Becoming a customer company is a multi-dimensional journey that starts with a listening and learning culture, selling as a team, servicing customers everywhere, creating communities, connecting with partners, including products in the social network graph, and delivering a unique customer experience. I asked Jacob Morgan, author of The Collaborative Organization, for his views on the five most important social media benefits that businesses should exploit.

Here are his tips and insights.

1. Tap your business’s collective intelligence

Organizations are no longer forced to rely on single individuals or teams for breakthroughs. They now have the ability to leverage the experience and wisdom of their entire workforce to identify an opportunity or solve a problem. After speaking at a conference recently, an executive at a large oil and gas company told Jacob how they had long struggled with drills melting at extremely high temperatures. They posed the problem through their collaborative platform for the thousands of employees to address and received a solution that saved them more than a billion dollars.

2. Find people and information more easily (knowledge management) 

Email and static intranets, the default forms of communication and collaboration within many organizations, are just not efficient. About 25-30 percent of an employee’s work week is spent in front of a large amount of duplicated email content. Enterprise collaboration platforms provide a much more effective means for finding people and information-;one which is self-sufficient, meaning you don’t need to ask anyone for anything, and also empowering to the employees. Since deploying a series of collaboration tools and strategies four months ago at Jacob’s company, Chess Media Group, he has sent only six emails; so yes, this is applicable even for smaller businesses.

3. Cultivate serendipity

Being able to rapidly locate a person or piece of information that can improve a situation is a valuable thing. Organizations who deploy collaborative solutions greatly improve the chances of this happening. Employees can discover information which they can contribute to and build on. Lowe’s Home Improvement saw this first hand when an employee at one store requested a much higher inventory of a product than any other store had requested. When this employee shared her demo that was selling out the product, the other locations quickly followed. This demo-sharing by an employee asking for additional inventory resulted in more than a million dollars of additional revenue for the chain.

4. Motivate all employees to lead

When people think of a leader within their company they typically assume it has to be an executive. Social media changes this. All employees now have a voice and a platform for sharing ideas with everyone in the company. These employees have the ability to become leaders in their own right on any topic that they care about. One of the world’s largest consulting firms has seen the blogs written by some of their junior and mid-level staff members attract the largest followings. The authors of these blogs are not executives, but they are leaders who everyone listens to.

5. Flatten your organization

Social businesses are abandoning the old hierarchical and opaque organizational style. Employees, managers, and executives are sharing their work progress, their outlooks, meeting notes, and developments within their departments in a discoverable and public way. This provides greater insight for employees to understand not just what is happening in their department, but how their individual contributions are having an impact on the business. Managers and executives are able to interact and engage with anyone at any level and vice versa. Entry-level employees can communicate directly with top-level executives, who have the opportunity to discover and recognize employee ideas in a public way. The CEO of the world’s largest grocery retailer prides himself on how quickly he can gain insight, discover ideas, and recognize employees through an internal Twitter-like feed. Sometimes it is something as simple as liking an employee’s idea while sitting in a cab at a red light. Small recognitions can have a great impact.

 The ability to connect and engage with people and information anywhere, anytime, and on any device began with the consumer Web and social media, but is now transforming business. The smart organizations are the ones who recognize this and exploit it to become collaborative, social businesses.

Published on: Apr 7, 2014