Walking the Social Business Walk

walk-the-walkA friend of mine started work at a relatively modern company with a relatively modern product. It’s a product that’s always needed, so there is always a market. The initial impressions are really good. Before her first day she received an email with a bunch of information. Mainly about her first day (and week), her account on the company network, and of course about the culture of the company.

After starting her job she hears about how social this company is, how it connects with customers, how green and ecologically conscious it is. Combining these two impressions and you might be tricked into believing this company is well on its way to becoming a Social Business.

Well.., you’d be wrong.

Still Old School

Once in the office for a while, she started to notice that it was pretty much like any old office ever was. People had a little too much work, working late was accepted as normal, systems did not tie in with in each other, training was done haphazardly, and communication was…, well.., lets say email still prevails.

All in all, the picture painted by the interviews and initial communications did not reflect the experience of the employee at all.

So why is it that she doesn’t notice anything from all those initiatives on the ground floor?

I get the distinct impression that this company tries really hard to make it look like it’s pretty social, but that it’s more like window dressing, ticking the boxes.

But, if an employee, at her desk, still feels she works for a disorganised, old school, “normal” company, then what are the efforts really worth? And is the company missing a golden opportunity.

Or, are their intentions genuine, but the execution poor. This is not unthinkable, in a recent rapport by Adi Gaskel I read that 80% of all SocBiz initiatives fail. So, there is a (very) fair chance that’s the problem, we could give them the benefit of the doubt.

Having a Social Media presence does not make for a Social Business.

Global Companies

Now, this company we’re talking about is an American company, but the office my friend works at is in Europe. Contact with the US is minimal and ‘we’ even have no clue who the CEO is.

This can pose a problem.

If we give the company the benefit of the doubt, and we assume that they do have significant initiatives planned (or in progress) to socialise the business more, than somewhere down the line this message is not heard, or not acted upon.

This could very well be a result of that 80% we mentioned earlier.

Something that gets easily accepted in one culture, might not be easily accepted in another.

Walk the Walk

It may very well be (and I do not know this for sure, but we decided to give the benefit of the doubt, remember), that US HQ has a bunch of initiatives, and that a plan is in place to bring the company into the 21st century.

It may very well be they are talking the talk.

Making a plan is one thing, executing the plan quite a different one.

Granted, in business, changes happen on a regular basis. Budgets have to be kept in check, objectives have to be met, new products launched, a merger, new software, new leadership, bigger office… many things change. However, we are accustomed to these kind of changes.., we even come to expect them, they are part of our working life. Therefore, they tend to be accepted and adopted with relative ease. Mind you, I do mean relative, some changes are harder than others, but they still happen.

Social Business tends to be a more fundamental change, more profound.., and more significant. This brings with it a lot more apprehension, and requires a lot more attention.

The adaptation to a Social Business is not a regular change. And cannot be deployed as such.


In general it can be said that the adaptations needed to become a Social Business are fundamental, especially in a full fledged overhaul.

We change the way people go about there daily work life.
We change the way they communicate.
We change the way the company communicates (to employees, customers and partners).

Therefore it is extremely important to follow up on the plans. Simply sending a memo throughout the company will not have the desired effect. In fact, quite the opposite, you can expect significant resistance when you simply ‘drop’ the talk on people.

Change is the one constant, while adapting to change is the most difficult.

Two Plans

There has to be two plans, one laying out the changes, where we want to end up, what you want to achieve.., and why!
The other, how do you achieve this.

In my experience, there’s always some hand holding going on with any change. Some people need a bit more attention than others, take a bit more convincing. Usually a project leader, or even someone from the helpdesk can cover that task.

In Social Business, it’s a bit more complicated than that. The changes usually affect every person within the company, and we have to assume that most will resist on some level. Therefore, a structured approach to reach every single individual to get them ‘on board’ has to be considered.

Social Business is a long term commitment.

The Message

Becoming a Social Business takes time.., depending on the state and culture of your company.., maybe a lot of time.

Simply having an idea, reading a blogpost, or attending a conference doesn’t provide enough tools to complete this monumental task. Chances are you need outside help.

As leadership of a company, this change is most likely outside the realm of any job description you have at the moment.

A good community manager is essential for the long term stability of your social platform.
A SocBiz evangelist will be needed to ‘convert’ people, help them adapt.
A CSO (Chief Social Officer) might be appointed to oversee the continuous progress and development of the program.

The list can be longer, depending on your needs. Any business, any company, any organisation and even governmental institutions can benefit from at least some ideas within the realm of Social Business.

Bottom line, don’t be part of that 80% and waste a lot of time, money and energy on ideas which are doomed to fail.

Enterprise 2.0 Summit

banner-longOn 26th November, another #E20S event is organised in London. Speakers will talk about how companies can benefit from Social Business. How to make sure your efforts are not wasted.

Here you can, in one day, get a good understanding of the pains and gains of the Digital Transformation.

Author: Rogier Noort

Digital Transformer | Thinker | Listener | Speaker | Podcaster | Writer | Blogger Twitter or LinkedIn.

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