Silos can still exist in a ‘mature’ social business

Can social business be widely adopted yet still siloed? I believe so. Even if ‘social’ is baked into every member of the C* Suite and down, you can see a lot of social business execution, but little cross-functional communication.

This topic was touched on at the Social Media Club panel discussion at PeopleBrowsr in San Francisco tonight. Panel featured Michael Brito, Jen McClure and Peter Kim, with Chris Heuer serving as moderator.

It’s reassuring to hear many at today’s event cite IBM as a great example of a social business, and indeed there’s a healthy level of executive support and many innovative programs here.

Still, certain practices are hard to institute.

For instance, mining intranets and internal social networks for information that could be valuable if exposed externally. Whether because of governance and security risk, or the extreme distance between knowledge management professionals and marketing execution, this doesn’t happen in any systematic way. Another example: few marketing teams interact with product forums, whether to understand customer pain points, build stronger messaging, or dig out up-sell opportunities. Product forums are the domain of customer support.

I’d suggest these kinds of silos need to come down before we have a truly social business.

Other thoughts from the Social Media Club talk tonight (random order):

Policy and process. As social business becomes more ‘businesslike’, does this get in the way of experimentation and take away from the ‘fail fast’ manifesto of social media marketing?

Social business terminology. I fully subscribe to the position that the term social business is more holistic than the term social media (which is largely perceived as a marketing/comms exercise), and that’s enough to justify its existence. However, we’re noticing push-back from one particular sphere: academia. Here, a social business is one that takes into account social and environmental factors when making business decisions. ‘Social’ as in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). This could also be related to the fact that CSR tends to resonate strongly with the student population.

Whatever the case, there is some work to be done to fully institutionalize the term ‘social business’ across the board.

Damned in large companies, damned in small. Interesting to hear the perspective that social media/business programs are hard to institute in small companies because the staff and infrastructure aren’t there. I can offer a similarly dim perspective from the other side of the spectrum. With 400K employees, IBM has a healthy smattering of social media/business employees. That’s not our problem. The harder part is climbing across the organization to find an expert in product development or R&D. In a smaller organization, you can just peak over the cube and find someone with domain expertise. This can take weeks of major sleuthing in a large organization.

Still, we manage to see strong social business cases from companies big and small. We should take solace in these and work with, and learn from our limitations.

For more information on similar events, check out the Social Media Club to see what’s happening near you.