A decade ago, businesses didn’t have company Facebook profiles, Twitter accounts, or Instagram feeds.
In fact, Facebook didn’t exist.
When you start thinking about how much social media has changed the way that businesses operate in the past few years, you can’t help but wonder how much more—and how—it will change in the coming decade.
According to Sandy Carter , General Manager of IBM Ecosystems and Social Business Evangelist at IBM, there are a lot of exciting changes to come. As an author, speaker, and expert in social business, Carter not only makes sure her company stays on top of the latest technology trends and how they can be incorporated into the workforce, but makes sure other companies recognize that potential, as well.
To learn more, we chatted with Carter about what exactly a “social business” is, why it’s beneficial, and how companies can start to adopt that kind of forward-thinking strategy in their business and hiring practices.
What is a “social business,” and why is it so effective?
Over the past two decades, the internet has disrupted the way companies operate in a huge way—it’s almost unimaginable to think how we got anything done without it! Now, we’re seeing that same transformation in the social realm—businesses are moving beyond having just a Facebook page or Twitter account, and they’re incorporating social functions into everyday business processes and decisions, from sales and marketing to HR and product development.
It’s really a shift in the way we work, communicate, collaborate, and share expertise with each other. Social businesses use social tools to listen to customers, spur innovation, identify new market opportunities, and create a smarter, more effective workforce.
For example, IBM is one of the most prolific users of social networking in the industry and one of the largest corporate-wide social media communities. Every IBMer has a social network page, as well as access to thousands of internal information sources, blogs, communities, wikis, and instant messaging. IBM takes social networking seriously —to develop products and services, enable sellers to find and stay connected with clients, train the next generation of leaders, and build awareness among clients, influencers, and other communities.
What is the most important element of a strong social strategy? What advice would you give to an entrepreneur or executive who wants to expand his or her social strategy?
Far and away, the most important element of a strong social strategy is the corporate culture behind it. Without a culture that supports sharing and collaboration , the underlying social technology being implemented is futile.
That might sound harsh, but it’s the reality. Social tools will collect dust unless employees feel empowered to use them. For organizations with a traditional, hierarchal structure, this is a big shift in thinking that will affect how, when, where, and what employees communicate. It can be a bit scary for executives to overcome this initial hurdle, but once done, the results will speak for themselves.
So, how is it done? Changing any corporate culture starts with leadership . An entrepreneur may have an advantage here, since he or she can set the tone from the very beginning, whereas the leader of a large or established business will have to work a bit harder to get employees on board. Either way, it starts with leading by example, communicating that it’s a priority, and following through. The transformation into a social business doesn’t happen in a month, six months, or even a year. It’s a constant evolution and must be ingrained into an organization’s core values—rather than a temporary priority that shifts out of focus next quarter.
How is hiring different for social businesses? What are social businesses looking for in new employees, and what does that mean for job hunters?
I love this question, because we’re really starting to explore how social tools, combined with analytics and behavioral insight, can improve recruitment, hiring, and retention processes.
Take AMC Theatres for example: AMC needed to attract and retain the right people to drive concession sales and cut down high turnover rates. Working with Kenexa, an IBM Company, AMC launched a study to identify candidates who thrived in the culture of the organization , allowing Kenexa to pinpoint the exact characteristics that make the best employees good at what they do and better predict the people who are likely to succeed in their jobs. With those results, Kenexa was able to design an assessment that helped the company find candidates with those telltale characteristics, so that AMC could make talent management decisions based on evidence, rather than gut feel.
For job hunters, this means recognizing—and accepting—that the process is changing . For example, they may be asked to take online surveys during the interview process (to help identify particular skills or attributes for the job at hand). It may sound like an extra step, but it actually benefits the job hunter. It means that organizations are taking the time to make sure a new hire is the right fit—and that reduces the chance that three or four months down the line, that new employee is unhappy and looking for his or her next opportunity.
What do you expect social business to look like in five years? Or 10?
In five years, I hope to see social truly integrated in all aspects of all types of businesses. We already know social business works amazingly well for large enterprises with multiple locations and large geographic territories. But it also works for small businesses and startups . It’s just a matter of having the wherewithal to recognize the opportunity and start the transformation into a social business.
It's already happening to some degree—we’re seeing social being effectively utilized within marketing, sales, and IT. But there's so much more potential.
In 10 years, social won’t even be a question. In the same way we don’t question using the internet to conduct business now, we won’t be questioning the use of social tools. It will be so ingrained that we’ll have a hard time imagining how we ever did anything without it!
Photo courtesy of Adriano Castelli / Shutterstock .
TopicsInspiring Women , Syndication , Q&A Interviews , Social Media & Blogging , Inspiring Executives , Management , Workforce180
After beginning a career in management, Katie realized she wasn’t doing what she loved and determined it was time for a major career transition. Now, as a staff writer/editor for The Muse and a content marketing writer for a healthcare IT company, she gets to do what she loves every day—write and edit content ranging from demand generation campaigns to career advice. Her career and management content has been published on Forbes, Mashable, Business Insider, Inc., and Newsweek. Find her on Twitter @kgwolfie.More from this Author