I’VE BEEN WITHOUT A FIXED SALARY for over 12 months. In fact, I think I’ve earned less than AUD $20,000 in the past year. I’ve just come from a meeting with a potential partner where I admitted this; his eyes widened, his jaw dropped. Yes, I said. My start-up, boot-strapped on less than AUD $500, was built entirely through social media. Further, everything I know on the topic was entirely self taught, that’s how I know so much. There is no university degree that can teach you what I know. And if there were, the program would be obsolete before the end of 1st year.
This start-up is called The HR Talent Community and we are a social business that is just 12 months old. Although we have no paid employees (including me) and no revenue (yet), The HRTC is a very powerful example of how a brand can be grown from nothing and thousands of loyal advocates can be created in a very short space of time, using social media as the driving force. Needless to say he was impressed. But the HRTC is not the point of this article. Social is.
Social is the next layer of the digital revolution. Mobile there of course, but social is the driving force.
What does this mean? It’s not enough for your organisation to be outwardly social – everyone is doing that now – with varying degrees of efficacy. The businesses that will win the race will EMBED SOCIAL into every facet of their business. This means the way people are led, the way they are communicated to, the way they are developed and most importantly, the way they are facilitated to do their work and build relationships.
Why? Because competition is intense. And the fastest, most innovative, engaged and collaborative organisations will win. And to do this they need to use social technology well.
Obscure start-ups seem to emerge almost daily, yet they are disrupting the status-quo in every industry. Think Lyft, the US mobile ride sharing app, ZocDoc, which locates and books doctors at the last minute. Or Spotify which has revolutionized the way people stream and listen to music. Whatever the industry, the one thing disruptive start-ups have in common is that they are highly entrepreneurial, collaborative, agile, fluid and FAST. They understand that social is the new way of business and have the lack of bureaucracy in order to execute it.
In order for big business to compete, they need to dismantle themselves, mostly because over-complicated structure and operational silos slow them down. In order to communicate at speed, organisations must facilitate employees to collaborate, not compete, work together across internal and geographic boundaries, engage with consumers and stakeholders through social media and deliver the five star experience through technology customers are now demanding.
Let’s take IBM as a leading example. The Vice President of Social Software, Jeff Schick was interviewed by MIT Sloan Management Review in June 2012 on how IBM has achieved competitive advantage through social technology.
They did this by creating a culture of sharing, fluid communication and collaboration. This was achieved through the development of knowledge and information sharing portals that cross physical and geographic boundaries, and Quora style community hubs where employees can pose and answer questions, as well work together – without ever having to lift a phone or write an email. The cost savings, not to mention the increased employee value proposition, according to Schick, were “tremendous.” In fact, IBM takes social so seriously now that they have an executive steering committee dedicated to the cause.
Conceded, the concept of a social organisation may sound too big (and expensive) to get your head around. Particularly if your organisation is yet to wrap its head around Twitter or Facebook, or indeed consider a basic social media strategy. But there are relatively inexpensive ways to commence the process, not in the least engaging external help or recruiting a social director who can work with your leadership team, directly and systematically in order to build the foundations for your business.
I shouldn’t have to say this, but I’m not sure everyone “gets” it:
Social has changed the way businesses do business.
Whatever your view, social is here to stay, until at least, the next big thing comes along. Understanding it and getting it right means the difference between compete or die. Are you ready?