Are communicators ready for social business?

A former monastery deep in the lush rolling Swiss countryside wasn’t the first setting I had in mind when I joined my CIO at a roundtable meeting yesterday with his peers and other communications leaders to talk about social business in the 21st century.

No need to set your iPhone alarm here; the solemn peal of the friary bell sees to it that you’re awake early. Twitter? That’ll be the dawn chorus. And salvation is super-fast wi-fi, and a receptionist with a boxful of travel adaptors for the latest Brit who forgot that Switzerland has its very own shape of plug socket.

In these contemplative surroundings, the discussion covered the opportunities and challenges for IT and communications brought about by social business – which, in this context, is about using communications and collaborations tools and techniques to unlock value and productivity for organisations.

We talked about interactions and collaboration inside and outside of the organisation – with consumers, customers, influencers and employees. Chatham House rules mean I’m taking a vow of silence on the details of the meeting, but here are a few things they’ve left me reflecting.

Social business is growing fast, and the best organisations and teams are recognising this and adapting now. For communicators, that means becoming more agile, interactive and responsive to the needs of their customers and communities, internal or external. Flexibility is key – be prepared to think and act differently; to try new things and move on quickly if the solution’s not quite right.

Social is a mindset, not a channel. The organisations most likely to thrive as a social business are those whose leaders and culture already embrace and value feedback, discussion, challenge and change. If command, control and cascade still outweigh creativity and conversation, no amount of social tools or channels will help you to succeed.

The purpose of a social approach needs to be clear for all concerned. Goals and outcomes still matter. Social for social’s sake will be shortlived. People need to understand what you’re trying to achieve, and good change management and communications is at the heart of the matter. As communicators, we can’t forget the basics of a well-understood, well-prepared and well-executed plan in this respect.

Measurement matters like never before. If you’re not tracking and listening, it’s time to start. If you’re doing it, do more. There are more data and analytics available to business and communicators than ever. Social businesses make the most of this to ensure information is delivered, exchanged and used in a smart, effective and insightful way.

For social business to succeed, IT needs communications, and communications needs IT. If it’s not already happened, IT will soon be as important a partner to communications as HR and marketing. Regardless of their organisation’s industry, progressive CIOs are serious about social communication and collaboration and are investing in the tools and platforms to enable it. Communicators can help these come alive and thrive by creating and curating smart content, and helping the business to understand and act on the insights.

What do you think? Is your business becoming more social? Do you agree or disagree with my thoughts? Have I missed something important? I’d love to hear what you think.


3 thoughts on “Are communicators ready for social business?

  1. Sarah

    Great post Neil. Sounds like you had a good discussion. One thing I haven’t quite got my head around is where the responsibility for social business lies in an organisation. Marketing understand social from a “brand channels” perspective. HR understand social from a “recruiting” and “employer brand” perspective and Communications understands the value of “employee advocacy” which is closely linked to HR (employee engagement) and Marketing (Brand values and Marketing). So where does it sit? Any thoughts?


    1. Neil Jenkins Post author

      Thanks Sarah – glad you enjoyed it. I think Comms plays a leading role as it often sits at the intersection of HR and Marketing. Whether it’s the *lead* role remains to be seen – still early days for many organisations.



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