Be a successful social business by being social internally too

photo (13)Whenever people talk about social business, almost everyone immediately thinks of company presences on Twitter or Facebook, profiles on LinkedIn, corporate blogging, and/or engaged in conversation in forums. What we all tend to forget (yes, that includes me as well), is that being a social business isn’t just about external activities, it also needs to include the internal frameworks for communication and sharing.

Externally, being a social business means listening to your audiences, being responsive to their feedback, and communicating transparently with them to build trust and affinity. Internally, however, being a social business is much more about enabling deep collaboration and communication across roles/departments/organizations. Using the right tools for the right conversations internally can be a great way to not only improve operational efficiencies, but also begin shifting a corporate culture and to teach social behaviour to an employee base that isn’t ready to be social externally.

Using open and transparent communication tools like blogs, wikis, and forums to collaborate on ideas before transitioning them into actionable work can be a wonderful method for building a more efficient and transparent workforce that is able to access information on-demand when they need it and when they are available to collaborate (an often cited pain-point for globally distributed teams). The various components of IBM Connections provides this great framework on which to build a truly social business.

Full disclosure: Yes, I work for IBM, so I know my unsolicited promotion of this solution is already suspect, but I can also tell you this: I use it internally, in just the methods described above and for the same reasons. If it wasn’t effective for me, I wouldn’t be using it, let alone talking about it and recommending it.

My use of IBM Connections has allowed me to build a network of colleagues and SMEs (it has a great profile news feed to keep abreast of colleagues and their work), maintain documented information in wikis, engage in discussions in forums, and execute work in activities all in an open and transparent method. This allows for any of my team members across the globe to find the information they need, collaborate on their time, and bypass timezone delays caused by emailed 1-1 or 1-few communications. While Connections is a great one-stop tool which provides solutions for a number of business needs, the real key to its success is using it for the right conversations. Because it includes diverse features which enable sharing of information in vastly different ways, it provides the right places to engage in communication.

Even if you don’t have a solution like IBM Connections in place, the key to success as a social business still remains. Use the tools you do have available to consciously move those conversations away from email or closed systems to the more open and transparent mediums. Make use of forums and wikis and blogs to collaborate and drive your work forward. Using social internally will not only help you improve efficiencies, but it will also begin changing your corporate culture and teach you how to be social when you’re ready to move to the external spaces. After all, social business is really nothing new, it’s just about learning how to effectively use the new tools to improve communication across your company and clients.