5 actionable tips to build a more social enterprise

It is widely held belief that today’s businesses should aim to become “social enterprises”. Here are five tips to help them move beyond using social media for sales, and to integrate use of social technology across their entire operations.

Communication - Speech Bubbles by franky242 (FreeDigitalPhotos.com)As social networks/media continue to dominate our online lives, businesses have been emphasising their use to attract and engage customers, with the expectation that increased sales would result. Although the impact of social networks (such as Facebook and Twitter) by organisations ought not to be underestimated, these and other social-oriented technologies (such as Google Drive and Basecamp) can be invaluable to their internal operation.  Unfortunately, the use of social networks and technology, outside of the sales and promotion space, does not always get the attention that they deserve.

Hence although externally – to the public – a business might appear progressive, due to its aggressive use of social media, internally, it might still be riddled with archaic practices that do not capitalise on how those tools can improve its operations. Below are five tips to build a more social enterprise.

1.  Integrate social technologies into corporate culture

As indicated above, social technologies tend to be seen solely as tools that facilitated marketing and promotion, and often would only be the purview of an organisation’s sales and marketing teams. In order to start to build a more social enterprise, it is critical that that the entire organisation becomes imbued with and excited about using social technologies to improve, among other things, productivity, innovation, and efficiency. However, it is emphasised that this use should cut across all levels of the organisations and not just be limited to the line staff, for example. Senior executives and managers should also be seen to lead to adoption and encourage its use among their teams.

2.  Integrate social technologies into corporate strategies

There is a growing realisation that the impact of social networks and technologies transcends the number of followers an organisation might have, or the number of retweets or likes a particular entry generates. For example, the immediacy of the online interaction can highlight the need for more responsive and customised service, which in turn could require internal processes to be  optimised, along with a greater agility throughout the organisation.

An important means of getting such considerations factored in is to ensure that the realisation of a more social enterprise is detailed in the organisation’s corporate strategy and plans. It is recommended that clear goals be established, which can be organised as a phased approach, but should be underpinned by a coherent and well-conceptualised framework.

3.  Actively encourage greater collaboration

Many businesses, almost by default and regardless of organisational structures, tend to adopt a rigid internal culture, where the various departments operate in silos and problem solving is generally confined to units that will be responsible for executing the approved solutions. Over the past several years, there has been a shift towards having cross functional teams work on issues, which broadens the skills and expertise that can be applied to a particular problem and can lead to sounder and more innovative results.

Having said this, there are also considerable benefits to be derived by encouraging greater collaboration within teams, and providing suitable tools (especially those that allow online collaboration in specialist programmes) through which it can be achieved.  Additionally, management could introduce small rewards or incentives to foster this behaviour, until it become second nature and part of the organisational culture.

4.  Ensure support is available as needed

Inevitably, and especially with technology, things can go wrong. Further, although an organisation might be prepared to invest in some social technology tools, frequently, little thought is given to support and maintenance that might be necessary to reduce unreliability and downtime. These downtimes can be very discouraging to the team, and if frequent or lengthy, can undermine the entire thrust of greater integration of those tools in the organisation.

Additionally, it is also important to consider the support that the team might need for outcomes generated by using those tools, be it internally or with clients. This support would tie back to the corporate imperatives identified, which emphasises the point that becoming a social enterprise is more than just how social media is used by the organisation.

5.  Measure and track success

Finally, in light of the resources and commitment needed to become a social enterprise, it is essential that organisations measure and track their success. Again, the metrics ought not be limited to likes, retweets and comments, but should also measure and track the impact of social technologies across the organisation, and again tying them back to corporate goals and imperatives.

Businesses do have considerable latitude in the metrics that are used, but it is important to highlight that, ultimately, there ought to be evidence of success. Hence tracking the performance and impact of social technologies and initiatives, and fine-tuning them as necessary are critical to ensure that the organisation is maximising its efforts and realising the success it envisaged.

Image credit:  franky242 / FreeDigitalPhotos.com