Social Media is transforming the world for business. What is becoming clearer and clearer is that the way that any business either uses or doesn’t use social media can have massive repercussions both in relationships with customers and with staff. Alistair Rennie, the General Manager For Social Business at IBM, gave a thoughtful analysis to this issue in a perceptive article featured recently in Forbes Magazine. He calls this the era of “social business”.
The era of social business is here and it is becoming clear just how transformative it will be.
But many are still asking, “What does social business really mean?”
Companies are increasingly adopting social media technologies, using Facebook to reach out to customers or YouTube to demonstrate new products. These are good first steps, but there is so much more that “social” has to offer. Social media is just one dimension of today’s social business.
Gone are the days of businesses limiting or even entirely restricting employees’ access to the Internet and social media platforms. Today, by combining social networking tools – internally and externally – with sophisticated analytic capabilities, companies are transforming their business processes, building stronger relationships among their employees, customers and business partners and making better decisions, faster. This is what makes a social business – embracing networks of people to create new business value and opportunities.
Leading edge companies, including China Telecom, Nokia and Cemex, understand what it means to embrace social. They recognize that they can’t afford to relegate social technologies to people’s personal lives and have instead implemented social tools and concepts to drive brand awareness and ultimately, their organization’s bottom line.
While embracing social technologies, these organizations are also creating a new business culture that encourages employees to tap into the expertise of their colleagues and clients, to communicate and share ideas across departments and geographies, and to learn from others to create new products, respond to problems, and build the brand. Theses organizations not only see the power behind social, but they’re actively combining social networking with sophisticated analytics to glean insights from social activity streams and behaviors to find out what they need to do better to drive financial results.
What’s keeping other companies from following their lead? Many executives recognize that social media is powerful, even if they still wonder in the back of their minds whether it’s just a time sink. Yet, even when they decide that there is potential, these execs get hung up on trying to figure how to apply social technologies to their companies, how to engage and empower their employees to participate.
Here’s the trick with social business: Focus on people and culture.
People by nature are social beings. We naturally form networks based on trust and similar interests. With social technology, executives are providing the necessary tools for their employees to easily tap into the creativity, intelligence and community that they crave. They’re now able to reach networks of people inside and outside the company to get work done more efficiently, more creatively, more collaboratively. But will they? Not without trust and encouragement from the top. Just as important as the tools, building trust and encouraging social interactions are essential to driving a social change in the workforce. Creating a social business culture can be the most difficult hurdle to overcome, but it’s also the most important.
Alistair Rennie’s Guest Post in Forbes Magazine highlights how some businesses have both embraced social technology and created a new business culture that encourages employees to tap into the expertise of their colleagues and clients. This contrasts with the suspicions shown by other businesses towards social media, where often an outright ban on staff accessing Facebook and Twitter exists in the workplace or where social media is simply used to trumpet the business’s brand and products without truly engaging either staff or customers. It’s equally true that a lot of employees want to keep their employer at arms length from their social media platforms but then once someone begins posting online they need to realise they can never fully guarantee who they can restrict those views or news to.
Social business is a natural evolution from the mainframe and the PC. Where the mainframe is “work” focused, the PC adds ‘personal’, and social business adds both ‘social’ and strengthened ‘personal’. These three terms ‘work’, ‘personal’ and ‘social’ can also be argued to represent the three dimensions of everyday life, but what is your take on both the article and these views?
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