I read an interesting document online recently titled ‘Top 10 corporate social media predictions for 2012’ published by the Useful Social Media group – an advisory firm.
What was interesting was that instead of the usual consulting waffle, they just picked ten executives responsible for social media strategy within their company and asked them what would be the most important change in 2012.
For example, take a look at the prediction of Jen McClure, the director of social media at news organisation Thomson Reuters:
“The term “social business” will become more ubiquitous as organizations of all types and sizes start to think of social technologies more strategically as business tools, not just marketing channels. And then it will eventually become a meaningless phrase as we come to realize that all business is, at its core, social.”
I find this quite exciting. Think back to previous waves of technology in business. In the 80s desktop computing arrived with the IBM PC and by the 90s Microsoft’s Windows operating system allowed us to do many things at the same time on a single machine. Around the same time, email arrived and allowed us to start sharing information – can you recall those internal memos that were physically passed from desk to desk before we had internal email?
McClure is arguing that social media is going to fundamentally change companies and how they operate. It is not just about finding a new way to advertise and do PR. Business is by its very nature social and these tools are going to radically shape how companies do what they do today.
A simple example can be found just by contrasting your personal network with the one that exists inside the company you work for. With almost all your friends on Facebook you can easily find who lives in the USA, who speaks Mandarin, who went to Oxford University, who has children, who was born in Sierra Leone, or who loves classic English literature.
How many times have you needed help within work and thought that there must be someone on the team, perhaps in another country that you have never met, but someone out there with knowledge of the problem you are facing? Companies have built all kinds of internal knowledge systems, but rarely have any worked as well as Facebook does for your personal life because there has rarely been any incentive to share skills and information about yourself that are not 100% aligned with your day-to-day responsibilities.
Companies are just collections of people, with various skills, all attempting to pull in the same direction. Companies are social, yet we often use better tools to organize our social life than to organize how we work. McClure from Thomson Reuters is absolutely correct, business is not ‘going social’ because of social media tools, it already is social, we just need to learn how work more effectively with these tools.
Photo by Christian Holmer licensed under Creative Commons