Open for Social Business ... Open for Social Discussion?

By Marc Solomon posted 03-30-2012 09:09


Who puts in the plumbing on corporate Facebook? Infrastructure-wise we understand that corporate IT are the implementers and early adopters. Culturally, I get that the community manager is charged with "leading from the back" as Rachel Happe likes to say. Translation: steering the discussion for optimal input instead of dominating it to death.

But the plumbing is no different for social business systems than it is for big data Facebook.  How do social enterprises move from how good it feels to convene to how good should we feel based on 'this' target and 'that' metric? This should not be a tooth-pulling exercise. Issues of personal privacy disappear behind the firewall. So why too does the argument to justify social business?

I have four theories: ownership, governance, integration, and gadgets.


Building a social network is not a group thing. Nor is it a "thing" really. You don't hire an architect to draft an open floor plan for your most promising relationships or the extra closet space to store your prior colleagues. There's little in the way of ownership or infrastructure or any of the vestiges we info people associate with record-keeping. There's a pervasive buzz. No one has the time to take lunch but it's no time at all to be seen amid the busy-ness.


As John Mancini notes, 55% of all social enterprises even lack a policy for determining how long social content within the firewall should be maintained -- neither tightly-held confidences nor loosely scattering chatter. The more aspirational side of pointing the networking mirror inward was never personal or pernicious. It's not about vanity or bagging / caging the networking wilds behind these walled-in gardens. Says Mancini, it's about "integrating social technologies into processes" ... [rather than lapsing into the corporate IT tradition of...] "creat[ing] standalone networks."

Integration (i.e. the actual 'Plumbing'):

And what of social business system integration?

What could be more disruptive than platforming the social hub as a medium for aggregators and analysts? The opportunity is wide open for curators to unbury the wisdom of the ancients. Remember our ECMs? That intranet that no one had the right time or search commands necessary to connect the dots of once siloed content?

Says Mancini: “If you’re going to have social systems that are engaging, they need to tie back into your other information systems. If you’re microblogging and you can’t access a customer record from within that system, it becomes a frustrating experience.”

Besides this evolving definition for systems of record, Mancini also places a premium on the probabilities of unexpected knowledge sources. Blur the hierarchies, bleed the locations, and enfranchise an open and  vested enterprise of external stakeholders. The discoveries will find us.

But whether actual fortune knocks, we still have some unfinished social integration business to address:

  • What about the social platform as the traffic generator back to legacy systems? What kinds of content facilitation does that mean for migrating the legacy systems into these newer and less structured surroundings?
  • What about the staffing allocations of those photogenic foot soldiers? How do we overlay their account details and revenue goals with their network collaboration efforts?


As Seth Godin likes to point out, no one ever does creative work on their Blackberry (at least not where the analysis isn't reducible to the interconnection of pings to points A and B). So with the advent of social business, are we now asking our shiny new toys to shoulder the more rigorous aspirations of our faltering and enfeebled ECMs?

How much screen estate can be carved up to power drill on the correlations below our dashboards and still come up for air in the middle of a phone conference? It all boils down -- not to data conversions but to actual conversations -- the kind we're willing to have...

  • When does one person's lessons learned debrief become someone else's dirty laundry?
  • When does honest doubt and open debate become someone else's crisis to manage?

Will our social business become as fragmented and diffuse as the surface noise we skim in the public square? Or will our exchanges (masquerading as post email habituation) be tracked, quantified, and demonstrable for the benefit of our bottom lines?

Two takeaways here:

  1. The time for information professionals to community manage those inevitable comparisons is now ... not in the next downturn.
  2. If the ROIs on our dithering ECMs are any indication, the payoffs from social business will remain anecdotal, subjective, and as prone to the whims of message senders as the the teams charged with deciphering and metricizing their reception.  

#etiquette #facebook #integration #culture #governance #SocialBusiness #SharePoint #socialmedia #corporateIT #InformationGovernance