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If I had one wish for 2013 (apart from world peace) it would be that consultants stop advising clients to do social media and instead advise them how to do business – with social media.

Social business has been “trending” this year and will even be a hotter topic in 2013. Lead by giant brands like IBM, the social culture that forms the foundation of a successful social business is at the heart of any good business, regardless of size.

 

Big or small, “social” fits all!

pneumatic tube message system

   

 

   A social culture is a web that connects all parts of the business.

   Dave Gray, author of The Connected Company (affiliate link), describes a “connected” company as one that is built around the customer as opposed to around  functional efficiencies.

 

The object of a social business is to optimize around creating better customer experiences across all the different touch points: product itself, marketing, service, sales.
It’s about listening first, creating insights with data, acting upon those insights and inviting the customer “into the fold” to figure out the future. – Maria Ogneva

One of the chief advantages that a social business has is “nimbleness”.

Because it connects directly with its clients, it can react to changes much quicker than a company that is inward looking and reacts only when the panic button is pressed.

To navigate through these torrents of social data, a company needs to nurture an internal culture of collaboration and innovation. It has to encourage “intraprenurship”.

Although by no means a small company, we can look at Google of an example of this.

 

In his recent blog post What Google+ Can Teach Us About Social, Jason Falls stated that:

“Google+ is not the focal point of the company’s efforts. It’s a fabric that ties many of Google’s products together.”

He cites a quote from Google VP, Bradley Horowitz:

Google+ was designed from its inception as a foundational, unifying layer that makes these (YouTube, Gmail, Drive etc.) already great services even greater. So Google+ is different. It’s not only an innovative new social network, it is also the identity, relationship and interest system for Google.

 

The great majority of companies aren’t the size of Google, IBM or even Zappos.

Owners of small companies have special challenges that involve finding enough time and resources to tend to their core missions, let alone updating a Facebook Page.

This is a big reason why so many flounder. Social media are seen as added workloads instead of opportunities.

Social needs to be integrated throughout the company and not simply shoved in the corner next to the filing cabinet in the marketing office.

 

Transitioning into a social business is a long process that involves assessment, strategy and a plan.

The first priority is to make sure the people representing the company are on board and share its vision.

A socially connected company nurtures innovation.

 

Here are 6 ways to create a social culture by developing social people.

(abridged from my post: Is Your Company Intrapreneur Friendly?)

Social Team at Kai Design

Kai Design & MEEX Team – Small company that’s big on “social”.

1. Communicate vision and strategy.

People feel more empowered if they know where they’re going and why they’re going there.

We can’t take for granted that everyone is as up to speed with social media platforms and applications. Many don’t understand the “why” let alone the “how”.

A lot of resistance comes from staff who are intimidated and overwhelmed by social media.

So as Julie Andrews sings: “Let’s start at the very beginning. It’s a very good place to start…”
Place social media inside the context of the whole social culture that the company wishes to adopt. Then explain the steps needed to get there starting with social media 101.

2. Empower visionaries.

People won’t stick their neck out if they’re afraid of having their head cut off!

Support, coach and protect PWI’s (people with ideas).

3. Come out of the cubicle.

There are few phrases that I detested more in my years in management than: “It’s not my job!”

This may have been relevant in a factory setting but not in a collaborative one.

This is not to say that we don’t take responsibilities for our own projects, but companies must encourage cross discipline projects and collaboration.

Only then will the company become greater than the sum of its parts.

4. Encourage risk and tolerate failure.

You can’t succeed without failure.

When those trying new ideas are punished for “mistakes,” two things go wrong:

(1) people stop experimenting, and

(2) mistakes are covered up.

5. Focus on customers.

Focusing how to better serve customers drives innovation.

Focusing on internal politics drives conservatism.

Not changing is the equivalent of standing still on a moving treadmill.

6. Be Social, Environmental and Ethically Responsible.

Companies with a strong commitment to being good corporate neighbours tend to be more sensitive to external changes.

This allows them to be able to react and innovate faster.

They also tend to attract the type of employee that has a greater commitment to serving customers and improving the world.

 

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About Ray Hiltz

Ray Hiltz is a Google Plus Specialist and Social Media Strategist helping small businesses establish their brands and build their communities on the social web. A strong proponent for the power of collaborative communication and "humanized" digital networking, Ray writes about social media, social business and Google Plus. His clients include hotels, restaurants, consulting firms, entrepreneurs, writers and individuals just trying to make sense of "social". Ray is a popular speaker on Social Media, Social Business and Google+.