Like victims of high school peer pressure, everyone in the digital world is talking about how social business is the next big thing. And I’m not here to argue if it is or isn’t. Brother Armano recently wrote a great post about the evolution of digital that lays it out very nicely and talks about the natural evolution of social media into social business. It’s the next logical step, really. In fact, we’re seeing more and more businesses come on the scene that not only are trying to crack the social business nut, but are actually calling themselves social business businesses.
That’s pretty bold.
In a conversation with Chuck last week, we were discussing the state of the digital industry. It started with the obvious: that social media is just that: media. Tools. Things we can turn on and off and plug in and unplug and dial up or down – you know, just like advertising. It’s mechanical “things” – at least the media part of it. But social business – this idea that social will come in and permeate every singe section of a company – that’s waaayyyyy different. In fact, it can’t happen unless there’s a fundamental cultural change within a company.
And therein lies the problem. Impossible? No. Hard? Very. To walk in to a company and tell them that in order to become a social business, they’re going to have to fundamentally shift the way they think about everything they do – internally and externally – is a damn hard sell. Because changing the culture of the company is no easy task. Volumes have been written about it. But ultimately it comes down to a willingness to do it from all parties involved and a push from the both the top-down and the bottom-up.
I’ve been lucky enough to have been involved in word of mouth projects that have ignited cultural change within companies. I wish we could say that we set out to do it in the first place, but it was a result of a long-term, sustainable program that started under the PR division and then spread through marketing, advertising, HR, finance and so-on. It was amazing to watch and within 12 months, the entire company had begun to shift culturally.
So maybe that’s how you start. Small. Bit-by-bit. With something obvious that you know will begin to creep into the dark corners of a company and bring them into the fold. Telling a company of 400,000 people that everything is going to change is a lot harder than letting them see how you can take one section of a company, change it for the better and let them wrap their heads around it.
Change is hard. But when the right people (dare I say “influencers?”) within a company are dedicated to make it happen, it’s a beautiful thing. But before we go throwing around the term “social business,” let’s really be clear what we’re talking about.