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Inventing Social Business

We all hear success stories about organizations that have developed social media marketing strategies, deployed social media tactics and reinvigorated brands and client relationships.  We applaud these efforts, cite them as case studies and continue to preach the gospel of social media.  But, what are the consequences of these changes and what comes next?  Having unleashed empowerment, transparency, collaboration and anytime anywhere access, do we honestly expect other aspects of organizations to stay unchanged?  What about organizational culture, leadership competencies, selection and reward systems?  Is there anything that will be left unaffected as the technologies we create and the social media programs we implement help transform organizations to social businesses?

Organizational structure, as of May 2010, for ...
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Social media, social networks, mobile applications and knowledge management systems are not only becoming a vital part of how we communicate and serve customers, but how many employees perform their jobs.  These tools allow for greater modularity and flexibility and for work to be done globally and virtually.

Too often, we take a very narrow approach to our view of organizations and our role in them.  As marketers we focus on communications and messaging.  But, in reality, we are all serving as change agents and recreating the essence of work and organizational structure and processes.  Boundaries are disappearing, structures are flatter and both employees and customers expect to have a say and be heard.  Tomorrow’s social businesses will be a far cry from the “tops down” and “command and control” organizations that proliferated in the past century.

Social media implementation requires much more than the right social media strategy and tools.  There needs to be an appreciation of current practices, cultural norms and a willingness to implement change in a holistic and thoughtful way.  The true success stories usually contain openness to change and a commitment from top leadership to leave no stones unturned.  They also have cross functional involvement and the upfront engagement of employees in a meaningful way, not after the fact.  Unless these lessons are learned, companies that simply emulate social media tactics will find themselves far short of meeting their objectives and creating sustainable change.

We are at the beginning of  the invention of and the evolution to social business.  While most of the accolades in the business realm have gone to the technologists who have invented social media and the marketers who have exploited it, it is perhaps the  profound changes that are being made to the organizations we work in and the type of work we do that will have the greatest impact in the long term.  And we, as marketers, should understand our role in this.

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