Social business requires a shift in culture and structure to allow for transparency and democratization of processes. This shift does not happen overnight. It’s easy for people to get discouraged and resist change when the transformation process takes time and doesn’t come easy. Hence, social business evangelists such as Jaime Punishill of Citibank, Bob Pearson of Dell (no longer at Dell), and Bryan Rhoads of Intel emerged to help sustain the momentum and promote cultural changes required for social business. Unlike a social media or brand evangelist, this person thinks beyond the scope of marketing to how social channels and behaviors benefit the business across all functions both internally and externally.
Some refer to this position as a Chief Social Media Officer. I don’t think the social business evangelist necessarily needs a specific title, but I do believe the person to shepherd social business possesses five characteristics.
These five characteristics are in addition to excellent interpersonal skills and a passion for social media.
Passion for social media isn’t enough. The evangelist has to be passionate about the business and people associated with it. People who are passionate about the business are deeply committed to it and driven by intrinsic motivation rather than extrinsic rewards according to John Hagel.
Culture makes or breaks social business. For many large companies, social business requires a cultural shift from traditional structures (command and control, information hoarding) to shared responsibilities and transparent processes. This shift does not happen overnight because it requires a change in behavior. This also requires new types of motivations. An evangelist needs to understand and empathize with colleagues who are apt to resist change in order to know how to motivate them. If colleagues feel the evangelist has blue-sky hopes that are unrealistic for the organization, they will lose faith that the evangelist can impact real change and resume old ways of working.
According to Jaime Punishill, Director of Strategic Planning and New Channel Development at Citibank, the time it takes to evangelize social initiatives within an organization should not be underestimated. During our Social Business Summit, Jaime said he spends 25% of his time giving the same exact speech about why and how Citibank should operate as a social business. Jaime illustrates the need for an evangelist to keep pushing the vision and maintain momentum through ongoing education, especially when social initiatives lack desired results and disillusionment overcomes initial excitement.
Evangelists need a vision that gains buy-in and support from the top (C-suite) as well as the bottom (entry-level). At the end of the day, the evangelist must have the political capital to influence the right people within an organization to make change happen. This can be as simple as getting as many people as possible within the organization to participate in the socialization process. When people participate in the process, they feel more invested in the outcome, which increases the likelihood of that outcome occurring.
Many businesses are consumed by debates over who owns what piece of the social strategy, especially during a time when resources are scarce. The evangelist should be able to rise above and maneuver corporate politics without getting tangled by them. This means the evangelist is best positioned when he or she can operate independently of a specific department or group. Obviously, this isn’t possible with an evangelist who emerges (versus hired). To be effective, the evangelist must be aware of competing agendas and demands and find a compromise that will maximize benefits for the whole.
Does your business have a social business evangelist? Are there additional characteristics you would add to this list?
Have you ever gone out of your way to eat at a restaurant just so you could regain your mayorship on Foursquare? A little bit of friendly competition can be a powerful way to change behavior. There is a corollary in the enterprise, and it goes far beyond location. Making the transformation to a social business is going to require new technology, and changes in process and culture. Recently I met with the leadership team from a Houston-based company named ChaiOne who is tackling this opportunity.
While Foursquare is an individual competition, Tribes puts people into teams to accomplish quests and earn rewards for business outcomes like completing an e-learning course, or submitting your time report. You and your tribe grow experience points by doing things like sharing knowledge. Each Tribe has a leader, and members can even switch tribes if they have the permission of both Tribe leaders. If you are into such topics as game theory, social psychology, and game mechanics you will understand how this goes far beyond the simple mayorship or a completion badge.
When there’s an impetus and/or incentives that make people want to contribute, participate, and collaborate in achieving goals, your organizational culture fundamentally changes.
The recurring theme heard in every organization’s journey into becoming more social, is how to change the company culture to lose its command and control attitude, organize itself more like a network, be more collaborative, and to stop hoarding and start sharing information.
What better way to change behavior than to introduce elements of gaming and competitiveness? Think of the Foursquare leaderboard. Everybody wants to see their name in the Top 10. What if your Tribe is depending upon you to complete a task for success? Peer pressure is also a powerful motivator. You might just find that people are turning in their expense reports on time for a change, completing that online e-learning program that they’ve been neglecting, or finishing quarterly reviews of their staff.
In Kate Niederhoffer’s talk at the Social Business Summit in Austin, she referred to a study in social psychology by Elliot Aronson in 1992 that showed that you could change someone’s behavior if they were made aware of an issue, and made a commitment to change their behavior. Not changing creates a hypocrisy condition that introduces an uncomfortable level of cognitive dissonance. One way to make people mindful of a desired behavior is to make a commitment to the rest of their Tribe, and to be on a continual quest to earn badges and points for desired business outcomes.
An example of this might be an employee who you would like to attain a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification status. Rather than just another task, this could become a quest in which the employee is made aware of the benefits of the PMP course knowledge, and makes a commitment to their Tribe to complete the quest. Having the quest badge uncompleted on their intranet page for all their Tribemates to see creates constant mindfulness of the task. Someone in a mentor role could also assign points or other benefits for using PMP principals on-the-job.
Applications like Foursquare and Gowalla are in their infancy, but it is this type of technology, attention to culture and behavior change, combined with support for processes that will help organizations become more socially calibrated.
The way that we work, interact, and reward people in the enterprise of tomorrow will be very different. How likely is your organization to adopt similar concepts?