By Mark Fidelman
The fates of the world’s businesses and their ability to become social are inextricably linked, and both are picking up momentum. Most companies today realize the imperative to connect with their customers, employees, and partners through social technologies. Despite this acknowledgement that social is the way, we’ve got a long way to go before every business is a social business.
There are still a variety of challenges organizations are working to overcome before a holistic change can take place. The most common obstacles are cultural implications, engagement among employees, how to measure ROI, and even education among middle managers.
I’ve spent the past year interviewing and gathering insights from some of the most successful companies on the planet, learning how they’re taking advantage of social networking technology, both internally and externally, to better reach customers, capture business value and drive their bottom line. I’ve incorporated my findings and some of my own experiences in my new book, Socialized!: How the Most Successful Businesses Harness the Power of Social, a playbook for how to create a high-performing social enterprise.
My experience talking to these leading organizations is supported by a new report released today from IBM. The report reveals that while companies are increasing their social business investments, middle managers are struggling to embrace social networking capabilities as part of their day-to-day work. IBM’s survey of 1,160 business and IT professionals shows that while 46 percent of the organizations increased their investments in social technologies in 2012, only 22 percent believed that managers are prepared to incorporate social tools and approaches into their daily practices.
Despite intentions to further accelerate social initiatives, many organizations are still figuring out whether real return on investment can be gained from social. Two-thirds of respondents from IBM’s survey were not sure they sufficiently understood the impact that social technologies would have on their organizations over the next three years.
There’s more work to do, so bear in mind these tips to help your organization transcend these obstacles to achieve social business success:
The companies that are leading in today’s world recognize the benefits of an empowered workforce that feels connected to the organization. Develop a culture in which innovation is connected to every facet of the business. From product development, customer support, and marketing, to employee career development, empowered workers care less about the financial impacts of failed innovation experiments (while of course learning from them) and more about developing high-performing cultures that drive customer value over time. The key to accelerating widespread social adoption lies in an organization’s ability to build expertise among employees, while encouraging behavioral changes that may influence a wider cultural shift.
Implement a Playbook
Failing to plan is the single largest reason organizations trying to become social businesses falter in their efforts. The playbook is an organization’s strategic guide to starting, launching, and executing on plays that will help make the company more effective. As IBM’s new report suggests , at the most basic level, management must provide an infrastructure to help employees collaborate. Once in place, the collaborative tools should be integrated into day-to-day work activities, projects, and processes. In support of this, management must teach employees how to collaborate effectively with individuals outside of the organization’s boundaries, using policies, practices, social business methods and tools.
Don’t Ignore the Data
An effective social business can’t exist without a strong set of analytics resources. A social business is about more than just collaboration; it’s about applying social technologies to business processes in order to radically improve the way organizations operate and gleaning insights from the wide array of social data now at their disposal. With the effective use of social and analytics technologies, organizations can gain deeper insights into customer and market trends, employees’ sentiment, and uncover critical patterns to not only react swiftly to market shifts, but predict the effect of future actions.
It’s clear that social business has transformed from a nice-to-have to a necessity for organizations to remain competitive. A lot of progress has been made, but there’s still a lot more work to do. Social business is about recognizing that the game has changed in business. No longer do the winners hoard information in silos or ignore the crowd’s input. The future is filled with sharing, collaborating and sourcing new ideas and innovations from inside and outside an organization.
So as we prepare to enter 2013, let’s move forward and celebrate the massive opportunities social business will bring us next year and many years beyond.
Mark Fidelman is Conference Director for BusinessNext Social at New Media Expo and the author of Socialized! How the Most Successful Businesses Harness the Power of Social. Fidelman also writes a blog for Forbes.com called Socialized and Mobilized and can be followed on Twitter @markfidelman.