The Social Agenda will define the future of your company. It is that big, it is that important and it is that unavoidable!
Let me explain what is the social agenda and why it is that important.
The social agenda is made up of two aspects, namely, ‘social media’ and ‘social business’. There is a simple but distinct way differentiating between the two. They are also terms that are often incorrectly used and referenced.
Social Media is external in focus. When you think of your company, social media would be the external world that connects with your clients, customers, suppliers, markets and the general public. It is the ‘out there’ to your business and of course there are several technology platforms that already dominate this territory. These include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and a host of other social media tools already in use. You read a great deal about the need for a ‘social media strategy’ and when you consider the people ‘out there’ it becomes obvious as to why you need such a strategy. Mistakes are made by trying to simply re-groove current PR and marketing approaches to penetrate this new territory and the expertise from the ‘old world’ is unlikely to be the expertise you need in this ‘new world’. Of course that is not the message some would like to hear but if you are to bridge the old to the new it will require new mindsets and skill-sets. Not an entirely impossible learning journey but one where Mark Twain’s wisdom is advice well heeded: it is not what you don’t know that gets you into trouble but, rather what you know for sure that just ain’t so.
If social media is externally focused – what you have to do to connect with people externally, social business is internally focused. It represents what you have to do to connect with people internally. It is a term that for many appears to be an oxymoron. It is a term that conjures up a ‘Facebook in the company’ and with that image, nightmares around time wastage, distraction and information leaks. This is dangerously erroneous thinking, especially if it serves to thwart further conversation and dismiss the notion of ‘social business’.
Let me give you three reasons as to why you as a leader cannot afford not to implement social business within your company.
1. It is not optional. In the same way that the automobile revolutionized transport, changing the rules and signaling the simultaneous death and birth of several jobs and vocations, social business will do the same. People need to connect and feel connected. Within companies today we have developed a host of ways to do this. With the arrival of the ‘digital native’ in the corporate world we are seeing that they connect in fundamentally different ways to those who have preferred them in this environment. Face-to-face goes from the top of the ‘how to connect’ list to the bottom; instant messaging replaces email and ‘byte’ size information, lengthy transcripts. All too often I have seen these and other differences not get pass go in discussions as to how best to get the best from both worlds. I see emotions and a ‘right vs wrong’ debate replace common sense and the willingness to explore new and more efficient ways to do things. Henry Ford said that if ask people what they want, they will tell you a, ‘faster horse’. Current leaders often approach such discussions looking for a faster horse!
2. It is a mind shift, not a technology purchase. Embracing social business has to first and foremost be seen as a mindset. Buying technology that allows and facilitates internal connection, if not embraced by those in leadership, is doomed to failure. Leaders need to make the necessary mind shifts that will allow them to accept that when it comes to this area, they will need to see themselves as ‘learners’. For some leaders this will be tough, especially when current leaders have defined the rules and wisdom ‘that has got us here’. However, the point is that the wisdom that has got us here cannot be the wisdom to get us to where we need to be!
3. There is a need for a business case to be made for why it is that the social agenda so vital for the future of business. Most leaders will be persuaded on the social agenda if a strong and compelling business case can be made for its adoption. A business case can be made in various areas of one’s business where the social agenda is applied: marketing. PR, training, innovation and sales are but some of the more obvious functions of business that will benefit with the application of social media / business. However, there is a more, dare I say ‘philosophical’ reasoning as to why the social agenda is non-negotiable. It relates to understanding the emerging Connection economy, in which competitive advantage is forged by how well we connect with those inside and outside of our business. A large part of what has been dubbed, ‘the war for Talent’ is nothing other than a ‘connection’ issue. The social agenda open up new fronts when it comes to connection and any leaders who fails to grasp this new reality, will become obsolete. It is that simple; it is that complex.
The social agenda has seen a power shift take place. The power now resides with the individual in the network. As it solves some problems, so it will originate others. This is always the case with a new set of rules. As a leader, the social agenda has to shape your current agendas. There is learning that needs to happen and conversations that need to begin. Ultimately though you as the leader can send out a powerful message by embracing the discomfort of learning. If others see you do it, they will follow. So, what are the questions you need to be asking and where is it that you will go to find the answers?
Your next step in this matter might just determine whether or not you survive the future!