Creating the Social Business – an introduction

The Social Business - An Introduction

Our endlessly evolving communication technologies have already revolutionised the ways we communicate as private individuals. They have changed the ways broadcasters, newspapers and our favourite entertainments reach us – how we find them. How we find all kinds of information, goods and services. They have forced companies to actually communicate – to realise the individual consumer’s power to change public opinion. But these technologies also promise to change the internal face of business once and for all – to finally make work not only more productive, but easier, more intuitive, more fun, more rewarding, more human.

And this is the key starting point – the human element, the individual person whose job is supposed to change through the power of communication and information technology. If the technology does not help or suit the individual employee and her immediate team, if it does not help her do the things she needs to do on a daily basis – then it does not matter how well the technology integrates with a legacy system, or all kinds of business procedures – it simply will not be used, and the investment will have been wasted.

The following introduction to creating the Social Business, takes as its main cue the need to start from the individual experience and work upwards and outwards from there. It is a fundamental principle of our new communication technologies: If it works well for one, it is likely to work even better for many.

And of course, a short introduction will not answer all the questions, nor will it be a perfect and exhaustive blueprint, but we hope it will help set you on the right path.


Business does not run without people, and people connect with each other to get things done. A brilliant idea is never hatched by a blank face on an org-chart, but by someone with a history, a family, a group of friends, a set of preferences. And this person’s idea does not start its journey towards realisation without first being thrust into a complicated game of ping-pong with the minds of many other individuals. Understanding how this process happens at your business is an absolutely essential part of building the foundations of a social business.

You need to really understand your people: what makes them tick, what makes them different from each other, what makes them excited, what absolutely makes them furious, what holds them together in certain groups, what communication preferences they already have, where they get their input from, and so on. The list of topics is long and changes for each company, but in order to start compiling it you need to start talking to people in a systematic way – you need to start conducting interviews, focus groups and send out surveys. You might even start a thorough network analysis, mapping who talks to who, who’s an important node, who hugs information but never passes it on, who’s everyone’s go-to-person for knowing about the juiciest gossip?

Once you’ve gathered together all the information, and analysed it, you should have a strong idea of who actually works for your company or individual unit – how they like to work, and with whom. What gets in their way, and what would help them do a better job.


One of the many problems with legacy IT systems that were supposed to morph into collaboration tools, was the one size fits all dictum. A connected problem was obviously that they weren’t designed to be collaboration tools in the first place. But the one size fits all thinking is the one that has stuck in people’s minds when they think about introducing new IT solutions to harness collective intelligence and foster a sense of community.

To build an online network you clearly need numbers of users, but not all have to use the exact same mix of tools. The use-case should drive the business-case. As in private life, employees should be given the option of building a set of tools and apps that will fit their bill, in addition to being part of the larger group that is the whole company.

It’s about understanding that employees, if given the freedom, and solid direction, will strive to find the best mixture of tools to get the job done. It’s about moving to a looser general framework, within which the “app store” and customisation for groups of users will push the larger community in the right direction. The fundamental idea being, again, to let an individual or a smaller group do something well, at the same time connecting that action to a wider context.


As no communication solution in private life fits all users’ needs, so the tools have developed to deliver unrivalled user experience in their niche. Skype is an excellent phone, video and direct messaging tool. Facebook is perfect for staying up to date with friends and family. Linkedin knows how you would like to present yourself as a professional. The iPad is a solid, elegant and user-friendly platform for hosting all the different individual apps and tools and web pages.

In this perspective, the social business cannot choose to offer its employees tools and apps and hardware that deliver an inferior user experience. The consumer applications have pushed expectations of IT solutions far beyond what is currently delivered within the firewall, in most companies.

But a new breed of enterprise collaboration suites are fast evolving, continuously incorporating the enormous developments that are taking place both in technology and user behaviour. These suites deliver the flexibility and user experience of the app store, with the security and integration needed to comply with data protection policies. They offer the opportunity to grow small and dedicated collaborative groups that connect dynamically to a larger company structure.


