Towards a More Social Organization


Chief Social Officer The discussion around social media at this point in time is merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to the breadth and depth of change that is being created in organizations of all sizes around the world. While some like Steve Rubel will argue that this emphasis is a passing fad and social media is merely another channel that will be thought of eventually as media, I disagree. By looking at this era in such a short sighted way, you miss what Doc Searls talks about as the ‘greater significance ’ of this transformative technology.

I contend that the rise of Social Media is the catalyst that will ultimately transform our world of work, our economy and our entire society. It will propel us to evolve from being industrial organizations, focused on increasing throughput and efficiencies of production processes to becoming social organizations, with a true emphasis on people over processes and technologies. Surely, Steve and others who feel the same way are right in thinking that the technologies will one day be thought of as simple tools (like pencils are today). You would also be right to assume that one day, the newness of what makes this different will be worn down to the point that we refer to a lot of what is happening more broadly as simply media.

However, to de-emphasize it at this time destroys the all important context that contains the most valuable and nutritious part of the signal we are trying to send around the world. That it is time for us to return to being social with one another, to look at other people (especially those who are different from us) as our ‘friends’ and to really think about how our decisions and actions can positively or negatively affect other people. In short, our organizations and the way we operate them need to become more socially oriented, truly engaged in the market conversation.

In a recent discussion with my Social Media Playbook co-author Brian Solis , we started to bring together all these points that we have been discussing with others for the past two years. Social Media is not just about how an enterprise does its marketing, but how all the people in the enterprise talks with its market.

Yes there is an internal employee to external stakeholder communications path, but there is also a collaboration element added to this – a social sense of working together for common goals. To be really successful however requires more then proficiency with this one aspect of managing your organization. It also requires you to develop deeper expertise with your communications and collaborations process between employees; between employees and partners; and even in some cases between external stakeholders and other external stakeholders.

This includes marketing, customer support, product development, research, partner relationships, internal collaboration, information technology, and even facilities. There is no aspect of your organization that will go untouched. This is not some pie in the sky vision of a far off utopian future, this is what many people/consumers are clamoring for. Tired of being sold to ant talked at, advertising is less effective then ever before and efforts are underway to turn CRM upside down in favor of VRM (Vendor Relationship Management) .

This is not to say that we are supposed to turn away from profitability, far from it. By increasing the efficiency of market interactions, there is a greater chance for profitability; for good companies to become great companies; and for bad companies to just die off. Companies need to be profitable in order to grow and flourish and continue to do good for the world – as the saying goes, you are either thriving or dying and seldom if ever just stagnant. The difference between where we are today and where we will be tomorrow can be summed up as reasonable profitability with market cultivating behaviour as opposed to exploitative profitability and predatory behaviour.

While today you can gain a competitive advantage through the proper applications of Social Media, tomorrow it will be the price of admission for every market. So the question we are trying to help you answer with The Social Media Playbook is not how do I use Social Media for Marketing or Public Relations, but rather how do you transform your company into a social organization.

To this end, I see the potential for a new position in many larger organizations – for someone to wear the hat of the Chief Social Officer. While this responsibility could be held in any of the existing C-Suite titles, in larger organizations I believe it is necessary to have one person overseeing these efforts. Their needs to be someone with the authority, leadership, vision and yes, power, in order to effect change of this magnitude, as Michael Dell did over the past several years.

Why do we need a Chief Social Officer? Because embracing social media is embracing change management; changing the way teams collaborate; improving our relationships with customers; affecting our interaction with partners; overseeing customer support; empowering sales people to be purchase support; altering our product innovation and creation processes; and ultimately, bringing us out of the industrial age, beyond the information age and into a new age of enlightenment. It requires us to break down, once and for all, the silo walls that separate groups, the moats that have created fiefdoms of power and the interpersonal bullshit that prevents us from seeing that we all want what’s best, even if we have different ideas of how to do it.

In a recent McKinsey report, they talked about The Evolving role of the CMO , and the increased demands (related to these responsibilities) being put upon the position. I believe, as the report suggested, that the CMO should be the voice of the customer across the organization. The CMO/CEO and Chief Social Officer can and should co-exist and work together to bring about organizational transformation.

This is a new world of work, where knowledge, applied with compassion, creates a sustainable economy and a more peaceful world by transforming the very heart of business.

What are you doing to make your organization more social? How are you “being the change you want to see most in the world?”

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