The one with the crowdsourced research

Every business should be social. Everyone should be forming into empowered communities and revolutionising the way the business operates. Innovation should come from everywhere. Being social is JUST good business. Businesses are boundary-less and customers and employees should be talking openly.

Anyone else heard stuff like this? Those are just the statements I’ve seen in the last 4 days. Unfortunately when I saw them I didn’t realise I was going to write this so I can’t tell you who they came from but they are all from Twitter.

I know lots of people who are very passionate about social media and the impact it can have on organisations and they range in their fervour from the table thumping ‘if they don’t get it they should just join the Amish and move out of the way’ to ‘if they don’t get it then that’s cool and I can take advantage of it’. Whilst these people are often impassioned the conversation doesn’t always get to the ‘why’ and how one could build a compelling argument for undertaking fairly significant organisational change towards the mythical ‘Social Enterprise’ at the end of the rainbow.

Then I had an “Italian Job” moment and this post is the result of that idea….

My idea is to ask anyone and everyone to share either research or case studies on the success of social within organisations. The definitions of success can be varied across commercial, engagement, innovation, collaboration or anything that would make a compelling argument to someone with positive intent towards social but needs evidence to get them over the line. I will happily follow-up on any links, journal articles or similar. I have full academic library access at present so happy for them to be in expensive journals. Points will be deducted for case studies based on organisations that have started as social but there could be some interesting outcomes so deductions will be minimal 😉

I will share any content I manage to pull together with anyone who comments on this post (as long as you put your e-mail address in the e-mail field) but thought this would be a good opportunity to use the wisdom of crowds to try to gather something empiric to help the impassioned folks (and me) make a compelling argument. What I have in mind is information that you could present to someone who has the ‘in God we trust, everyone else bring data to the table’ mindset and convince them. No big ask then!

It will also be an interesting crowd sourcing experiment and my sense is it will either fly or be the least commented post ever….up to you really!



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16 responses to “The one with the crowdsourced research

  1. Great idea Rob! I’ll get digging ;). I think the challenge is that we are all struggling with the term social. Two things are colliding here – open collaboration and social media. The former is a long standing habit with benefits, the latter a mere point in how collaboration is facilitated.

    Unfortunately the latter is getting the focus, the hype and the scepticism. and possibly rightly so – we got similarly excited about the “Internet” when in appeared but it’s now just part of business as usual.

    Terms like “social business” don’t help in my view and in the longer term we won’t be using them. After all we don’t say “Internet business” anymore do we? But there is no argument – from me anyway 😉 – that customers and employees should be taking openly and employees should be truly empowered to collaborate and innovate as they see fit.

    The challenge? It’s early days. 99% of the orgs around the globe are formed around the command and control model so finding good examples of what you ask for is hard. And whilst they remain scarce it gives those in the 99% bracket the opportunity to say it will never fly!

  2. Social Media has helped both me and the organisations I have worked for in many ways. By way of examples, I have:

    • I use it to glean expert advice, introductions and overviews on 3rd party offerings ;
    • discovered new and appropriate Learning & Development tools, such as those offered by Trainers’ Kitbag, tested them myself and then introduced some into my organisation to enhance performance and individual/team awareness;
    • sought comments to justify my negotiations when I believe that a provider’s proposed terms are inappropriate;
    • met other HR professionals and established some excellent networks that have expanded my own knowledge;
    • used it to attract new employees and clients for our business;
    • sought employee involvement in various online groups to enhance my organisation’s reputation;
    • raised awareness of our employer brand and opportunities we provide both to employees and clients;
    • introduced appropriate individuals to others in other organisations who are seeking to recruit, thereby helping both parties (3 new employees and happy employers to date);
    • contributed to topical debate (e.g. on corporate governance and ways of enhancing diversity at all levels in a business) – I have learned from this, and have made new contacts for myself and the group I work;
    • being social is a great way to raise awareness of my employer’s profile and services without resorting to advertising; and, almost most importantly, I have
    • made friends whom I know will help me both now and going forward.

    I’m happy to provide specific examples and/or to discuss any/all of the above with interested parties.

  3. Hi Rob

    This is a great idea and I would love to hear the results (have dropped my email in).
    Personally I have found huge benefits in using social tools within my profession and I am trying to introduce similar tools within our workspace.

    We are a multi-site operation and there is tendancy to work in silos and I really believe using these tools will help to break this down, share best practice and ensure employees across the organisation have a voice.

    Really good idea and look forward to the input to follow


  4. Hi Rob
    A couple of suggestions for you. Firstly take a look at the Jive case study pages. Some really good stuff there on internal collaboration and communication via an enterprise social platform.

    One of my clients uses the system and has had some fantastic results taking internal comms “social”

    Secondly going off at a slight tangent but in way that is still relevant, take a look at plugins like Rapportive (recently bought by LinkedIn). It uses the Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter API to put huge amounts of “social information” alongside email you have received from that person. It is a huge wake up call for companies that think they still have control over their brand and corporate comms!

    Finally this article may be of interest. Only strictly relevant in the US but it perhaps shows that ultimately corporate social media policies and restrictions will be a complete waste of time

    Hope that helps!


