Running from one meeting to the next at the SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas last week I saw a tweet about an interview with Dell president, Steve Felice, asking CEOs to get social, referring them to use LinkedIn and Chatter "to listen to what employees and customers are saying." Sounds right? Not at all. Putting aside the fact that both tools are useless to listen to customers, it misses the whole point of social: be social. You can't just use some tools and hope things will work wonderfully. Social is not a sticker you can buy; it is how you approach your business. It is about relationships, about communicating more natural in a digital world. But first and foremost it is about bringing the human aspect back to work. Not (just) for humanity but to raise the bar in human productivity.
It is all about adoption
Trust me on that. We are building some of the greatest social technologies available on the planet and still the #1 problem is not the product, it is adoption. There are two levels of adoption: People and Business. People Adoption is not just about how many have access but how many actually care. Business Adoption is all about how integrated the social idea is in your business. Let me share an example to illustrate how the two are related. At Overstock.com, one of our customers, the executive team made it their mission to keep the team updated on what is going on in the company. At the monthly town hall meetings so many ideas were discussed that the team decided to make the monthly offline meeting a daily social experience online. Today 40% of the staff is sharing ideas - daily. First, people wanted new ideas (in an offline meeting), and now it is an integrated part of their business. Sure they use our software, but their primary goal is innovation.
Social is mainstream; Now make it a reality
While I agree with the general idea that CEOs need to be more social, I wonder why stating the obvious still makes news. We are at the end of 2012, and if anything, this year was the year social became mainstream. Microsoft acquired Yammer to catch up with the market; SAP made some sort of announcement; and when I look at our own numbers, it is clear that social rocks. What is missing in the conversation is the underlying fundamental shift that is happening in the workplace. It is not about "adding" social; it is about living and breathing the social workplace. We are way past the point you could build a little tool and call it social, or just add an activity stream. You need to build social right into your business solutions and build them on your strategic ecosystem.
Social is not a product, it's a way of (business) life
As the basic idea of social is adopted by mainstream organizations, you ask for integrations in your existing ecosystems, like SAP, SharePoint, or Salesforce.com. You made major investments in those systems and while you want to embrace social, you want the full ecosystem support from the start. When I showed how we build social business solutions deeply integrated in SharePoint and SAP processes at the SharePoint Conference, the feedback was phenomenal. I’ve never seen so many smiling faces in a breakout session when the crowd realized that you can have social be tightly integrated with your daily work. It was almost a relief to everyone that they would not need to rebuild the entire process stack and introduce a new tool to their workforce.
Be Social or die
My core message is: social is a business fact you can't ignore. You can believe in it, like I do, or you can listen to the facts that it makes your business more productive. Ignoring it is not an option.