Social Business

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Balancing Tradeoffs in Social Media

Successful enterprise social media use has less to do with the tools employed than with the climate that a company creates. Cultivating the right climate requires balancing a number of tradeoffs through crafted social media policies, adapting characteristics of existing organizational culture, and having managers model effective social media practices for employees. In part 5 of his 5-part series, Gerald C. Kane offers a perspective on how to balance these tradeoffs and create the right mix for a company and its culture.

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How Transparency Changes Business

The Winter 2016 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review explores how increased transparency — and, in particular, the ready flow of information in a digital world — is changing the environment in which corporations operate. Transparency also is changing the distribution of power between large organizations and those who challenge them. Executives need to anticipate the possibility that any issues related to their company could someday be public knowledge.

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How CEOs Can Leverage Twitter

Rather than waiting for impressions about a company to be driven by others in social media, CEOs of large companies can help shape the conversation by becoming active on Twitter. Journalists often check a CEO’s Twitter account before covering the CEO or the company, and certain types of business-related CEO tweets — including tweets about new management initiatives; strategy and performance; and new products and services — have even correlated with positive movement of company stock prices.

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When Customers Become Fans

Beijing-based smartphone maker Xiaomi Inc. has actively involved enthusiastic customers — known as “Mi Fans” — in both software and hardware development processes. Tech-savvy users test interfaces and products as volunteers, doing much of their communication on the Internet. Customer involvement in the product development life cycle has not only helped Xiaomi reduce R&D costs but also enabled the company to cultivate a sense of participation and pride among lead users.

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Using Social Media in Business Disputes

An emergent defensive strategy is being used by both upstart players facing established competitors and by newcomers (such as Tesla, Airbnb, and Uber) facing government regulators. Called “lawsourcing,” the strategy advances legal and public relations goals through social media campaigns, online petitions, and boycotts to draw attention to disputes. These tactics are often framed in moral and ethical terms, and they are being initiated by even very small players.

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How McDonald’s Cooked Up More Transparency

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  • Read Time: 7 min 

The McDonald’s “Our Food. Your Questions.” campaign engaged customers on social media and the web. As manager of brand reputation and public relations for the U.S. McDonald’s Corporation, Lainey Garcia helped put the campaign together. “We had to align those responses across a variety of functions — whether it be legal, supply chain, communications — and really prepare for what we knew consumers were going to ask,” she says. “That was new for many members of our organization, to really understand the nature of social media.”

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Digital Transparency and Permanence

Social media has offered a new means of intra-enterprise communication that has surprising benefits for creativity and innovation. But there are drawbacks as well, mostly relating to issues of transparency and permanence in a digital environment. In part 3 of his 5-part series, Gerald C. Kane offers a perspective on balancing the pros and cons of enterprise social media.

Image courtesy of Steelcase Inc.

The Workplace of the Future

Thanks to technology, business is evolving into an office-less enterprise that’s more mobile and fluid than the “desk jobs” of the past. In a Q&A, Steelcase vice president of Strategy, Research and New Business Innovation Sara Armbruster explains how Steelcase is approaching the challenge as a supplier, changing how they conceptualize the physical environs of the workplace. “In our view, technology is actually a form of culture, a manifestation of our culture and what we value,” she says.

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Social Media Expands Horizons for Workers with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Social media is a tool that allows autistic workers to better express their unique abilities — and tech companies are taking notice. Software giants such as SAP and Microsoft are now actively looking to hire people with autism, and SAP plans to have autistic employees make up at least 1% of its workforce by the year 2020. “Only by employing people who think differently and spark innovation will SAP be prepared to handle the challenges of the 21st century,” says Luisa Delgado, a member of the SAP executive board.

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Thinking Outside the [Penalty] Box

When you think of sports teams using social media to great effect, you probably don’t automatically jump to the NHL’s use of Pinterest — but you should. The league has far outstripped all other sports leagues in gathering a following on the fast-growing social media site, with nearly 50 times the followers of all other leagues combined. Impressive as those results are, its path to success involved following some fairly simple, basic rules of social business.

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Are You Part of the Email Problem?

Over-reliance on email as a communication tool is sapping people of their time and energy. Author, speaker and consultant Phil Simon says there are better ways — and many new and better tools — to do things. "As consumers, it’s never been easier. Hundreds of millions of us use Dropbox, Facebook, Snapchat, texting, Skype, and other tools to communicate with each other," says Simon. "Why do we resist change at work?" Embracing new tools, he argues, will result in better communication and far less wasted time.

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‘People Analytics’ Through Super-Charged ID Badges

The data points employees generate about everything from how often they interrupt others to how many people they sit with at lunch tell surprisingly useful stories. Ben Waber, CEO and co-founder of Humanyze, describes how his company is providing the tools and analytics to interpret this social data, helping businesses identify the best collaborative practices of their most effective people.

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Social Media’s Expanding Relationship Universe

Social psychologists studying technology have created new classes of relationships among people. To understand the potential value of social tools within the enterprise, technology platforms need to take into account four factors identified by researchers studying offline social networks — proximities, interactions, relationships and flows.

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Are Social Media’s Benefits Getting Lost in Translation?

One key positive of social media and social networking is that it encourages communication — between the organization and its customers as well as among employees in different departments or even different business units. But particularly among multinational companies, there is one key drawback: language. Even when companies designate an “official” language for communication, the language barrier can impede both outward-facing customer interactions and internal collaboration. One solution: employ a multilingual approach tailored to the organization’s needs.

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Are You Ready For the Certainty of the Unknown?

The skill set for both companies and individuals of the future will be to embrace impermanence and continual reconfiguring, according to Benn Konsynski, a professor of information systems at Emory University. He says both organizations and employees need to prepare for the “the remix era” and “the certainty of unknown.” He sees “improvisation” as a personal and enterprise necessity in the 21st century.

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Should Employees Be Encouraged to Tweet?

At Mitel, an Ontario business communications company, managers have enlisted 1,600 people to become actively involved in social media. The company believes that all employees are stewards of the brand — and therefore can be trusted to represent it well on social media. Many large companies “do their best to inhibit and restrict employee participation in social or major brand initiatives,” says Martyn Etherington, Mitel's CMO. “We, on the other hand, have tremendous faith and trust in our employees.”

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Simplifying the Enterprise Social Media Landscape

Social media platforms provide two key capabilities in the enterprise context — managing networks and sharing digital content. The problem is, with multitudes of platforms available — and features changing daily! — it’s hard to pick among them. Blogger Gerald C. Kane outlines a simple method for making optimal decisions about which social media platforms an enterprise should use.

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Remaking a Company for the Digital Natives

At USAA, the financial services group, social business is helping the company productively engage both its 26,000 employees as well as its customer base. Renee Horne, the vice president of social business for USAA, says that’s just part of the larger opportunity to make social tools a more holistic and integral part of the company.

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Social Business Is Dead . . .

In recent years, social business has exploded onto the landscape as the centerpiece of the digital economy. But is it, after all, just a passing fad? No… and yes, says blogger Jerry Kane. While social business is here to stay, it is undergoing transformative changes that will make it something very different from what we see today — and business professionals, particularly those in the vanguard of current social business activity, need to be on their toes to be ready for what’s next.

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