The recommendation du jour in the social business set is for companies to build a social media center of excellence to serve as a central hub of your burgeoning social enterprise. The problem the analysts and purveyors of this philosophy have is they are myopic to enterprise businesses. They leave 99.5 percent of all businesses out of their per view. (With “small business” defined as those under 100 employees.)
Similarly, on the technology front, it is common to see a “labs” team that tests and hacks away at websites and APIs to plug into social networks and make their site do this or that. Innovation consultants will argue for this team of rogue, start-up like departments as they throw out principles of The Lean Startup and convince companies they should act like small businesses. Again, the problem is that those recommendations are for large companies. Small ones can’t possibly afford to divert staff from the task at hand to hack APIs and teach everyone in the organization about collaboration.
But here’s where the philosophical core of social media may just come in handy. As these large enterprises build their labs squads and centers of excellence, many will share their findings. This is what small businesses must watch and hold out hope for. Sure, companies like Exact Target and HubSpot do it now, but tacked on to lead-gen efforts. The information is generally free and sometimes useful, but there’s a catch.
What needs to happen is non-technology companies crossing the chasm into COEs and Labs approaches should make sharing a priority.
Imagine what would happen if Bank of America or PNC openly shared their findings, experiences, research and even some intellectual property, so that community banks and credit unions could benefit from such. Imagine how many independent insurance agents or real estate brokers could grow by getting industry-specific intel from Nationwide, Morgan Keegan or Century 21.
Sure, those companies would also be sharing their findings with the competition. Sure, there will be traditionalists and lawyers who have conniption fits over sharing intellectual property and information that may surrender a small piece of competitive advantage. But it will make the industry and the world a better place.
Am I naive to think this is possible? Can the companies that enter the COEs and Labs approach actually be social? Yes or no, what can we do now to promote this conversation in hopes companies will take that aim to heart?
The trickle down effect from COEs and Labs might be the biggest single innovation “social business” brings to the table. Let’s figure out how to make that happen.