20 Signs You’re Probably Not Working For A Social Business 

If innovation is the most overused word of 2014 , then “social business” must be the most misappropriated term.

Every other organisation I come across is claiming to be one. But what does it mean to be a social business?

Altimeter Group defines it as:

The deep integration of social media and social methodologies into the organisation to drive business impact.”

Indeed Brian Solis has written about the need to distinguish the two:

A social business is more than social media and the Likes of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, et al. Yet, it’s a term that’s often confused with social media strategy. But, there’s an important difference between a social business and a social media strategy.

Social business is a philosophy; a way of business where social technologies supported by new approaches facilitate a more open, engaged, collaborative foundation for how we work.

 I also really like this description from Andrew Grill

A social business is an organisation whose culture and systems encourage networks of people to create business value.

I’m lucky as I get to talk about social business with lots of people , and the ones who ask my advice almost always mention culture as the main organisational barrier to the adoption of social and digital technology.

We all want to be a social , collaborative business. How do we know when we’ve achieved it?

Here are 20 signs that we’re probably not there yet:

  1. Internal meetings happen behind closed doors rather than being distributed and networked.
  2. You are doing nothing about email. You just add more of it everyday.
  3. People have to seek permission to have a social media presence.
  4. You can only talk about work stuff on social media. You can’t be human.
  5. You measure followers , fans, likes and web hits rather than relationships.
  6. People put time in the diary to “do social media”.
  7. Your social media accounts switch off at 5pm and weekends.
  8. You don’t turn internal reports into publicly available blogs , videos and infographics.
  9. You think it’s job done as your CEO has a twitter account.
  10. There’s no evidence of social removing hierarchy.
  11. Most of the people who like your Facebook page work for the company.
  12. Social media is treated a channel of its own rather than part of an integrated whole.
  13. You just promote your own organisation rather than being a generous sharer of other peoples knowledge and content.
  14. You borrowed someone else’s digital services plan and copied that rather than think of your own.
  15. Your Comms team runs social media. Because it’s just a Comms thing.
  16. You still say things like “Not many of our customers use Twitter”.
  17. You still say “Our customers are quite elderly – they don’t use social”.
  18. You don’t know who are the influential members of your social community.
  19. You don’t follow customers and potential customers back and get to know them.
  20. Your organisation still exists in departments –  HR, IT, Operations. Knowledge is sorted accordingly. Compartmentalised. Siloed.

Truth be told – very few of us work for a truly social business.

We are all on this journey together.

What would you add to the list? I’ll add any suggestions to a special Haiku Deck!


17 thoughts on “20 Signs You’re Probably Not Working For A Social Business 

  1. Good post Paul – some nice points made and many made me chuckle.

    I’d add: “Social is given an allotted time ‘to do’ rather than being woven into your everyday routine”

    1. Thanks Andy – I agree. I here a lot of people say they don’t have time to do social – and I think a lot of companies view it this way.

  2. Interesting post Paul, thanks. In the main I agree and can see you are pushing the boundaries of what work is and exploring what might be and openly sharing your organisation’s journey so that others might do the nudging where they work. Many folk admire what you are doing.

    I know you are aware we are doing similar at Leeds City Council through our sociable organisation work.

    I’d like to discuss/perhaps disagree and put a different slant on point three. “People have to seek permission to have a social media presence”.

    Perhaps there is something in here about coordination rather than perceived control. In Leeds, we have opened up social media and service areas are free to set up accounts but must ensure that expectations of their communities are met. The service areas themselves have nominated their own digital champions who look at requests for social media accounts. They are then responsible for publishing account managers names on our intranet and then account details (minus managers names!) on our website so that people can see what we have and staff can know who is managing the accounts should they need to get in touch with them…the coordination element.

    Account requests are approved, or otherwise, based on context and resources available to cover the expectations of managing the account which is mostly based around the issues relating to the 20 points above. For instance point seven is pretty much irrelevant “Your social media accounts switch off at 5pm and weekends” if a service area doesn’t have the resources to manage the account between 9am and 5pm. That clearly needs sorting from day one.

