Reflections from Social Media in the Enterprise Talk

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Welcome to Social Media Week! This week, conferences are taking place simultaneously in New York City, Berlin, London, San Francisco, Toronto and São Paulo. The overall goal of Social Media Week is to advance the use and understanding of social media and the impact it has on culture, business communications and society. Also, it is a great opportunity to meet other bloggers, tweeters and thought leaders in the social media space.

I attended a talk entitled “Social Media in the Enterprise” at Cass Business School earlier this week. Each speaker had 10 minutes to present their thoughts to the assembled collective of approximately 40 people. The remainder of this post are the notes I made from listening to each of the speakers. I hope you find it interesting.

Alan Patrick from Broadsight, kicked off the event with the challenges social media faces when looked upon by Enterprise. He looked at three areas where it can present a Return On Investment. These include:

  • Innovation (Crowd sourcing and buzz catching)
  • Operational Value (Sales, and reducing operating costs)
  • Speed to Respond (Business agility, JIT and the speed to react to market changes)
    Alan’s presentation can be seen below:

Umair Haque presented an enlightening talk on how organisations can be improved. He argued that today’s Enterprises are built around an outdated structure of rigid hierarchies – this structure is no longer efficient. Creativity is stunted and thus these organisations can be termed “Peak Organisations.”  A new dynamic structure could be the answer. Today’s social media tools allow the most skilled individuals to lead, not just the the hierarchal manager. Gifted leaders emerge organically. Therefore, do we need leadership at all? Social tools allow us to connect to people with the knowledge to help us make decisions that maximise value

Benjamin Ellis’s talk focused on how people are the key component in business. However, most Enterprises are scared of going social. (They associate social as a term relating to a “lack of control.” They prefer using email, as it is the quickest method to get your point across in the shortest time. He went on to state that businesses also spend a lot of time examining ROI. However, in the businesses that Benjamin has worked with, ROI actually meant Randomly Oriented Integers! :-).   Social Media, (if not used with caution) can cause more problems than solve answers. Knowledge and access to information could be withheld. For social media to succeed, the tools have to be simpler than using email.

Mat Morrison delivered a presentation detailing the research that he has carried out within organisations. An interesting insight from his research showed that, if an organisation grows organically, a few people within the company are actually the most connected to other parts of the organisation. If they are removed, the network fails. Therefore, some level of design planning is required to ensure that everyone within the network is “properly” connected to everyone else. Therefore, if some people are removed, the rest of the network does not suffer. Mat also juxtaposed market norms versus social norms. Employee social capital is good for the business, especially if they tweet about the company and products. However, it is difficult to account for all the positive benefits that it can bring to the balance sheet.

Mat’s presentation can be seen below:

Dr Sue Black described her live case study on how she used social media to raise awareness and funding to save Bletchley Park. Since the war, the historic site has fallen into disrepair. Through an adhoc Twitter campaign, Sue managed to get support from London Twitter users to raise awareness. Twitter also proved to be a disintermediary.  She managed to reach out to Stephen Fry, without the need to go through PR agents or other traditional “blockers”. Fry, visited Bletchley Park and used his public image to further spread the message. Sue’s (part time) campaigning, saw her blog traffic jump to over 8,000 visitors! Her success was due to her passion, and her ability to use Twitter to find and connect with people who were equally likeminded about the cause, and were able to help.

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Flickr Credit: Benjamin Ellis  Dr Black and I talk to J G Rae at the event

Adriana Lukas’s talk looked at how social media can act as catalyst for business. However, she pointed out that transforming companies from within is going to be difficult. Not everyone is convinced at how social tools can help the business. Some departments may not understand them and therefore may support the use of them. Thus, she suggested it may be an idea to deploy the use of social media tools secretly and completely independent of the IT department as a “skunkworks” project. Build a successful pilot, before proving the worth of it to others in the business. (This scares me). The idea here is that the creativity and “openess” that social media brings, does  not affect existing business processes.  A classic line from her presentation read “Wave good-bye to business cases, say hello to case studies.” Those who want to change are not the ones building the barricades!”

Finally, David Terrar presented an opposing view to Adriana’s talk. Rather than deploy an “under the radar” approach. David, discussed that the way forward was to get management buy-in, before deploying social tools. His overarching point, social tools MUST work together with existing business processes. Over time, the social tools will help to modify existing business processes as their value is demonstrated. He went on to show examples of how social tools have been successfully applied to large businesses such as Cisco, Swiss Re, and ICAEW. 

Overall, it was a very stimulating evening of discussion surrounding Social Media, and how people view it both internally and externally to the Enterprise.

A big thanks to all of the speakers and especially Alan and Patrick for putting on the event.


Author: Jas

Jas Dhaliwal is a highly experienced International Social Media Strategist. Currently working as AVG Technologies, Director of Communities and Online Engagement, he specialises in building and engaging with social communities across the web. Born and bred in London, he is passionate about technology and social anthropology. Prior to AVG, Jas launched the social media program for Microsoft’s MVP Award program. Jas holds a BSc (Hons) in Information Systems and has an MBA from Brunel University in London, England. You can follow Jas as @Jas on Twitter or on Google+

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