For many companies, 2011 is turning into the year that social media crosses the threshold from being an irritant or a topic for conversations around the water cooler. Companies are beginning to realise that far from being a technology to dread, social collaboration is bringing real benefits to companies. Social behaviour is fast becoming the sanctioned tool for communicating across the enterprise.
This evolution and behaviour change is not totally unexpected when you consider the pace of recent technology changes and tools adoption.
This natural process in the workplace is being helped in part by our online behaviour in our free time. We are consumers of social technology at home, directly or indirectly. Social technologies like Google+ and Facebook are helping with our adoption of social networks. Half of the UK online community have Facebook accounts and over 30 million people have signed up already for Google + accounts with many more still to come.
With these social media platforms becoming ingrained in our daily communications culture at work, there is a great opportunity for awareness and outreach to people who communicate in completely different ways. More and more online users are becoming active online and engaging primarily through status updates on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Mobile users and road warriors, equipped with iPads and smartphones can keep up to date with what is happening across their networks and engage with their colleagues using community and social portals for interaction and engagement.
Repeat engagement and interaction with colleagues and friends in social networks adds significant value to the conversation and propagates awareness of network activities. Internal networks highlight enthusiasts who are encouraged to create compelling content for their internal network sites and portals.
This encourages repeat engagement with the portal, site or network community. Which then encourages regular interaction from members of the network and fosters repeat visits to the portal or community site.
The difference in this networking see change is the way that it is being implemented in companies. Unlike every other revolution in corporate communications, social networking did not start as an idea handed from the top down. For behaviour changes like this, there is no infrastructure outlay, no meetings about how and when the corporation would invest in the technology. The only real decision has been “Are we going to allow this type of communication here?”
Demand for this change in communication and the expertise in how to manage this way of working has changed too. This new way of working has propagated from every part of the enterprise—which has also been the reason for the slow adoption.
Top down companies need to be in control. Top down control has been a part of company culture for years.
So how can social collaboration change this?
Companies who recognise the value of social collaboration are changing their behaviour. They are shifting their current mind-set and becoming more open and transparent. An awareness of the types of people who use and adopt social collaboration is key to understanding how to drive and foster engagement across the networks.
Forrester’s Technographic ladder and profile tool shows that people who engage online fall into the following categories: consumers are collectors, critics, conversationalist and creators and that their engagement increases year on year. The B2B version of this interactive tool from Forrester is here by the way
This classification of people also applies to people within an organisation and how they collaborate on internal portals and networking sites. It is also important to remember that some people will never engage online. These types of people, the ‘inactives’ in the tool above tend to prefer offline engagement and interaction and are unlikely to engage online. However, there is a great opportunity encourage others in the organisation to engage with networks and have a multi way conversation that complements the traditional ‘push’ email approach.
Working to improve engagement internally and using internal ‘creators’ and ‘critics’ to supply content and interact with content owners can have really positive effects within an organisation. If this effort is carried out where the workforce spends most of their time will bring great rewards, generate enthusiasm and change the way your organisation collaborates.
Will 2011 be the year that your company actually crosses the threshold and becomes a social enterprise?
Eileen Brown is a social media consultant and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business.
Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.