Social Business: The Top Five Myths

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Back in December of 2011, Pernod Ricard USA hired me as a consultant. They hired me to help them build and deploy what they called, “a Facebook type application for our employees.” A few weeks after being there and after spending some time meeting and interviewing the key stake holders I came to the realization that they weren’t quite sure what they wanted or what it could do for them. Several of the business leaders I met with shared their skepticism with me about building an internal social network. Many believed it would be a huge waste of time and several told me that they were purposely not on Facebook and they did not want to have to use it at work.

As a result of the feedback I was getting, I decided that before I started gathering business requirements and looking into potential Enterprise Social Network (ESN) vendors it would be very beneficial for the key stakeholders to gain a better understanding of what Social Business was all about, How companies were utilizing ESN’s to help their employees share knowledge and locate expertise? What were some best practices? What had worked and what had not. Therefore, I went ahead an contacted several companies were I had connections and asked their  if they would be willing to come meet with us and help us learn what they had already experienced. We met with several companies (IBM,P&G, Dell, DeVry University, Alcatel-Lucent) and they willingly shared their war stories with us. This process was extremely informative and helped to educate members of my ESN task force what was possible with the use of social technologies.

One unintended outcome of this discovery exercise for me, was the realization the companies we interviewed had to overcome many of the same myths or concerns about implementing social business that I was up against at Pernod. I did some further investigation and found that most people share the same myths and concerns when it comes to deploying social technologies  and processes within their organizations. Here are the top five myths I have found when it comes to implementing social internally:

  1.  Employees will waste their time posting instead of working. This one is the one I heard the most. The sad truth is, if an employee wants to focus on things other than work, he/she doesn’t need an ESN to do this. They can waste their time chatting by the water cooler or surfing the web or posting their family photos on Instagram. On the other hand, if your company has a well-developed internal and external social media policy that encourages employees to share their knowledge and work collaboratively in a  private and secure virtual environment, you can achieve significant measurable business value. The concept of “working out loud” coined so brilliantly by Kevin Jones, permits employees to share their work and knowledge with others so that other can benefit from what they learned.
  2. I am not on Facebook or Twitter so this is not for me. The common misconception when launching an internal social platform is that employees who are on Facebook or Twitter will gain the most value, while those that are not won’t. The truth is that while the visual interfaces and concepts are similar, the purpose is completely different. People primarily use Facebook and Twitter as well as many of the other public social networks to keep in touch with their friends and families, find people who share their interests or hobbies or for other social purposes. Internal social networks should have one and only one purpose: work. It doesn’t really matter if you are or are not participating in the public social networks. What matters is that you learn how and why you should your company’s internal social network. If you are able to do this, then you and your company will gain great value from your participation and that of your colleagues.
  3. We already use email and have an Intranet. We don’t need yet another system. The biggest challenge when deploying social technologies inside an organization is not the technology. The biggest challenge is changing people’s behavior. Changing the way people work. Change is scary and many employees will refuse to use your new social network unless you can help them understand one critical thing: What is in it for me? The answer will be different for each person. Some will find it easier to use an ESN when communicating to a large group of people rather than sending out a mass email. Other will appreciate the ease of locating experts within their company. Yet others will enjoy the ease in which you can use ESN’s to shorten or completely eliminate long and tedious meetings. Email is a good tool if you want to communicate privately with one person. However it is a terrible tool for mass communication. Email Trees, a video by Kevin Jones, illustrates this concept perfectly. Intranets, unless they are social, also can grow stale. Unless people take the time to constantly update static information on most Intranets, they become uninteresting and are quickly forgotten.That is not the case with ESN’s. They are constantly updated by your employees when they share what they are working on and when they ask questions or seek assistance.
  4. A large part of our employees work out in the field, they don’t have the time to sit at their computers all day and update their status. This is a good one. What most people seem to fail to understand is that the social revolution goes hand in hand with the mobile revolution. Everyday, more and more people use the internet and participate in social networks from their mobile devices than from their desktop computers. All major social networks have developed Apps for iOS or Android phones. Similarly, most ESN vendors have also created Apps so that employees can access the ESN no matter where they are. This is extremely valuable to those on the road in that they can keep in touch with their co-workers and still have access to company information and in-house experts.
  5. I don’t have the time to play around with social business. This one is a doozy and one that I frequently hear from seasoned executives. What they fail to understand however is that the world of business has changed forever. As noted author Brian Solis wrote in his book, End of Business as Usual, social technologies are incredibly disruptive and companies that fail to adapt will die. He calls this concept Digital Darwinism. Social in not a fad. It’s not going away. Business leaders need to understand how to leverage these technologies to enhance or change their existing business process. Those that do will thrive. Those that don’t will not survive.

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