How do you make your company more open using social technologies? That is the challenge that Charlene Li discusses in her latest book Open Leadership. She discusses how social media can help organizations become more open and transparent and also share ideas more effectively within the company. She also discusses how to overcome the challenges of implementing an open strategy including changing company culture or executives who view openness as too risky.
According to the book “Most organizations don’t feel they can trust employees to use social media at all in the workplace. A survey by Robert Half Technology of 1,400 CIOs of U.S. companies reported that 54 percent of them block use of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and MySpace in the workplace.”
This demonstrates that many companies still view social media as a time waster and counter to their business goals. However there are many ways that an open strategy can help a company be more effective and profitable.
“I’ve spoken with hundreds of leaders about their desire to tap into the power of social technologies to transform their businesses. They like the idea of being able to hear instantly what their customers are saying about them. They’re curious about the ability to obtain new ideas from customers or to lower their support costs by having customers solve each others’ problems.”
Social media can help develop deeper relationships with customers by showing that there are real people behind the corporation.
Charlene Li writes: “At the core, marketing and communications is about building relationships, but the key is knowing how to do it in a way that feels relevant and “authentic” to someone.”
The book also gives a good argument against focusing too much the ROI of social media which inevitably comes up at large organizations.
She writes: “An undue emphasis on hard ROI does no one any good…Inevitably, we base many of our decisions on just the thinnest sliver of information and evidence or, even more likely, our gut feeling…what’s the ROI of a handshake?…companies invest an inordinate amount of money on relationships…In most cases more than half of a company’s operating expenses are likely to be spent on activities that have an indirect impact on the bottom line. We may not be able to link the ROI of these expenses to direct sales, but we know there’s some incremental benefit that makes them worthwhile.”
However to convince leaders who still need ROI justification, there are some great cost/benefit breakdowns with ROI estimates.
Li also goes beyond theory and provides action plans for an initial openness audit, creating social media guidelines, executing the open strategy, and preparing for failures. She explains different models that organizations can adopt such as organic, centralized, and coordinated because the level of openness will depend on the organization. I would encourage any business leader to read this book, especially if you are a leader at a medium or large organization.
Full Disclosure: I received a review copy