated and operationalized social media within every job function internally. A social business is built upon three pillars – people, process and technology. All three need to work independent of each other, yet need to be completely integrated into the DNA of the organizational culture. It requires employees to actually communicate — processes and governance models that help shape employee behavior online — and technology to facilitate collaboration across the organization

The foundation of a fully collaborative social business, whether for a small or large firm is the company’s most valuable asset, its people. It addresses the need to drive organizational change in an effort to shift employee behavior, communicate more effectively across job functions and geographies and tear down organizational silos. All the social media technology, collaboration software and community applications deployed behind the firewall will not be effective unless there is a fundamental shift in the way employees think, interact with one another and communicate.

These change management initiatives have to be driven by organizational leadership and practiced at every level in the organization from senior leadership all the way down to a customer support agent. Otherwise, change will not occur. This means that executives must not only talk about changing the organization but exemplify the behaviors that really do facilitate and practice change.

The end result is an increase in trust among all employees at every level; trust of employees and empowering them to engage externally; an increase in budget investments to social business initiatives, collaboration and more effective social organization models.

Process cuts right through the entire fabric of the organization. It ensures that every job function in every business unit and within every geography is consistent when performing certain tasks. For example, when a new employee joins a company and wants to start blogging or Tweeting on behalf of the company, a process should be in place that governs training, certification and social media policies.

Processes should help facilitate the chaos that exists from behind the firewall – i.e. employees sharing sensitive material externally, social media ownership, crisis management and product feedback workflows; and ensuring there is one measurement philosophy that the entire organization is bought into and using for reporting. Additionally, training initiatives, social media policies and guidelines, moderation policies, global expansion must be documented, approved and then rolled up into a co-created governance model. This ensures that there is message consistency globally, a legal documentation that protects the organization, empowers employees and ensures that everyone is on the same page.

A social business needs technology in order to facilitate change and collaboration. Organizations need to be smart and think long term before investing in technology applications that facilitate internal collaboration (Jive, Lithium, Yammer), social listening (Radian6, Meltwater), measurement (Rowfeeder, Argyle), social relationship management (Sprinklr, Syncapse Platform) and social CRM (Nimble, JitterJam, Pivotal).

Companies need to first understand what it is they are trying to achieve before thinking about which technology vendor to deploy. Are they trying to streamline communication between business units or geographies? Are they looking to roll out a collaboration application that will eventually replace their intranet? Or, are they planning to use social CRM and weave it into their sales and marketing initiatives? Whatever the case, it’s important to understand the culture of the organization and its leadership. Technology will not change an organization’s culture. However, having a strong understanding of it will have a huge impact on the technical requirements, choice of technology and how to implement and configure it.

The foundation for social business transformation is culture and leadership. All the technology in the world deployed in the enterprise; and all the process/compliance documents created are useless if organizational behaviors aren’t changed. Change starts from the top and business leaders are the ones responsible for facilitating this change.


This post was first written for Social Business News on October 19, 2011.