Jay Deragon wrote a great post yesterday that made me wake up early this morning to write this post. I believe Jay has a very important point that it is easy to forget about, ignore, or even be unaware about:
“While focusing on measures and ROI for use of social media seems rational the fact is that social media is nothing more than a new and powerful “communications channel“. As stated, you may catch buyers by using social media but the buyers intent is not to become friends with your organization unless of course your organization is truly social. Being social is the root cause of sales (revenue) online and off line. To ignore this means your likely to measure the wrong things just to justify use of social media.
It is much harder to create an organization that is social than it is to use social media. Being social is an organizational intent. Using social media is the intent of marketers. See the difference?”I agree entirely with Jay. Dedicating a bunch of people to post updates and respond to people's comments on Facebook and Twitter does not make a business social. Investing in Social Media Marketing, adding Likes and sharing buttons on corporate web sites and measuring the hard return of social media activities doesn’t either.
So, what does make a business social?
I believe that a social business engages the entire workforce to support and interact with each other, with customers, with partners, and with the public to build trust and create value together. It has virtually transformed everyone into customer service personnel and sales representatives, from the CEO to the previously anonymous worker. It empowers anyone in the workforce to do and say things that help to build trust in the business and its services and products by having honest and open dialogues.
In most cases where organizations have started to use social media to provide support and market and sell their products and/or services, if you scratch the surface you will just find the same old organization, culture, leadership and practices that existed before they created a friendly support team to chat with people on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and before they launched social press releases and cool viral social media campaigns integrated with their fan pages on Facebook. The business is not any more social than it was before; they are just adjusting to and taking advantage of the fact that there are now new and effective ways to reach out to (and even create) their markets, often with much greater precision and at a fraction of the cost compared to using other more traditional channels such as broadcast and direct marketing. Who could blame them? In fact, they would be stupid not to exploit this opportunity. But that is not the point.
The point is, as Jay writes, that “Being social and using social media are two totally different things” and that it is being social that will create value originating from improved collaboration, innovation, customer engagement, talent management, and so on. In this sense, real beauty - a truly social business - comes from within; a business that wants to become social needs to transform itself from the core to the crust, from the inside and out, by turning itself outside in (becoming not just customer-centric, but people-centric).
Such a transformation needs to start with empowering every individual in the workforce - not just self-motivated early adopters, or socially networked individuals, as Rawn Shah argues in this excellent post - with the same "social super powers" which many of them (but often far from the majority) have gotten used to possessing and using as individuals and consumers. It needs to start with a transformation of the communication culture, using new communication technologies and practices to shift it towards more open and transparent communication where anyone can participate, connect and engage in two-way conversations that goes in any direction across the organization. What will evolve is a “socially networked enterprise”, as Rawn calls it.
Needless to say, a transformation to a truly social business needs to be fully and explicitly supported by formal as well as informal leaders. They must walk the talk themselves with the ambition to become role models that will influence others to change. The new styles of communicating need to be fully reflected in how they lead other people.
"The rest", such as socializing core business processes, will come naturally after the organization has opened itself to new ways of social learning, sharing and collaborating. It is sure to influence and transform every other part of the business, from strategy-making and management to the core business processes and supporting processes and functions, to become more social.