Posted by Sarah Maddox
I’ve just finished reading Mark Fidelman’s book “SOCIALIZED! How the most successful businesses harness the power of social”. The publisher offered me a copy of the book for review, an offer which I accepted with alacrity and pleasure.
This is an inspirational book. Read it for an injection of excitement. It’s also a practical book. Read it for its action plans and social business playbook, and for the many real-life stories that illustrate the pitfalls and triumphs of organisations navigating our brave new world of social media and organisational change.
The copy on the inside cover is excellent.
It’s not about the platform, it’s about the people.
Hire people who can bend the latest technologies in innovative ways to achieve your purpose. People who will not be afraid, nor complacent, when the next new thing comes along.
I opted for a printed copy of the book rather than an ebook. It’s a pleasant hard-cover format. The cover design combines a light and airy colour scheme with an interesting, detail-filled graphic. The book is easy to hold, and feels satisfyingly smooth and soft to the touch. The fonts chosen for the content are easy on the eye. Congratulations to Mark and the publishing team on a well-presented and attractive book.
In this post, I’d like to take you on a tour of the bits of the book that leapt out and grabbed my attention. But the book is jam-packed with information. When you read it, you’ll find plenty more sections that speak to your specific environment, whether you are already part of a social business or just want to be.
At this point, you may be wondering exactly what a “social business” is. On page xiv of the book is this definition:
“[Social businesses] are businesses that have learned the philosophy and strategy of using social technologies to create more adaptive businesses. Think of a new kind of business that’s agile enough to capture new opportunities, can change shape when confronted with threats, and can call on vibrant communities to support its initiatives.”
Mark goes on to explain that such organisations cultivate internal social networks (digital villages) as well as external ones. But how? The aim of the book is to give the reader a playbook for the social era, to answer just that question.
Getting started with a social mindset
Right on page 1, Mark compares the old and new ways of doing business. In the old way, still prevalent in many organisations, the mindset among top-level management is “do as I say”. The new way is, “I want to hear your opinion”.
Executives must recognise that, to succeed, they must harness the wisdom of the organisation they run. They must set up a cultural framework to gather and manage this wisdom. Part of that framework is formed by collaborative and social technology platforms. Mark makes this bold assertion (page 14):
Some people argue that we should focus more on developing the skills of people and not on the technology to support them, but that is completely false. Technology can be used to influence people’s behavior – it always has.
(There’s a bit of a tension here with what’s on the inside cover: “It’s not about the platform. it’s about the people”. I only noticed the contradiction when reading through this post just before publishing it. I think it’s true that the skills and technology complement each other. They’re pretty entangled, actually. Have we reached cyberpunk utopia? We’re pretty close.)
Mark also puts the interesting and persuasive notion that you need an internal social culture before an external social business will work (page 100).
Six steps towards a business case
The book goes on to present guidelines on using social tools such as Twitter and Facebook. It’s not good enough to use them as just another advertising channel. The key is to interact with customers via those channels, and to give real and valuable information.
Pages 28-36 describe how to build a case for becoming a social business:
- Find the types of people you need (they have cute names like “social butterfly” and “quant”)
- Define the vision
- Find the gaps
- Set your goals
- Create a purpose to rally around
- Build and present the business case
How would your company fare in transforming to a social business?
A survey on page 44 provides an interesting exercise in determining your company’s culture, and then deciding how easily it could transform itself into a social business. The book describes 5 cultural profiles, some of which will make the transformation more easily than others.
(In my own responses to this survey, Atlassian comes in as a mix between profile 1 and profile 5. Interesting – the two extremes, in terms of Mark’s assessment of ability to become a social business. Of course, as Mark points out, individual experiences differ, as do experiences in different business units within the same company.)
The story of IBM
The book tells the fascinating story of how IBM dragged itself out of a pit by revolutionising its social strategies (page 53 onwards). A large part of its success comes from the development of BlueIQ, a centre of competence for social initiatives and collaboration. The aim was to share success stories, methods and patterns, and train volunteers from other areas to become more collaborative and social. More and more people took part, and culture change was underway. Cultural change going viral!
The technology platforms
Mark lists the primary social platforms that companies use to support their digital villages: SharePoint, Jive, Yammer, SAP Streamwork, IBM Connections, Salesforce.com with Chatter and Work.com, and Drupal (page 74).
(I was a bit surprised that Confluence isn’t in the list. I guess there’s an opportunity for Atlassian there.) 🙂
Titbits for technical communicators
If you’re a technical communicator, like me, you’ll find plenty of points in the book that ring true. Here are a few:
- 28% of people who follow a brand on Twitter do it because they want content. 61% want to be first to know information about the brand.
- There’s an entire section describing how “content really is king” (pages 114-7). It’s what technical communicators know from the bottom of our hearts. Mark makes some great points about creating simple, powerful content.
- Businesses need to “hire fantastic writers and a content creation team… Don’t skimp here. Their ability to shape the organization’s story has never been greater” (page 166).
Oh yeah. 😉
Chapter 6 is all about developing a “playbook” and using it to drive your social business plan. The playbook outlines the strategies you want to follow. You will continuously update and refine it based on feedback and results. For me, the core of this chapter is on pages 148 to 167. Here Mark lays down the 15 best practices to follow in your social business playbook.
The social employee
Are you an employee who wants to take an active part in catapulting your company into the social business stratosphere? Some people would say that’s part of our duty to our employers now. Chapter 7 is all about the rise of the social employee, good reading for managers and team members alike.
Nothing can go wrong… go wrong… go wrong…
What happens when things go wrong? And they can go wrong in a big way, when social media are in play. Throughout the book, Mark tells stories of social successes and failures, using real life examples. For the failures, he analyses what went wrong and why, and how the organisation concerned could have acted differently. On pages 243-4, he gives a strategic synthesis of measures you can take to protect your organisation.
Any suggestions for the next edition of the book?
The book has a number of examples of “the 10 ways to do this” or “the five rules for that”. It became a little difficult to differentiate between them and to remember where in the book they occurred.
The table of contents is very high level – it contains just the chapter names. Perhaps a more detailed table of contents would help the reader gain an organised view of the content, and find specific bits again later.
It would also be extremely useful to have a separate list of all the “10 ways” etc sets. They are very valuable and it would be great to have the overview and be able to find them quickly.
Did I say “suggestions for the next edition”? Yes, because this is an excellent and timely book. It’s easy to read and packed with useful information and guidelines. I’m sure there’ll plenty of demand for it now, and for an update in a year or so.
Mark ends the book by saying, “I, for one, am excited about our world’s future. ” An exciting future, yes. And a bit scary. I’d recommend this book for anyone who wants to learn more about handling both those aspects of social business.
The book is SOCIALIZED! How the Most Successful Businesses Harness the Power of Social by Mark Fidelman, published by Bibliomotion, 2013.