A recent survey conducted by Proofpoint found that 8% of companies had terminated employees due to social media usage (common causes including sharing sensitive information on a network). And while the statistic seems significant, it only underscores one of several upcoming challenges nearly every organization will face as changes in people, process and technology fueled by the collective movement we call social media begin to transform business. Here are a few challenges that every organization should be planning for right now:
1. Integration. Becoming a 'social business' (meaning true participation as opposed to leveraging social media as a new form of marketing) can impact nearly every function of a business. Marketing, PR, communications--even supply chain and any function that deals with employees. So where does it live? Is it a department? Do organizations hire a 'Chief Social Officer' much like they would a Chief Technology Officer? All organizations will eventually grapple with integrating social into their entire ecosystem adopting either centralized, distributed or hybrid approaches.
2. Governance. Many organizations now understand that anything that can and will be said about them on the internet will be. The good, the bad, the ugly. And this includes content produced not only from the general public, but also from internal constituents such as employees. Organizations will not only need to begin actively listening so that they are in the know, but they will need rules of engagement for how they deal with multiple types of scenarios from responding to a compliment to dealing with a detractor to following up with an employee who just posted something inappropriate or sensitive.
3. Culture. All organizations fall somewhere on a spectrum of being 'open' or 'closed' meaning that they are either more transparent with how they operate and collaborative or they hoard knowledge internally. Consider that it's probable that the Zappos purchase by Amazon had a good deal to do with their notoriously open culture. Likewise, even Apple, which can be notoriously secretive, is benefiting by leveraging a strategy that opened up their iPhone application ecosystem. Sure Apple has a great deal of control over it, but for the first time in history, they have legions of people developing applications that run on their hardware. Organizations have the potential to benefit from embracing customers and employees in new ways, but will have to manage it intelligently and with purpose.
4. Human Resources. In order to transform from a business to a social business, companies are going to have to upgrade their HR protocols, as well as legal. And it's likely to be a never-ending process as new technologies continually hit the scene. Before there was Twitter, companies scrambled to publish blogging guidelines for employees, now the wrong tweet or Facebook status can get you fired. Organizations will not only need to update guidelines but actually train their people who may be leveraging social technologies for work. Customer service in particular comes to mind.
5. Measurement & ROI. Every organization will continue to struggle with measuring results and reporting ROI. Philosophically, this question can be answered with another question: 'what's the ROI of e-mail'? But it's a question that won't go away. New social constructs will be needed to measure social initiatives such as attention (the size or number of participants actively engaged) or authority (the amount of influence a participant has in the ecosystem). Because social business is enabled by technology, it is by definition measurable. However, tying it to realized revenue or savings becomes more of a challenge.
In order for business to transform into something that can function in a less formal, fast moving social space--it will need to do so at scale. These 5 issues are but a handful of the types of growing pains we'll see as this happens.
David Armano is part of the founding team at Dachis Corporation, an Austin based start-up delivering social business design services. He is both an active practitioner and thinker in the worlds of digital marketing, experience design, and the social web. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/armano