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The Social Business Benefit More Than the Sum of All Posts

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.


Midsize firms see the value in social media: Tweets, posts and shares all have an impact on the bottom line. But with companies of all shapes and sizes going social, just creating accounts and posting regularly is not enough; now, there is a push to evolve and become "social businesses." What exactly this means, however, varies from expert to expert and company to company. How do midsize businesses tap into the social business benefit?

Making Mistakes

A recent Forbes piece talks about the social media work of Fredrik Tukk, head of communication, marketing and branding for Maersk Drilling. Tukk argued for the use of Facebook — historically a "friends and family" tool — as a way to recruit new employees in the ultra-competitive drilling market. With an unemployment rate often below one percent, highly skilled drill rig operators are not about to jump ship at their current company unless there is a compelling case to switch. For Tukk, the answer was obvious: create a Facebook campaign detailing the unique points of Maersk's employee value proposition (EVP), things like private cabins and great food. He also encouraged current employees to tell their story online, in their own words as a way to connect with prospective hires.

It worked, and Maersk reaped the social business benefit, but here is the thing — C-suite executives initially rejected the project in favor of a standard, website-based recruiting drive. So why the disconnect? Part of the problem is history, since companies prefer to stick with past successes rather than risk future failures, but there is another issue: It is hard to see past the single use of social media to the larger picture.

Freedom!

Business 2 Community argues that to reap the social business benefit, companies must think outside the social media box of simple, branded handles and accounts and instead go social across the board. This means letting consumers connect how they want, when they want, and giving employees the ability to connect as well, on either public or company-curated channels. What's more, social engagement must include all business departments, from marketing to HR and customer service. Put simply, social media leads to a shift in consumer perception, while the transition to social business shifts corporate culture.

For midsize IT, reaching for this social benefit also requires a shift. Instead of maintaining websites and managing devices, the role of IT professionals evolves to one of communication support. Is it possible to enable quicker connections between employees, regardless of distance? Is there a better way to push multimedia content across various platforms to consumers around the globe?

In a social business culture, real-time and relevant become keystones, prompting a change in IT department mandates. Tech failures or hiccups are no longer the enemy — rather, failing to communicate these problems to a larger audience becomes the issue. In effect, the social business is a personification, a representation of the company's values and work ethic, and relatability takes priority over IT repair.

There is real benefit in tapping social media for employee recruitment or customer care. It is possible to go further, however, by making the leap to social business. This requires a re-imagining of corporate culture, coupled with a shift in midsize IT focus.

This article was written by Doug Bonderud.

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