Why are some companies still so scared of social?

I met up up with a friend recently who joined a large well known company a little while ago.

Because both the company and my friend are well known, I won’t go into specifics for obvious reasons.

When I was talking to my friend about the recruitment process, one question they asked him struck me.

Will you stop blogging when you join us?

When I was told this, I was initially quite surprised that a large company would openly ask a well known blogger to stop blogging as a condition of employment.

Luckily the company saw sense when he pushed back, and took that clause out of his letter of offer, and he continues to blog.

After I left our coffee catch-up, I reflected on this and looked at it from the company side.

While I would never work for a company that restricted what is essentially an extension of who I am, I can understand why the company might have started from this position.

In the first part of my review of the Altimeter report on the Evolution of Social Business, one key finding was that the delay in adoption of social and social business is due in many ways to the aprehension felt by senior executives at large firms.

Quoting from page 6 of the report, one of the key barriers is “unaligned executives

Only 52% of companies surveyed agreed with the statement, “Top executives are informed, engaged, and aligned with our social strategy.”

Despite the initial funding that created their positions, many social strategists we interviewed felt that without deep executive support, they didn’t have the validation, direction, and resources to move beyond tactical efforts.

Part of the challenge is that executives don’t understand social media’s potential for business impact — primarily because they have not experienced social media themselves. One social strategist shared, “Many of our board members and executive leaders aren’t even on Facebook, so social media is foreign to them.”

We found that in organizations where executives do not use social technologies, social media as a business tool is often limited in reach and understanding within the organization unless a business case is made.

While some may see this as a criticism of executives, it is hard to lay the blame with people who have never used the tools that many of us take for granted.

What is a criticism though is that some executives don’t see the rapid rise of social business as a huge opportunity for the company.

A report published late last year by Capgemini – also covered in a previous post showed that those that adopt social business are up to 26% more profitable than their peers. This proves there is a real business benefit in adopting social business strategies.

I was also reading a recent interview from the Brunswick Group with Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts titled “The Democratic Republic of Burberry“.

In the interview, she talks about how she turned the executive decision making on its head.

Ahrendts recognized that Burberry employees, like its target customers, are young – 70 per cent of those who work at the company’s headquarters are under the age of 30. To capture this theme institutionally, Ahrendts created two linked bodies that, on the one hand, allow ideas to flourish and, on the other, follow through and turn the best of those ideas into brand-enhancing initiatives.

The Strategic Innovation Council is a formal monthly forum that Ahrendts set up to gather the “young next generation of great thinkers” at the company.

“…the remit of this council is to dream,” she says. Alongside it is the Senior Executive Council, chaired by Ahrendts, who says that its purpose is “to execute this young vision.” These forums send an important message….

“We actually flipped the traditional hierarchy, and the way we communicated these councils showed the entire company that we were serious about being creatively led.”

Reading this gives me goosebumps. Here is a CEO that actually directs her board’s thinking from the strategy developed by a bunch of under 30s.

This is in stark contrast to the company that my friend works for, who nearly had to surrender his creative voice and thought leadership to work there.

I know which company I would want to work for if I had to choose.

The lesson from all of this is that companies need to embrace what is happening.

Those influential bloggers on staff can (and do) become their biggest advocates, and help them engage with this new, empowered and highly connected audience.

Many large companies don’t even know that that have influential bloggers on staff, and can probably greatly assist them as they transition to becoming a social business.

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About 

Based in London, Andrew is an internationally renowned thought leader in the field of social business and social media networks. Andrew is a Global Partner with IBM, with a focus on Social Business.



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  • http://twitter.com/MontseCano/status/316246995754942466/ @MontseCano

    Why are some companies still so scared of social? http://t.co/X1dN3GTbIv #socialmedia

  • http://twitter.com/DennisMSmith/status/316266851023867904/ @DennisMSmith

    RT @RBinhammer: Wow. still? How can we all help? Why are some companies still so scared of social? http://t.co/VnFKChkUNK via @prismatic

  • http://twitter.com/jadisney/status/316300100446081024/ @jadisney

    MT @AndrewGrill Why are companies still so scared of #socialmedia? Burberry example http://t.co/Hif0ywHqF8 HT @lizbbullock

  • http://twitter.com/rmsjobs/status/316332526572539908/ @rmsjobs

    RT @MervynDinnen: ‘Many co’s don’t know they’ve influential bloggers on staff…can assist transition to social business’ http://t.co/NZrCgqFtlT @AndrewGrill

  • http://twitter.com/herahussain/status/316352223573581824/ @herahussain

    RT @CloudNineRec: This is an excellent and fascinating piece from @AndrewGrill – looking at the lack of understanding of social at… http://t.co/d3umq203yN

  • http://twitter.com/JimCahill/status/316362643109715969/ @JimCahill

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  • http://twitter.com/Timothy_Hughes/status/417641671942475776/ @Timothy_Hughes

    RT @AndrewGrill: Rewind: Why are some companies still so scared of social? http://t.co/ShA8U9Wqgg

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    “@AndrewGrill: Rewind: Why are some companies still so scared of social? http://t.co/geMWMRBFhe” <- great blog

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  • Michael Sagar

    The fear factor is evident in an organisation that has its organisational structure still rooted in hierarchies and siloes combined with the command and control processes that go hand in hand with these structures. These Dickensian relics of organisation are somewhat mutually exclusive with the goals of a socialised business since they enforce ingrained thinking , stifle innovation and creativity and render words such as ‘people are our most important assets’ and ‘empowerment’ as no more than clichés! IBM has much to congratulate itself on the extent to which it has become a socialised business and much of their advances and leadership positioning in the marketplace can be attributed to the ways in which it has abandoned those old structures and models and totally embraced a new paradigm. Creativity, empowerment and brand advocacy are in clear evidence as a result, and Ahrends’ / Burberrys efforts and progress could not have materialised without a similar wholesale approach to embracing change from within. There is now growing evidence to support the fact that unless these changes are made then employees simply do not believe in the commitment of the ‘company’ to the social intention, which is now becoming a real threat to corporate survival since employees are already now ‘socially enabled’ whether their company choose to go down that path or not, and will ultimately leave if their expectations are not met. A socially enabled employee will see the dinosaur!

  • http://twitter.com/AndrewGrill/status/478552013584990208/ @AndrewGrill

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