Should your business be social?

To many of us the answer to this question is obvious, but let’s not forget that social businesses are still in the minority.

Many business leaders remain stifled by organisational red tape, aren’t engaged or just have their head in the sand and are blissfully unaware of the benefits of social business.

Let’s begin by touching on the most important element of social business.

It’s not about the technology, nor a process, but about the human network that exists in your organisation.

It's about fostering a culture of communication and innovation.

Without realising this and ensuring everything you do has this as its core entity, no amount of technology or process will solve the communication challenges and problems your organisation is facing (problems that are actually common in many, if not most organisations).

So how do you place focus on the human network and engine of your organisation?

Simple, make it more social!

Placing a greater emphasis on the contribution of an individual or team can transform the way your business approaches its challenges and therefore make it more successful.

A social environment can provide an organisation with some huge advantages which can be split into three buckets – the personal benefits, the benefits gained by a team, and the benefits to an entire firm.

Power to the people

As an individual, the benefits of working in a social business are far reaching and can provide a foundation for the wider team and organisations overall success.

This includes the alignment of shared goals and the ability to access the right knowledge, at the right time, through building relationships or tapping into the organisation’s human network.

Importantly these elements empower employees to achieve for themselves, to innovate and ultimately work more efficiently.

A socially engaged team will have knowledge, content and experts accessible globally and instantly.

This has immense power and enables teams, who traditionally work separately in different geographical locations, to work together and collaborate seamlessly as if they were in the same office.

The ability to surface previously inaccessible information creates less work duplication and an increased level of content and knowledge sharing and re-use.

In addition, the ability to crowd source ideas and risks means you can gain from a wider pool of experience rather than just your immediate team.

There are huge benefits to being a socially engaged organisation.

There are normally five areas that correlate to the success of a business; its people, its growth, its clients, its cost of running and its future – by being ‘social’ you can make a positive impact on all of them!

What being a social business can do

Here are 12 benefits of fostering a social business culture, but this is really just the starting point:

  1. Onboard new staff quicker and integrate them into the culture more easily
  2. Create an environment that encourages staff retention and an improved sense of work ethic
  3. Empower your staff to contribute openly, innovate and take calculated risks
  4. Make better decisions in shorter timescales
  5. Learn from failing - be prepared to fail early and reach the right results faster
  6. Build stronger and longer relationships with clients
  7. Actively engage with clients in real-time
  8. Decrease the ‘time to solution’ and increase efficiencies
  9. Break down silos within your organisation and get different departments working together
  10. Reduce the volume of internal meetings
  11. Improve process workflow
  12. Foster an environment where innovation is the norm – not just at product level but at business process level

Realising any one of these benefits would be transformational for your organisation, but imagine a little of all of them.

Ultimately, becoming a social business is all about culture change.

It's not a case of implementing social technology and hoping for the best. In fact, you can achieve many of the benefits of being a social business without social technology at all!

Social business has the potential to make your organisation a better and more successful, more collaborative place to work, but there is no silver bullet.

This is disruptive technology at its best, and there is no right answer. You need to let go (where you can) and stop protecting your firm against change by embracing the disruption.

In order to realise (some, any or all of) the benefits you’ll need to factor in a little governance, some key processes and the ability to report on your successes and failures – but most importantly, realise that this is ultimately a change management initiative on a firm-wide scale.

Without cultural direction and moving forward as one entity, firms will struggle to achieve the benefits.

You can do things in piecemeal sections, department by department, different technology solutions, engaging with clients, but you have to have the same outlook and the same objectives across the business to achieve the benefits.

Embrace the change…!

This blog post was originally published on 26 March 2013. It has been updated and new content added.