Social Business Explained: Getting Your Organization Social

I’m afraid this post may not help you because every organization has a different DNA and a different way they get work done. I can however give you my suggestions on how to make a fictional business shift to become more social-savvy from the inside out.

I’m not talking about social media. The shift towards social business is happening and you want to get others on board.

Here’s what I would not do to get an organization social: 

  • Require everyone to sign up to Twitter
  • Explain that they never post anything bad
  • Tell employees to post company-specific updates on demand.
  • Forbid any interaction with peers (read: competitors) in the industry.

Luckily, that never happened to me. But I’ve heard some real war stories from my colleagues in the space for the way some CEOs carry out social business initiatives. You have to think and act larger because the benefits of social business yield far greater benefits than marketing.

This post is a part of my Social Business Explained blog series for social media professionals and community managers so they can create sustainable social businesses.

Here’s what I would do to get an organization social: 

  • Do research on the competitors in your industry. Specifically about how they collaborate, work, market and their internal culture.  Some might call this competitive intelligence. You can get a lot of data and insights by simply stalking them throughout social media. Facebook and LinkedIn are goldmines for rich data about companies and key insiders working there. Develop relationships (if you feel comfortable to do so) and just connect with them. Get insights from their own words. Don’t burn your sources or simply mimic them; instead, gather fact-based intelligence. 
  • Find a mentor, internally, who will be your advocate. It could be your manager, or your managers’ director or even another VP in another department. Basically, this person should be someone you can trust enough to say, “I don’t know” when you legitimately don’t know an answer. They should be able to trust you enough to know that you are trying to improve the organization, not build an empire to take it over.
  • Do plenty of internal research. Some might call this talking. I like to make “sweeps” of all departments and chat with certain individuals in a one-to-one basis and find out how they are working, what challenges they are running into, discover opportunities for partnership. This is/was outside of my role, but it is necessary to form a balanced, diverse point of view.
  • Pitch your vision with your adversaries. Admit it, you probably have someone you got off on the wrong foot with and whenever you have an idea, they are the first find the holes in it and want to shut it down. These are your biggest critics. Stand strong, listen and see how they would adjust your plan. This is how you build your social business strategy so it is battle-tested later. Assure them that you appreciate the feedback so they see that you are leveraging their advice constructively. The goal here is that these folks will hold nothing back. If it looks and sounds like bullshit, they will let you know.
  • Get in the ear of all the key decision makers. This doesn’t mean by job title. This means the shot-callers at all levels. There are usually alpha-males on the front-lines just like there are alpha-males in the board room. Get their insight and feedback. It’s important to rally support from ALL levels, not just the top.
  • Gather the support and resources from the executive level. Often the hardest to accomplish, yet the most impactful. Make it clear what resources you need, who will be doing things and what behaviors you are asking to change of them and their teams. You’re not trying to call anyone out, but you are looking to gather budget (one hopes), commitment (necessary) and resources (time) with their departments’ leaders.
  • Start with education. Education on both social media and knowledge-sharing, internal (digital) social collaboration and the benefits. I think we all want less meetings. Think with the end in mind, but break it down to specific deliverables, milestones and outcomes for all to latch onto.
  • Try different tools and approaches. I think the issue that many companies make is to force one tool or one process without piloting it first. Try a few different approaching to adopting social business practices. You’ll soon realize, it is not a technological challenge, but a human obstacle. You need to to put the feelers out there, listen to feedback and iterate. When people sense that you lost momentum, it’s easy for them all to shake their heads and get back to the old way of doing business. When they know that you are trying/testing/challenging them to make it a success, they will prove it. Maintaining a clear focus and frequent communication is key.
  • Start to measure the outcomes. Have there been fewer, maybe even shorter meetings since using social collaboration tools? Has there been faster innovation cycles and new ideas shipped out? Has there been better communication? These have hidden, unmeasured payoffs that help the business.
  • Drive the social business initiatives at the start of new employees and reinforce it among veterans. I can’t stress the importance of this enough. If the veterans (or shot callers as mentioned above) don’t buy in, the newer employees will learn from them to not buy into a social collaboration. Likewise, focus on feedback from middle management – they often a major causal factor between adoption and failure.

Is everyone in your company bought in?

This is a lot for one (or few) people to take on in a short time. Expect that this will take a while, but not eons or days. It may take months to gather the right research, use cases and insights. However, the outcome is so the business can think faster, do things quicker and develop a tightly connected, rich culture.

Photo Credit: Lawrence Whittemore; BuzzFeed