Modern Marketing

SXSW Interactive Session Recap: The Social Organization


One of my favorite sessions from SXSW Interactive last week was Gartner analyst Mark McDonald’s session discussing his book The Social Organization. McDonald discussed building a cross-functional collaborative environment within an organization using social media as the catalyst. In order to do so successfully, a company needs to understand the energy, potential, and innovation that’s possible through social collaboration. This understanding lowers the barrier for doing things in new and different ways and can fuel innovation.

McDonald discussed several points and described the benchmarks and milestones associated with becoming a social organization. His first step is to assess the company’s social readiness. He suggests looking for compelling reasons to bring social collaboration tools inside the organization. Two reasons that immediately come to mind for B2B marketing would be to cultivate a community for your work place, and to work with colleagues in real-time without boundaries.

In order to get your executives on board, McDonald emphasizes the importance of having a strategy. “It starts with a vision for mass collaboration, a set of purposes that you can apply to social media and be successful.” This includes identifying issues that appeal to employees, customers, and suppliers, and then building a strategy around using social collaboration to encourage a new approach to better serve those involved.

The size of your social community within your organization matters as well.  It’s best practice to observe the percentage of the organization that is adopting the tool.  I have read industry examples that cite 40% as a nice goal.  McDonald had a clever way of judging success based on a large enterprise, “A collaborative community of below 50 people is a fan club, below three it’s your family, below one it’s narcissism.”

The right social collaboration platform can be a transformational tool for almost any sized business if it is correctly implemented. McDonald described how doing so allows your company culture to be an executable instead of a constraint. “When organizations say we can’t do X because it’s against our culture, or our culture won’t let us change, these tools provide an opportunity for the culture to become much more dynamic.” This type of thinking combined with a solid B2B social media strategy can be the competitive advantage that sets a company apart from the late adopters.

In his closing statement McDonald spoke about the challenges in implementing such a tool in the workplace. “People who are good and know their job already do this naturally, not necessarily through social media, but they coach others. People who are lousy at their job need to be doing this because they need to learn from others. It’s a much more powerful way of making those values more visible.” Although I don’t agree with using the term “lousy” when describing an employee, I think he hit the nail on the head.

As a B2B Marketer, here are my key takeaways from this session:

  • Social collaboration can lower the barrier for trying new things and working in new ways.
  • Having a strategy for social collaboration in place before approaching your executives is vital to get them on board.
  • Social collaboration tools should seek to rapidly achieve an adoption rate close to 40% to be most impactful.
  • Social collaboration tools when implemented correctly can turn a company’s culture into an executable, not a constraint.

Is your organization using a social collaboration tool such as Socialcast, Yammer, or Chatter? How is it transforming the way you work?