Social Business is far more complex than Social Media Marketing. Social Media Marketing can be handled by a single department, all of whom have some experience with the art of communications (hopefully).
Marketing departments are used to thinking about communications holistically.
They are keenly aware that:
- Someone could be offended by a campaign;
- a marketing tactic may not work;
- the message must be aligned with the brand.
Social Business, on the other hand, requires that individuals at all levels of the company (including those that are not used to “speaking up”) begin to use new tools and understand the guidelines of appropriate use. To clarify, it is not mandatory that people use Social Business tools. In fact, forced adoption is one of the most effective methods of destroying the potential of a Social Business. However, the greater the adoption of Social Business tools and processes, the more effective the organization becomes at reaping the benefits.
How to become a Social Business through widespread adoption
The starting point for Social Business initiatives is to recognize what you are up against. Though much of Social Business is about the use of social tools and processes inside of an organization, employees are often encouraged to become public facing touch points of the company.
The reality of what happens next is often very different from the expectation.
Whether looking at internal or external adoption of social tools, many companies that seek to become more social, think that becoming a Social Business is like turning on a light switch; give people the tools and permission, and have content flowing across the web within a matter of days. The reality of the situation is much different. Play with the Forrester’s Social Technographics profile tool below and look at the average behavior of different demographics. The truth is that content creators, across all age and gender demographics, typically make up the smallest percentage of participation.
It’s important to look at this sort of data to form realistic expectations. Regardless of whether the social activity is internal only or public facing, less than 25% of the users will be the ones “talking.” Social activity and behavior by demographics has consistently shown that spectators are the largest group. So don’t be surprised when only a small number of people jump to be the voice of the company.
Look Long Term
There are numerous quotes to the affect of: It takes years to become an overnight success. Social Business is not a quick fix for a company, it’s a planned, deliberate, slow march towards a new future. Sometimes the wind hits the sails just right and it happens quickly, but much of what Social Business is about, is the shifting of company culture.
For companies that install Jive, Socialcast or Yammer, and expect that a Social Business tool has “made the company social,” it’s going to be a bumpy road. People, by and large, do not like change. They fear it, they hide from it, and instead retreat to the comfort and safety of “what I already know.”
To create culture that embraces openness, sharing, collaboration and transparency takes work. It takes courageous leadership at the top, it take egoless management. It takes repetition, and anecdotes of success. It takes alignment around purpose.
In short, this is going to take time.
Pull Don’t Push
So, you’ve got realistic expectations and are prepared to look long term, what’s next? To get people to adopt social tools you can’t just mandate use. For any company that has gone through an expensive and lengthy CRM implementation, mandated usage, only to see it sit in the cloud gathering dust while random spreadsheets and task lists populate the salespeople’s desktops, you know what I’m talking about.
Just like you can’t tell your kids not to do something and expect it to get done, just like you can’t force your kids to love playing the piano by making them take lessons, you can’t expect employees to do something just because you demand it.
Social Business adoption will depend on a consistent effort to highlight the benefits, simplify the process, and incentivize usage though acknowledgement.
Activate, Recognize, and Incentivize
If you really want to see your Social Business efforts succeed, you need to make success the most appealing option. Adoption comes down to communication and advocacy.
Start with purpose and vision. Layout a clear vision of WHERE the company is GOING. Explain about WHY the technology is being implemented. Describe the exciting future that exists on the other side of adoption. Explain how the company will support people. Ensure people that participation is not mandatory but encouraged, appreciated and, in some cases, rewarded. People should feel energized by the possibility, they should look forward to getting involved, but those that don’t want to be particularly active should feel safe and validated.
Now that everyone knows what’s going on, it’s important to shine a spotlight on those that take the bull by the horns. Early wins and losses are a key defining moment for adoption. Criticize too heavily and people will retreat, praise openly and the energy should build.
Recognition of your employees, their ideas, their wins, and even the learnings presented by failures are all great ways to incentivize participation. People need to see value for themselves, and their own interests, before they will get involved.
The key to Social Business adoption is…there is no single key. As with EVERYTHING in life, the only real answer is: “it depends.” Your company culture is unlike any other company culture. Sure, it may be similar, but you have your own employees, with their own stories, with their own technical abilities. The way you run your business is different from the way I run mine. I speak to my people differently than you speak to yours.
However, if you want to have a company that successfully becomes a Social Business, you need to embody the principles of Social Business and set your eyes on the long term goal. Don’t become fixated on changing people, or forcing people to do things they don’t want to do.
Social Business is about opening up a company and creating new opportunities for people that want to participate. If you want people to adopt it, you must live it, promote it, and get people aligned behind vision and purpose. One thing you can’t do…is force it.