Once the decision has been made to upgrade the company’s enterprise social networking tool-kit, the most important questions concern adoption. Traditionally it was thought that communicating about the tool was enough, just as long as the right ‘messaging’ was arrived at, the right tone of voice. But we know now, in this field as in every other sphere of life, that actions speak much louder.

Pushing adoption through action means using the information you gathered when you did your network analysis, to identify teams and individuals who will benefit from the new suit of tools introduced. Then you bring these groups and individuals on board early, you let them play with the functionality, you let them tweak it to fit their needs, you nurture super-users, you create how-to videos and interviews with advocates, you reward creative use by showcasing it.

You start to build a body of evidence – of accumulated actions that speak for themselves. Once you then decide to open up and invite more groups there is a table full examples, ready to show the new users what to do, where the richest pickings are.

You should also keep in mind that the process of adoption never ends. It is a continuous task. People come and people go. So make sure your adoption plan does not end after three weeks of introducing a tool, but runs alongside the community management for as long as the tool is in place.

It takes effort to make something work. It takes lots of effort to make it work really well.

It is key to never lose focus on providing the individual user with a strong localised reason to use the tool or the set of tools you are introducing. The organisational utility will flow from delivering benefit at that most important and fundamental level – making work easier, more intuitive, more fun, more rewarding, more human, for each, and then everyone.

(This post is kindly supported by Jive )




10 steps to a powerful content strategy

It's Open Consulting - 10 steps to a powerful content strategy

The axiom that ‘content is king’ has been with us since the dawn of the web. But these days, it’s not enough to just produce a lot of content and hope that some of it works. With multiple platforms from blogs to websites to Facebook to email newsletters to Twitter — each with its own tone, culture and expectations — content production has never been more complicated. Simply copying chunks of text, video or audio from one platform to another without considering the quirks of that platform’s community results in a disjointed and unsatisfactory experience for your audience.

Part of the problem is that content creation is frequently split across multiple departments, e.g. PR, marketing, internal communications, web, and opportunities to repurpose content are missed. Materials produced at the coal face, such as R&D reports, internal white papers or market analyses, often ends up squirrelled away for internal use only, even if there’s no competitive advantage in doing so. And a lack of co-ordination between teams can result in wasteful duplications of effort.

For businesses to produce relevant, appropriate and effective content, they must now have a content strategy to formalise the planning, management and creation of informational materials. Indeed, a powerful content strategy will unify the creation of content across your company, help uncover hidden content, ensure that the needs of multiple platforms are met, and, ultimately, help you to create a consistent voice across your properties.

In Ten Steps to a Powerful Content Strategy, we offer a simple, clear guide to creating a cohesive content strategy for all your platforms. Essential reading for anyone involved in content production, no matter where or how it is finally published. You can download the free PDF or view the paper on Scribd or read it below.

And if you would like some help creating your own content strategy, please drop us a line!


It’s Open Consulting – 10 Steps to a Powerful Content Strategy



How to use Twitter to engage journalists?

Recent studies have shown that journalists increasingly use social media and Twitter in particular as a source for stories. This trend is bound to increase.

As a consequence many of our clients want to know how they can best use Twitter to engage journalists. They want to know the proper etiquette, the dos and don’ts of how to catch an influential person’s attention and make that person an ally, someone who will help carry a message further.

Like most things social media we argue that this is a question of having something to offer. Without bringing something of value, something useful, to the table, there is little point trying to engage a journalist who is looking for the angle that will make his or her story publishable.

It’s a quid pro quo game really. For why should a journalist give you or your company the time of day if there’s nothing in it for them?

As soon as you adopt a mindset that’s not about “you” or your company, but about meeting the needs of the journalist you’re trying to engage, you’re on the right track.

Below we’ve outlined what we believe are the key principles to engaging journalists through Twitter. We’ve also added the best practical tips to make sure you’re not wasting efforts.

The importance of having a newsworthy story

If you have a relevant and newsworthy story most journalists will need no coaxing. But having a highly newsworthy story is rare.

What makes a story newsworthy often depends on the credibility and the context of the person sharing the story, prior relationships established, the angle chosen – how the story resonates with what is currently being talked about in social media and offline.

