I really enjoyed this post by Brian Solis that articulates that social business and social strategy as we’ve been defining it are rooted in ideas that stretch beyond what we’re comfortable with today.
We’re eager for all-encompassing terms, and we have some in depth discussions about finding just the right monikers for the upheaval that we’re feeling and experiencing. By giving it a name, we can understand it better. Work through its characteristics and nature. Define it in a way that makes it clear for us.
But Brian’s post inspired me to comment on something that I’ve been chewing on for some time, especially as more and more information comes out about what, exactly, a “social strategist” does, or how we can articulate the nature of a truly social business.
Neither social strategy nor social business can be tucked into a singular definition or layer. They happen at every level of a business, and need to be considered in the appropriate context.
The top layers of an organization often encompass the driving force and vision for the future. Not to say that groundbreaking ideas can’t come from anywhere, but in terms of responsibility, the executive and leadership teams are and should be more concerned with the future of the business than almost anything else. It’s course setting and destination plotting at its finest, and in a social media context, this is where we need to be asking the “Where do we go next?” question.
It’s also where culture and intent around social media have to be set, because while culture is created and fostered within the fabric of a company, it is stewarded and endorsed at the top and cannot thrive long term without leadership buy-in (and the patience and cultivation that requires). At this layer, we need social strategy and social business to be designed around that distant view, around translating a vision and illustrating a picture for where we want to go, what we believe to be true, what we hope to impact and change.
At the middle levels of an organization, we need shorter term planning (6-12 months) as well as a keen focus on integration and optimization of existing efforts. How can we build systems, people, and processes that not only integrate with each other, but that help realize the vision and ideals we’ve got in our sights for the long term? This is also where we need to focus on organizational alignment to ensure that everyone is functionally and intellectually moving in the same direction, and devoted to the discussion and education that requires.
In the course of that, the management needs to work with the leadership team to be willing to rethink everything. That can mean creating entirely new or reinvented business models that are designed to adapt to and around social media, rather than trying to cram what we know and are learning about social into existing and familiar constructs.
I think this is where we end up typically parking “social strategy”, but it’s one piece of what really is a much greater whole. These are the layers that realize the plan as it’s set out, but the real work in that side of things isn’t just in the delivery. It’s in the testing, the breaking, the mining of that process for learnings and insights that can be fed back into the system and used to improve or rejigger things as needed.
Execution isn’t just doing. It’s doing with the intent to understand what happens when you do. There are few people that can understand the nuances, challenges, unexpected successes and subtle details like those who are charged with actually walking the path. And our social business needs to pervade this layer as much as the leadership realm, lest we disperse our plans and theories to the wild and never truly understand how they worked in practice.
I truly believe that capitalizing on social’s power requires rethinking some very fundamental and pivotal ways that we do things, not just the surface treatments that we give them. I don’t have all of the answers yet for what that means or how it looks. But I’m thinking about it, I’m writing about it, I’m contemplating. I don’t think social is the only and sole answer. What I *do* think, however, is that social is the catalyst in many ways for re-examining our own assumptions around how all of the elements of our business work best.
The trick for most business is that instead of building on a new foundation, we have to reverse engineer some of the things we’re already doing. And that’s messy. Some we have to start doing, from scratch. Some we have to do differently or better. Some we have to stop doing altogether. All of those things have implications from how people work to what they do to how they feel and what value they provide, and changing them can have some repercussions that aren’t always easy to handle.
Change that endures requires not just obstinate persistence, but methodical and patient stewardship. And the evolution of social strategy for a business needs to take place, in parallel, in many different areas. They need not all continue or change at the same rate, but significant movement in some areas but not others is what creates friction and discord. I think that’s a large part of what we’re feeling now; some areas of social business emerging faster than others, likely ones that are more closely aligned with what we already know and understand while the more difficult aspects of culture change and fluid communication are less clear (and as a result, move much more slowly as we unravel them).
There is much to consider, and it’s going to take some bravery on the part of businesses and the leaders that guide them.
How to make it all work together, in concert? What does that new business model look like? That continues to be our ultimate question, and the one for which I don’t yet have complete answers. But I’m finding pieces. And perseverance cannot be underestimated.