When the telephone was first introduced, companies adopted the telephone to solve real communication challenges. They used the phone because they needed to leave a message, order a product, or check a status. It's no different with social. As a business, you need to ask yourself how you can use it to solve business problems or improve business activities and processes.
Analysts agree that social technology without a clear purpose doesn’t work. Social technology needs to be connected to business systems and applied to tangible issues. Social collaboration isn’t effective until it becomes a key ingredient in the day in the life of your employees, applied to the needs they have and the issues they want help with – to deliver results they care about.
Social technology needs a purpose
Let’s think, for example, about the employee onboarding process in today’s complex business world.
In the olden days, there were apprenticeships. A new apprentice worked alongside a master to learn the skills of the trade. It was a long and expensive process. Today, however, new hires often have complex roles in which they need to learn skills from multiple experts within the organization – and what’s more, the new hires and experts may all be in different geographical locations.
With social technology, you can capture the experience and input of experts anywhere in your ecosystem and quickly share it with new hires. When new employees ask questions, the right experts can immediately provide answers and communicate those answers to not only one new employee but many – scaling the sharing of knowledge. It’s no longer a one-to-one pairing – a single expert can now contribute to the onboarding of many new hires, and single new hire can learn from many experts.
Start with small challenges
In your journey towards becoming a social business, you’ll find that in order to be successful, the key is to tackle small challenges first – or break up your larger challenges into smaller ones. It’s a journey in which success breeds success – the results you show will inspire additional involvement. So once you gain traction with one challenge, move onto the next priority, all the while applying the value that social brings to processes and frameworks that already exist.
Be brave! If you fail to get value from a social project, don’t be afraid to drop it or try another approach based on what you’ve learned. And if you’re struggling to see how social could add value to your project, don’t force it – it never works.
As you roll out your social projects, make sure you’re clear what the benefit is to the people who you want to engage. Make an effort to understand their motivations. What can they contribute? Do they actually want to contribute? Just as it’s important for the business to gain value from social, it’s also important for the individual to gain value.
If you invite the wrong people, their involvement will be non-existent, or worse, disruptive. If you invite the right people, they’ll bring value to the conversations – and they’ll leave feeling rewarded and happy that they were included.