I've trumpeted the virtue of social media for all manner of things within our organisations a few times on the blog in the past few months.  The smartest companies are deploying it internally to enable and empower employees and other stakeholders to engage in peer-to-peer collaboration.

A great book on the subject landed on my doorstep over the weekend and is a must read for anyone interested in the subject. The Social Organization: How to Use Social Media to Tap the Collective Genius of Your Customers and Employees argues that the promise of social media is to “tap into the full talent, creativity experience, and passion of all the people it touches,” from employees to customers to partners throughout the value chain.

 

The authors, Anthony Bradley and Mark McDonald were interviewed for last months MIT Sloan Management Review.
 
“We really started seriously pursuing social business about four years ago when we started to see how organizations were applying social media in areas outside of marketing to drive significant business value,” says McDonald
 
Becoming a social organisation
 
The first thing to realise is that to become a social organisation it cannot be the responsibility of one individual or even one department.  To become truely social it has to be a part of your culture, a part of how you do business.  
 
The helpful thing is that people are naturally social and want to talk and collaborate with each other as the status quo.  Whilst traditional management models haven't enabled that, placing social media at the heart of your organisation allows people to behave as nature intended.  Utilisation of social tools merely taps into our natural creativity and desire to form communities of like minded individuals.
 
A social organisation requires managers to curate a community of knowledge workers with a common purpose and with technology available to enable that community to combine and work together.
 
Mass collaboration gives an organisation the ability to amplify its capabilities by raising the engagement, innovation, and involvement of people, internally and externally.
 
Metcalfe's Law states that the power of a network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system.  The problem is that most companies don't have a network. If you can network up your employees and stakeholders however you are increasing the value of each employee exponentially. Its application can breathe new life into business processes, practices, and challenges.
 
Stealing social media away from marketing
 
To fulfil the potential of social media you need to take it out of the marketing departments grasp.  If social media does not become a part of your culture it is likely to fail in the same way as many of the initiatives tried in the last few decades, such as knowledge management, CRM and business intelligence.
 
By all means celebrate the successes that your marketing team have achieved, just never lose sight of the long-term goal to make social media a focal point of your entire operation, to bring its many advantages to bear internally as well as externally.