Steps to create a social organization

Remember the goofy kid from high school who didn’t quite fit in – he didn’t know how to talk to other kids and was just a little scary? Well, that’s how many businesses appear on social media – they don’t know how to talk to their network and scare people with their self-promotion and harassment, at least according to a new Harvard Business Review article. (HBR). Success in social media requires social organization, not just social media presence, say authors Anthony J. Bradley and Mark P. McDonald.

Instead, most organizations are developing a “provide and pray” strategy for social media, according to the authors. And this strategy fails about 90% of the time.

A social organization strategically applies “mass collaboration” by combining technology, community and purpose. It addresses significant challenges or opportunities through building collaborative goal-driven communities enabled by social media. … Mass collaboration gives an organization the capacity to amplify its capacities by increasing the commitment, innovation and involvement of people, internally and externally.

Becoming a social organization is more than technology and advertising

Becoming a social organization means you involve your community in the conversation in a meaningful way. Employees, suppliers, and customers are all part of your community, so involve them not only in spreading your message, but also in helping you succeed. How? ‘Or’ What? Read on.

Social organizations ask for help from the community

Instead of creating products, messages, and promotions, social organizations seek help from their community. For example, when I changed the theme of this blog, I asked readers to vote for several different options and when we created our book on social media, we asked visitors to suggest titles and then to vote for their favorite. When California Tortilla needed a new product, they asked their community for suggestions.

Social organizations involve their community

Ask employees to write blog posts or post comments on your Facebook wall. Employees have an interesting perspective on the company and can have unique information they can share. Instead of blocking Facebook on your campus, invite employees to share work stories with their social networks (you’ll need clear guidelines to protect intellectual property, ensure privacy, and keep PG updates). Often, users can identify with employees better than an impersonal representative of the company.

Social organizations care about their community

Social organizations try to solve problems or answer questions when customers are faced with a problem. Here is a good example of what social organizations DON’T DO.

I had trouble reaching Expedia to change a plane ticket – all of their lines were down. I tweeted the issue and got no response. I visited the Facebook page and found that a number of other customers were expressing the same issue and received no response. I had to “like” the Facebook page just to add my complaint to the list of other people complaining about the same problem. No answer. Finally, another CUSTOMER posted a number at the company’s offices – not a customer service number as it was still down. About 30 hours after my original message, I get this cheerful response from someone at Expedia saying they’ve fixed the issue. Grrrrrr.

Ignoring customer complaints allows the frustration to escalate and turn a bad situation into a disaster. Social media only provides a public forum for complainants to voice their grievances.

Social organizations integrate social media into their overall strategy

Social organizations realize that social media strategy is part of their overall strategy, not a tech solution or standalone marketing strategy.

Social media should emanate from strategic goals, build on strategic competitive advantage, and be measured to ensure organizational goals are met.

So, is your organization a social organization?

Joel C. Hicks