Social media has become a valuable means for many organizations to better engage and retain customers, to attract prospects, make sales, and help customers solve problems. But it still seems to be much harder for organizations to understand social 'on the inside' and why it matters. Companies must come to understand that social 'on the outside' won't be substantially achieved – let alone sustained - if social on the inside isn't working.
The internal social business interconnects with enterprise collaboration platforms and intranets, that are now taking a more social media kind of approach to better engage and support employees. Additionally, many diverse kinds of software solutions used by enterprises incorporate social capabilities as methods to improve solution usage and value, as well as do a better job of including that all important human factor. In enterprise activities such as knowledge management, BI and analytics, business process management, and adaptive case management, there is a significant role to be played by social / collaborative capabilities to improve how these activities provide relevance and effective results.
Social business initiatives, internal and external, pertain to all company teams that touch customers, prospects, partners and suppliers – basically the vast majority of the company. The commitment, usage and value of social, whether internal or external, must be authentic -- employees, partners, and customers will quickly figure out if a company is trying to fake it. When an organization chooses to become a 'social business', the divide between social-inside and social-outside should blur as more and more silos within the organization hopefully disappear, and as bi-directional connections to customers and prospects, partners and suppliers become more natural and more immediate.
The decision to become a social business has to come from upper management and boards of directors – it has to be a key strategy of the organization – or it won't happen in any significant or sustained fashion. Understanding and nurturing the value of all the people in the enterprise impacts how the company operates internally, how it does business externally, and how the company will survive as a healthy, successful business. For those organizations that become social businesses come these rewards: drawing the best out of employees; healthy impact on continuous innovation and relevant business models; collaborating with customers and partners on future direction and products; and listening to all of the people of the enterprise ecosystem to draw on their experiences and expertise for building and sustaining competitive edge.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I've been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.