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Adi is a social business blogger and community manager that writes for sites such as Social Business News and Social Media Today. Away from the computer he enjoys cycling, particularly in the Alpes. Adi is a DZone Zone Leader and has posted 1128 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

What is the role of executives in a social business

06.21.2013
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leaderssocialEarlier this year Gartner released a report revealing that 80% of social business efforts fail to achieve the goals they set themselves.  Chief amongst the causes of this failure is the poor leadership provided by those in the C suite.

Having executive buy-in is critical because many internal social projects require a shift in how employees go about their work.  Therefore it often needs top down leadership as well as a more organic bottom up groundswell of change.

So if social business needs strong and effective leadership, what will that look like?  A few things that executives can do to help social businesses to develop and thrive are included below.  They're not an exhaustive list of course, so do please share your own thoughts in the comments.

Help with delivery, not just strategy

We all know that strategy is a big part of the executives role.  That's great, and not in question.  As any consultant will tell you though, telling people what to do is often a whole lot easier than the actual task of doing it.  There is a whole heap of advice and guidance on what you should do to give social business a chance to succeed, which is great, but the actual process of achieving this is likely to be a long and difficult one.  So you need your executives to have the stamina and patience to see this through to its conclusion rather than revel in the glow of the project launch and then shuffle off to their next grand scheme.

Walk the walk

I've written before on the issue of whether your executive team need to be active on social in order for a company to become a social business, with research showing that just 10% of CIOs were active on social media.  That was conducted last year, so things may have improved somewhat, but one suspects it won't have improved by much.

All of which doesn't really help, does it?  Successful social business implementation is, like many other change projects, essentially a human or cultural endeavor.  The project leaders need to understand how social business can change things for the better.  They need to understand how using social tools can foster greater collaboration with colleagues and customers, or how the organization can recruit and retain talent better if they employ talent communities.  The technology side of things is pretty easy, but the human side is far from it.

Getting the ROI right

Ah, good old ROI.  Hopefully by now you've grown to appreciate that measuring followers or posts is not really all that helpful in selling the virtues of social business.  You've learnt that strapping social to the overall goals of the business is essential if you want to prove its importance.

An important aspect of course is the patience I highlighted earlier.  Whilst you may have a long-term goal for social, the chances are that you will experiment a great deal on how best to achieve that.  Having a flexible approach that is ok with your team making mistakes along the way, providing they're learnt from, will help the organisation to learn and develop a more nuanced approach to social.

These are a few things that senior managers can do to help ensure social business works effectively.  Let me know if you have any other ideas in the comments below.