    For us and perhaps others, ‘permission’ is more about ensuring self assessment prior to setting up accounts. We have a two question checklist covering do you know what you are trying to achieve and what you will need to commit to ensure you can achieve it before an application for an account is made and the account set up. So, do you have more than one member of staff, ideally three, prepared to commit to this and skilled to do it? Secondly can you meet expectations of responding as soon as possible and no longer than two hours* (within working hours)….so covering of the basics of integrating social media into how we do business and it being responsive and engaging. This is where folk start to think, perhaps we can’t yet but they are then prepared to get folk up to speed and trained so that when they do it is sustainable and manages various communities expectations and mostly covers off the 20 points above and becomes part of what they do, not the bolt on.

    That I think is more relevant. Point three is perhaps more about people seeking permission from themselves to understand what they need to do to be human and part of a social organisation/business.

    Keep up the good work!

    * Clearly a two hour response time is not what we work to for most of our accounts, but we drew that line in the sand to get people to think about what the expectations are.

  3. I’m sure Paul will reply more fully Phil but I think you are probably talking specifically about the need for a proper process to authorise those accounts that are advertised on your website etc as a means for customers to contact the Council? We have those too and would fully agree the need to authorise and resource them properly. But I think Paul was probably also talking about the many individual colleagues at all levels in Bromford and similar businesses who set up individual social media accounts that do make clear who they work for and where they post about a mix of work and personal stuff. This is where we are much more relaxed, encouraging colleagues to use social media at work and essentially just to use their commonsense when deciding what to tweet etc

    1. Agree with you there Philippa. We encourage staff to look at our support, guidance and training as it also applies to personal use.

      We want to encourage folk who have social media (and other) skills gained from personal use and self teaching to bring them through the door and use them for work.

      We too have a relaxed approach to individual accounts. We do encourage staff to look at the support and guidance we have.

      1. Thanks for the comments and apologies for delayed response (WordPress gremlins…)

        Phil – I agree with everything you’ve said. As Philippa has pointed out I absolutely understand the need to authorise contact channels. I think the work you are doing at Leeds is due diligence – we all have examples of where “brand” or contact accounts have been set up without a proper sense check.

        I was thinking more of the accounts that add a real richness to an organisation – the people doing their everyday jobs. This for me is the biggest potential gain for organisations in humanising what they do – yet it is often the one that’s not explored.

    1. I think we’ll increasingly come to realise that social media is a wonderful window on the culture of organisations!

  4. Love this post Paul and, like Andy, found it very amusing mostly because you’ve hit the nail on the head. There’s nothing I can add to this to make it more relevant.

    I’m on the train as I post this reply, off to Social Media Surgery Dundee, have shared this including through @SocMedSurgery on Twitter, and will be drawing on your points for reference during our session.

  5. Spot on Paul, I really enjoyed this article. Am finding myself increasingly defining, clarifying and correcting definitions of social business. I wrote two articles on this topic last year to try and clear up the confusion and look back at the history: http://www.allthingsic.com/socialbusiness1/ and http://www.allthingsic.com/attenzi/.

    I recommend reading Philip Sheldrake’s @sheldrake book, Attenzi, as it’s one of the best resources I’ve found to guide people through what social business is – and isn’t. Using a fictional format to explain social business means examples are detailed – in the way most case studies aren’t. It’s in the second link above or see: http://www.attenzi.com.


    1. Thanks Rachel – I really should have credited your posts which informed my thinking. And a great shout for Attenzi a book I read only after hearing you talk about it! A recommended short read for everyone….

  6. Another great post Paul and plenty of food for thought. I’ve just been invited on to a project group to pull apart our thinking/approach/beliefs on social within our business and this gives me a great starting point (I may be on the phone to you soon to pick your brains again!). A possible addition (although could be covered in your points above):

    You recruit by posting a job on your website and awaiting the responses. (a recruitment related one from me- no surprise there!!)

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