Before you look at deploying social tools in your business, you may need to take a step back and look at the cultural aspect of social media. The primary benefit of social media in business is to facilitate better collaboration and conversation; using tools as a mechanism to ‘connect’ people with the objective of achieving better business outcomes.

The solution to a ‘connected’ business cannot just be found with the deployment of tools. If you take Twitter as an example, it is still a fairly niche social tool with only 200m users worldwide; it facilitates conversation, but how many users actually use it as a conversational tool?

Social media is as much about behaviour and culture as it is the actual tool. So how do you develop a social culture in your business? What are the different kinds of behaviours that will encourage and empower employees to use social tools?

Collaboration

Social tools are a complement to collaboration in business, they can provide mechanisms to encourage conversation, but the collaboration is behaviour and it has to be a cultural commitment in business. 

One of the most effective ways to make that commitment is in your organisational values and behaviours. By putting collaboration at the heart of your business and ambitions, it helps act as a guiding principle for employees in how they act and behave at work.

Collaboration isn’t a behaviour that you can assume ‘happens’ in business, it’s easy to fall into silos and hierarchical structures that are both barriers to collaboration. You need to make sure that you remove those barriers where possible so that conversation is a part of your organisational journey.

Social tools will only work in business if it is ‘socially ready’. That means you need to have collaboration embedded in your culture; by building collaboration into your values, culture and identity, it will help to build conversation into employee behaviour.

Trust

Perhaps one of the biggest barriers to a business fully embracing a social culture is to do with ‘trust’. It works two ways, leaders are reluctant to trust employees with carte blanche access to social tools, and employees are reluctant to speak openly for fear of reprisal.

To make social tools work in business, there has to be a two way culture of trust, and that has to come from the leadership team. A socially ready business is likely to be most effective in a flat hierarchy, where leaders are open to conversation at all levels of a business.

To empower employees to initiate and take part in conversation, there has to be an openness and commitment from leaders to letting organic conversations develop. Collaboration isn’t something that can be controlled; when you look at how social tools work in the outside world, it’s free conversation that is the driver behind conversation that actually matters and makes a difference. 

It’s a two way culture of trust that will help create an environment where social tools can really add value to a business.

Campaign with Communication

Good collaboration behaviours can be influenced by good communication. When you are building a ‘social culture’ then communication can play a key role in signposting employees to what good collaboration looks like.

There will be pockets of your organisation that collaborate well, so take those learning’s and share that with your business. Perhaps look at running a ‘collaboration in practice’ campaign where you share best practice.

Communication can also help influence behaviour by effective signposting. There maybe times when people don’t know where to go to get involved in conversation; if you are introducing tools such as Yammer perhaps think about creating an umbrella campaign that signposts people to the right kind of conversations and groups through your communications.

Also, don’t make your social strategy digital centric, there are different ways to collaborate, and digital is only part of the story.

Summary

The effectiveness of social tools in your business will be influenced by your culture. Introducing social tools is only part of the story; the bigger picture is making your business ‘socially ready’ by building your culture around good collaboration.

Social tools are part of a cultural change; you can guide your employees to better collaboration through your values, through trusting them to embrace social tools in the right way, and by using communications to help influence the behaviours that will get the most out of your social tools.

Investing in collaboration (including social tools) can have a major impact on business; by facilitating conversations that wouldn’t happen otherwise. The value of conversation is difficult to measure, but it is very much a catalyst to growth and innovation which are key drivers behind success.

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2 thoughts on “Building a social culture

  1. Great article. A really refreshing view. I agree many companies are too keen to roll out a social media platform believing it will be a ‘silver bullet’. I always encourage people to ask the question if meeting rooms, desk phones, mobile phones and email aren’t helping colleagues to collaborate, what makes you think that Yammer, Chatter or another platform will?

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