Social Media Meets Social Collaboration. Or Not.

My fellow Enterprise Irregular Susan Scrupski posted last month on the split between enterprise initiatives in social media (external-facing marketing) and social collaboration (mostly internal work production and knowledge sharing) – apparently the number of organizations actually integrating these efforts is near-zero. I don’t find this particular surprising, since the people involved and the purposes of the initiatives are quite different, but it doesn’t bode well for efforts to directly connect internal business processes to customers via social media. I started to incorporate themes of linking external social presence into core business processes (recorded screencast here) a couple of years ago in my presentations and writing, based on my own experiences as well as those of my clients. However, when I talk about that Zipcar/Twitter example today, I still get a lot of “wow” reactions in the audience: for most organizations, the idea that social media can be directly integrated as a near-real-time customer interaction channel seems like science fiction. And even for those that do see social media as a customer engagement channel, it often has serious limitations: as soon as you actually need to do a “transaction”, the social media team has to hand off to an operations team, usually requiring that the customer restart their interaction over again through a different channel.

Many organizations are still struggling with the idea of internal social collaboration. Although the software functionality for the social enterprise is robust, and has become integrated with line-of-business functionality such as in BPM and ERP systems, I’m still working with many traditional industries, where managers still want to know exactly how how long people spend on break, and certainly don’t trust them enough to enable on-demand collaboration features in their systems. Although, of course, the workers do collaborate: they just do it outside the systems, creating hidden business processes that provide the collaborative and dynamic aspects using (primarily) email.

This is more than just an outside-in realignment, although that’s a necessary starting point: there’s a combination of technology and corporate culture that needs to allow for the direct connection of external social media and internal social collaboration.

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