Building credibility

A story that comes directly from a recognised authority will immediately gain credibility.

This can be done by introducing a subject matter expert over time – starting to break down the sense of facelessness that comes with a corporate account, using videos, pictures and references to the work a particular person has been doing.

If personalised but still work-related Twitter accounts are an alternative for your organisation, the main corporate account can promote the work and message of the subject matter experts by re-tweeting their messages.

Building relationships

Relationships are established on Twitter much the same way they are in real life. Being “present”, commenting, providing help and suggestions, are all ways to build a rapport that goes beyond the purely instrumental.

It helps if a journalist knows who’s behind a corporate Twitter account. They need to know how to get in touch and deal with a real person. So put a face or at least a name and a title in the Twitter bio. And make clear who’s running the account at press conferences or at any other occasions when media staff spends time with journalists.

Once a personal rapport is established It’s OK to be more informal on Twitter, to just say hi. But don’t push content or ideas if there is no obvious opportunity to do so. The relationship and trust must build over time. Focus on those who are receptive to your tweets. Don’t waste time on people who don’t reply or re-tweet.

Getting the angle right

Having established a few relationships with key journalists, both online and offline, and having followed these over time, it will be easier to know what angle and timing to use.

But as emphasised above the story still needs to be relevant to the journalist you’re targeting. There is no point pitching a softer CSR story to a financial reporter.

The key to getting the angle right is to know the informational needs of the subject matter journalists, to send them the right nugget of information when they need it.

This means that it’s important to know your subject matter as well as the journalist and therefore be able to anticipate what angle to go for when.

So use internal subject matter experts to get the angle and the timing right, perhaps including a quote from them in the tweet, or even better letting them build the rapport with the journalist through their own Twitter feed.

Finding fertile ground

There is little point publishing a lot of information about a certain topic if there is little chance the content will resonate in the prevailing online and offline discussion-climate.

It is key to spend time listening and reading to find the fertile ground where a well-placed story can start to grow.

And it’s often easier to add something to an already existing debate or topic than starting a whole new one alone. Where the conversation is going the audience is already listening.

A journalist will be looking to write a story about a topic that’s “hot”. Provide that journalist with a piece of information that will give the story the push it needs, and you’re likely to be mentioned in a positive way.

 Key practical tips

  • Find and follow them – Find the journalists you want to influence before you need to reach them. If you know who you are looking for you can find them using Twitter Search. If not, Klout is a good way to find influential journalists. If the info there is not sufficient Muckrack is another good place to find journalists on Twitter.
  • Get to know them – Respond to journalists’ Tweets now and again, even the ones that are non-work related. It’s the casual interactions that often build relationships. Read the stories they re-tweet to be able to deliver meaningful feedback. Attention & smart feedback are the purest forms of flattery. If they Tweet their own writing make sure you read that.
  • Make them feel good – Making someone feel singled out in a positive way is an age-old way of making someone feel good about their work, and there is no exception for journalists and online pundits. Re-tweet their tweets, and mention them  (@twitterhandle) when you think what you have to say is particularly relevant for them. It might feel awkward to do so at first, but it works and starts to build a closer relationship.
  • Use Twitter lists – If you want to follow hundreds of journalists on several subjects make lists of these. It will make it easier to monitor all the conversations. And the lists will provide value to the people who follow you.
  • If you have a story you’d like to seed… … Wait for the best moment to seed it. It can be better to be seen to be joining part of an existing conversation, rather than to be perceived as cold calling. So wait for that tweet that gives you an opportunity to respond.
  • Give a journalist a scoop – Make sure you don’t always send out the same information to everyone. This has worked in PR and works online. Next time you have a story that need legs they will be much more likely to carry it for you. You can direct message (DM) someone for this to work, but remember that this only works if someone has already followed you back. We recommend this approach only when you have established a relationship already.

Here are a few sources for your further reading

From Most journalists now get story ideas from social media sources, survey says

Report in PDF format from the Oriella PR Network: The influence game: How news is sourced and managed today