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Going Social

26 March 2013
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The term ‘social business’ is not a new one. However, for some people all it seems to represent is an attempt to use popular social networking tools during office hours. But there’s a great deal more that could be done to become a truly social business than merely using Facebook and Twitter to talk to your customers, or having a LinkedIn group as part of your recruitment strategy.

So, let’s look at a few things you might be doing – or might consider doing – as part of a journey toward becoming a social business.

First, stop thinking of social as a purely marketing-focused thing.

Instead, think about what actually happens on social platforms and how some of those activities can translate into your working environment.

Sharing is the big one… the obvious one. People share photos, links, videos and so on. Yes, they do that on work time too. But if we focus on the act of sharing itself, rather than the content being shared – which is mostly funny photos of cats anyway – we start to see how the act of sharing can be transformed into collaborative working.

People working as extended teams, regardless of location, sharing not just documents, feedback, comments etc,
but discussing ideas in real-time. Or sharing insights that can help inform decisions.

From a management point of view, being able to see who is actively sharing and collaborating most, and whether there is real value in the things they share, can help you manage teams and individuals more effectively, too.

This is collaborative working.

Going a step further, how about opening up a little to your customers? You could borrow from the ethos of crowd-sourcing, one of social media’s other big themes, to get answers on product development right from the very people you will be selling those new products to.

Change of any kind in business is not a zero-sum activity. But whether you want to completely transform into a social business or just take some aspects of social and use them to see how that feels, there is probably a lot you could be doing without incurring significant financial or resource costs.

Indeed, there’s every likelihood that those of you using Websphere Portal, for example, already have access to free licences to get you onto some of the social functions of the latest versions of the product. That in itself could give you a low-cost, low-risk way to evaluate some social business practices; try before you buy, as it were.

But what have your experiences been when it comes to using social methodologies in business? Is it the case that it gets stuck at the “let’s use Facebook” level? Or does the idea of adopting wider social practices make your organisation anxious?

If you have tips, concerns, or questions we would love to hear from you.

Brian Farbrother has co-authored a recent IBM Redbooks publication on building and implementing a social portal, in particular adding social (IBM Connections) capabilities to a portal implementation.

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