  5. Hi Rob
    I helped set up a knowledge sharing event at the last corporate I worked for (FTSE 100 company). We used internal tools such as Yammer and an internal blog to help support a weekly knowledge sharing event. The business was going through enormous change (shifting from print to online – we were a publisher) and the events helped the wider editorial community (of 400) learn new ways of doing things, share ideas and make connections.
    When I left the company the event was still going (after nearly two years).
    In terms of data, I am waiting on attendance figures (it was averaging around 20 people or more a week) but there were more attendees than to traditional courses provided by the L&D team and at a much lower cost. There was a cost saving.
    Anecdotally, we know regular attendees were adopting some of the things they were picking up at the events which helped their teams move forward more quickly.
    Happy to share stats when I get them.
    I also ran an internal blog which became a comms channel for about 70 people across the team. Not sure how you put a value against that, but it proved useful for the team (from feedback).
    Not sure I have given you what you need here but hope I can share some useful data when I get it.

  6. Following on from Kate and Matt’s great points, you might want to also look at telligent. They have both internal and external products:

    I have only worked with them on the external/customer facing side. They have case studies but its not clear which is which but they do have a video with some nice compelling stats about ROI on the use of the internal platform. If you want me to i can put you in touch with the guys there who can do a deeper dive with you on evidence/case studies.

    In case it got lost in the twitter banter yesterday, you might also want to look at It is powered by Lithium and whilst they dont do internal collaboration platforms, this is one of the nearest examples of a company with a single ecosystem – where the internal and external lines are blurred as per @felixwetzels point. It was easier for them as they are a young business of course, BUT they are born out of a traditional telco.

    There is an interesting book written by a guy called Dr Michael Wu – the founder of Lithium – The Science of Social. Its focus is on the external but there are some interesting content that applies to the organisation as a whole. There are also some very interesting data points in there about ROI – including some from GiffGaff.

    Finally, did you catch the employee handbook from Valve, the games company that was doing the rounds? Interesting read – i can send you a copy if you missed it.

    Ill keep digging!

  7. Seen this? x

  8. Hi – does blogging count as social? If it does then I ran a blogging experiment whilst working at BT. It was designed as a way of sharing customer and colleague experiences and it delivered something unexpected. People started sharing ideas and observations on how we could improve the way we were working.

    Someone spotted that loads of employees were using multiple handheld devices, phones, crackberries etc. Reduced this to one per person and saved £60,000 per annum in rentals plus less devices to register and maintain.

    Someone spotted that our internal eyecare voucher scheme was largely a manual process. We got it shifted to online and saved something like £120,000 a year in postage and stationery, and loads of time saved too.

    Someone spotted a really dumb five stage sign off process which we got reduced to two stages and improved customer response times by 80%.

    None of us who collaborated and delivered on these ideas knew each other beforehand, the blog was the tool that brought us together.

    There you go – real benefits delivered by real people.

    I made a mistake in that I should have devolved ownership of the blog among a group of us. I didn’t and when I left, the thing fizzled out, proving that even when good ideas surface and prosper, the pull of the familiar is strong.

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  10. The following view are purely my own and not that of my employer…

    I work in digital marketing, so my perspective is one of communications, marketing, branding and engagement rather than organisational influence, although I do find myself communicating with more and more colleagues through channels such as Twitter more frequently. I also find Twitter invaluable when it comes to asking questions, sharing links to resources and tracking down stats and information.

    From a wider digital marketing landscape, of course social media has impacted brands, businesses and organisations. However, since ‘social media’ first really started being labelled as such in 2007/8, we have reached a certain point. Technology and our use of it has evolved exponentially since then and I believe that ‘social media’ is no longer a ‘thing’ – it’s part of the way we communicate using tools available to us in the digital world.

    People are still discussing ‘social media’ as an isolated phenomenon – and indeed, the same could be true for ‘digital marketing’. But the latter is no longer a specialist discipline – we market to a digitally connected world, and digital channels are one way of reaching consumers, along with press, advertising, TV etc. Digital channels are simply part of an integrated communications process rather than a separate discipline. The channels have their own constraints and rules, but you don’t talk about having a ‘newspaper advert’ department or a ‘tube advertising’ strategy.

    The same can be said of social media. Again; of course social media channels have their own rules, challenges and conventions, but we are fundamentally human beings and social media are an array of tools that we can choose to use from the digital toolkit.

    Twitter, Facebook etc. are tools.

    Everything is social.

    And as with any communications task, success depends on the right strategic approach for your objectives, which may – or may not – require ‘social media channels’ as part of this.

  11. Hi Rob. The beauty of the debate is that it spurs action! So i have decided the research is a good thing as it will help – hopefully – to underpin my own passion which is pretty empty without evidence as you suggest, even if I believe intuitively that this approach is right, hard evidence or not.

    So i’ve been digging around and have found a few things that might be useful. A couple of examples recently found:

    Who’s thge Boss? There isnt one. A recent article in the WSJ.

    The Valve employee handbook if you havent already seen it

    An FT article from March on the social workplace

    I have started a Diigo page where im bookmarking all that seems interesting, including the above links. Im experimenting with it – might be good to find a place where we can collectively bookmark. It’s a bit untidy at the moment but includes other links, including some interesting presentations and video’s from a recent Institute of Digital Marketing event.

    I will keep digging… 😉

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