Thursday, June 30, 2011

Social Business - is your company ready to provide guidance around personal/professional persona?

To continue the theme of talking about readiness to adopt Social Business, let's take a deeper dive into the topic around the blurring of personal and company persona.   As companies start to encourage and enable employee participation in social media to drive business value, it's important to consider how to or if employees should include their personal social interactions with social business discussions.  Should they have a single profile?  Or, separate profiles for work and personal?   This is a tough issue, with advocates on both sides of the spectrum.

Many believe that employees should be encouraged to blur the line between their personal and professional persona.  The benefit of this is to give the 'userid' a personality, making even the business conversations warmer.  It also provides an opportunity to network with business collegues on non-work related topics.   I've heard numerous examples where important relationships have formed over topics such as gardening, biking, traveling, etc.  These relationships could reap business benefits and connections that would not otherwise be made.

Others believe that it's best to have separate identities on social networks.  The concern is that my relatives and friends do not really care about work related topics, so why should she be exposed to them.  When you blur your persona's, it makes it difficult to keep selected personal topics private.   Some say that it is possible to carefully set your privacy settings in social networks, but it does take continued diligence to assure that they are kept up to date.

So, which is best for Social Business?  I've come to the conclusion that 'it depends' on what the employee wants to accomplish.  Rather than diving right into creating and linking profiles, it's critical for employees to take the time to put together their social eminence plan.  What do they want to accomplish professionally?  What level of engagement do I currently have personally?  What are the advantages and disadvantages to blurring personas vs. keeping them separate?   This plan is also critical to have upfront, so you can think about what conversations you want to listen to, and engage with.  Without a plan, it is easy to wonder aimlessly in social spaces.  I know we have all felt that frustration on the internet ... and the same thing applies with social networks.

My advice for companies?   Encourage your employees to participate in social conversations.   Give them tips and education around how to put a plan together.  Establish goals for yourself.  Once you understand your goals, you can then go ahead and start setting up your profiles.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Social Business - is your company ready to go beyond pilots?

 To continue the theme of talking about readiness to adopt Social Business, let's take a deeper dive into the maturity element that was highlighted in the HBR article "Taking Social Media from Talk to Action".     "For many companies, social media use is still viewed as an experiment." There is a Social Business maturity curve for companies, which should drive their focus areas.  Let's look at companies at both ends of the maturity curve.
  • For companies just starting this journey, their focus should be on defining their strategy and future goals.  As a secondary phase, they could begin to experiment with justifying value using pilots.   That's terrific, and should be encouraged.
  • Companies that already understand their Social Business strategy typically understand the inhibitors/ actions that need to be taken.  They have taken the time to understand the value, and often have the benefit of pilot results.  The challenge?  Many identified inhibitors are very hard to solve, and require company wide transformational actions.  Examples include the elements discussed in my previous blog posts:  Strategy, Culture, Demonstration of Business Value, Funding, Training, etc.   The question then becomes ... how and when do you get out of pilot mode?  It takes significant company commitment to implement a pilot solution across the enterprise.  If you leave it to the typical company processes, these large transformational investments require inclusion into the yearly Financial planning cycles ... which could delay roll-out for a year.  With the changing landscape, the solution will be seriously behind competition and are at risk of de-prioritization against current needs.
Getting beyond pilot mode is the next real challenge.  It's easy for executives to say 'Yeah, we're doing that'.  In reality, it's been a successful pilot that relies heavily on passionate volunteers in their spare time.  What is needed is a new way to think about prioritization of enterprise wide scaling.  This is an area that is yet to be solved, but it's becoming recognized that a new business  model needs to emerge quickly.  If it doesn't, then the risk is that small start up companies (who have the flexibility, are agile, and have access to Investment sources) can gain some of your current market share.

Couple of ideas have surfaced, but this is definitely still work in progress.    Below are some 'food for thought' ideas in this area.  I welcome your thoughts and suggestions!
  • Consider the investment as part of the sales and marketing budget, rather than through the typical  POR (Plan of Record) budgets (i.e. IT spending, HR training, existing strategy).  Maybe this could be thought of as more of an investment case for a new Social Business revenue opportunity?
  • Perhaps a business justification based on the risk of not fully participating?  This would not be the typical investment to revenue case, but rather an investment to protect a loss in current revenue streams..
Taking the step out of pilot mode is a difficult one.  The companies that transform their culture and fully embrace Social Business benefits and enterprise wide investments will take a leadership position in this significant emerging market opportunity.