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What If We Could Really Increase Business Performance Through Social Networking?

Warren Rutherford

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Recently I had the opportunity to review a white paper on social networking for a business consulting client. It led to this thought - what level of performance increase could we see in business by more effectively using the opportunities provided through enterprise social software?

We know that we can increase business performance substantially if we pay attention to the knowledge residing within our business. Now, how can we link our business performance to the knowledge exchange that is occurring outside our business - through tools such as YouTube, Blogs, Pod casts, Wikis, video conferencing, social bookmarking, community file sharing, and enterprise social networking sites such as Ecto Connect? Furthermore, how do we integrate this knowledge exchange into our business culture?

We all know that if you define your company's strategy, work with your employees to understand your strategy, align your operations to your strategy, and align your budget to your strategy you will see a significant performance increase.

We also know that selecting employees for the long-term contributions to the business’ long-term strategy (person/future fit), having job descriptions and providing employees regular feedback (formal processes and procedures and professional standards), and understanding that employees work best when motivated by responsibility to each other and the business (family-like community) create the best, long-term workforce alignment.

The knowledge exchange occurring online, largely outside our business, benefits from the social software referenced earlier. As Clay Shirky defined it, social software is “software that supports group interaction. " When this interaction is applied to a business, just add “enterprise" and it is referred to as “enterprise social software. " Heady stuff for an organizational management type like me!

What is interesting about this software is that it stimulates interaction and with increased interaction, properly channeled, it stimulates collaboration. As Becker and Henriksen have noted “what is remarkable is the exchange itself and the organic growth of networks that support it. "

What is intriguing in this observation is how it appears so closely linked to the family-like community that is so valued within an aligned workforce. Let's think about this - what if we could better enable the motivation of our employees to each other and to the business by encouraging the productive use of enterprise social software in our every day business activity? Would that help us to better understand how our business could more effectively relate to our younger workforce?

I watch younger people thrive in online social network communities - YouTube, Wikipedia, and My Space - as well as sharing photos and ideas online. I marvel at how easily they adapt to these experiences - not quite understanding how it can serve a useful, productive purpose. I am changing my mind on that, however.

Let's look at some examples - brought on by the immediacy of the most recent, but certainly not the last of the dramatic run up in fuel costs.

Teleconferencing, webinars, videoconferencing - by themselves somewhat static in the past - are not very interactive. Many of these have been characterized as presentation-oriented, with little opportunity for collaboration. But what happens if they are enhanced and/or combined with other opportunities?

My intuition tells me that this method of collaboration can increase business performance. Let's see how they can be used together:

  • Combine teleconferencing with webinar capabilities all the while enabling document sharing;
  • Enable live presentations and discussions;
  • Create assignments for staff to complete, distribute, share, and encourage other staff to comment on;
  • Evolve “draft" position statements into more complete concepts that can result in actionable items; and
  • Schedule training sessions and workshops using these opportunities for fee paying clients; to name a few.

Interesting - no need to hop on a flight or get in a car. Perhaps we will be able to increase performance and lower costs, thereby resulting in increased profitability - classic! I know, not that simple, but, intriguing nonetheless. In future posts, we will explore more fully. Let me know how you are using it now - it could help to accelerate the change amongst us.

Warren J. Rutherford, President, Rutherford Advisors, Inc. is an Accredited Associate, Institute for Independent Business International, a CMT Accredited Senior Mentor, has certifications as a Behavioral Coach, an Analyst in Axiology, a One Page Business Plan Consultant, and is a BNI Assistant Director in the SE Mass/RI Region. He provides business consulting and mentoring to small and medium sized business, and performs market research for businesses. He can be reached at or at Copyright 2008, Rutherford Advisors, Inc. All rights reserved.


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