How to Succeed at Social Business

Social business can be tricky to succeed at if you don't have the right culture, support or proper integration.

When you hear the phrase "social media" in the context of work, words such as "time-sink" and "distraction" may come to mind. But utter that phrase inside some businesses, and you’ll hear words such as "productivity." Yes, productivity.

Harvard Business Review published a brilliant blog post summing up the secret sauce for how businesses successfully reap the benefits of social in the enterprise. And, HBR says, the benefits are significant.

"The potential for value creation when social technologies are used to improve collaboration and communication within and across enterprises is twice as big as the value that can be created through all other uses across the value chain," HBR writes. Citing a McKinsey Global Institute study, it continues: "The potential value at stake in these sectors [consumer packaged goods, consumer finance, professional services and advanced manufacturing] is $900 billion to $1.3 trillion annually."

But what makes these businesses successful when so many others have failed?

To start, HBR says businesses must have the following:

  • Robust and widespread participation by all employees at every level;
  • Integration into daily workflow, and
  • An environment of openness, information sharing and trust.

Consequently, those are the three areas that most businesses struggle with most.

TD Bank CIO Glenda Crisp attributes its enterprise collaboration implementation in part to participation from employees at all levels. "We had strong senior executive sponsorship," she says. "This was a project driven from the top."

Chris Hyams Hart, vice president of IT at publishing company Random House, thwarted the mindset of social media as something wasteful from the start. When Random House embarked on its social implementation, he purposely rolled it out to groups where improved communication around critical projects was a business priority. "Tools in the enterprise are only well-adopted if the person using them gets value out of them," he says.

Trust was a big factor in software company SAS's collaboration project. "[Employees] know they're trusted by execs and managers and know they have a voice here," says Karen Lee, SAS's senior director of internal communications. "If there was no culture of trust, they wouldn't feel as good about using it."

Of course, there are more factors to a successful social project than just participation, integration and trust. What was integral in your business's success? Let me know in the comments below.

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