Gran Canaria - Roque Bentayga in the WinterWhile I was pondering further along preparing my coming back to blogging I just couldn’t help reflecting on a good number of the various different articles that I have posted over here in the last few months, some of them exposing, quite frankly, perhaps too bluntly, at times, some of the various different challenges that Social Business, still today in 2013, keeps facing in order to provoke that massive business transformation we have all been anticipating for quite a bit. And it looks like some of those articles themselves seemed to have struck a chord with you folks out there as well, because, judging from the Top 10 Most Popular Blog Posts in 2012 at http://elsua.net, I can see how some of them have made us dive deeper into some amazing conversations that will help us quite a bit, I suspect, tackle those business challenges in 2013 and beyond. 

And that is a good thing, except that I suppose that’s just the beginning of what we have got to face ahead of us still. More than anything else, because in the last three months, while I was mostly away from this blog, I kept bumping into a couple of relatively new challenges that I think are going to present lots of great opportunities for us all in the year ahead in the space of Social Business. Both of them being rather unexpected, specially, if you judge the last 3 to 5 years in this space. And here is why … 

But before we go deeper into that, and since I guess you may all be a bit curious as to what were those Top 10 Most Popular Blog Posts from 2012 from http://elsua.net I have taken the liberty of including the titles, with the their links, over here, so that you may have another chance to take a look into them, and with the end goal for myself as well to perhaps take another look later on this year and see how those challenges have been addressed, or how they may have evolved altogether, if at all. It should be quite an interesting exercise, don’t you think? Here is the list: 

Top 10 Most Popular Blog Posts in 2012 at http://elsua.net

  1. Twitter Is Where Conversations Go To Die
  2. Dear Social Business Evangelist, Where Art Thou?
  3. Why Social Business Keeps Failing to Deliver
  4. Liberate Your Company Through Employee Engagement
  5. Reflections from 2011 – A World Without eMail – The Documentary
  6. Productivity Tips on Presentations: Inform, Inspire and Motivate
  7. @Janetter or How I Started to Enjoy Twitter Once Again
  8. Once Upon a Time … The Power of Storytelling in Business
  9. Why Do I Share My Knowledge?
  10. 40-Hour Work Work – The Magic of Sustainable Growth 

Ok, back to what I feel would be the main two key business challenges for Social Business over the course of the next few months. One of them I have already talked about it on a recent publication I quoted over here in my previous blog post and the second one I’m going to leave it for a little bit later in the month, once I have got some additional confirmation details as to whether it will turn itself into a challenge, or perhaps just another opportunity. So let’s go and talk about

Challenge #1 for Social Business: Social Networking Is Just for Fun

Yes, I know what you are all thinking about. It’s not really that much of a relatively new challenge, since it’s probably been there all along. And you are probably right. I think what I am referring to now though is how over the course of the last few months that whole aspect of social networking just for fun has been amplified tremendously judging by the huge impact that social technologies have been having in our societies as a whole! Gran Canaria in the Winter

And perhaps for a good number of reasons, too! Whether businesses are still blocking the use of social networks behind the firewall empowering inadvertently their knowledge workers to make that assumption (and rightly so!) that social tools are just meant to be utilised for personal use, outside of work; whether it’s because knowledge workers do not want to mix personal / private AND work as part of the same entity (Themselves!) -this may well be a cultural thing that could vary from one country to another, or one geography to another; whether we are reaching way beyond the two year threshold for Social Business within the corporate world and we are still bumping into research studies that keep confirming how 70% of the Enterprise 2.0 deployments have / will fail to deliver, which doesn’t sound too welcoming for those knowledge workers who see the many benefits for themselves with regards to Social, yet, it hasn’t struck a chord when they enter the firewall. 

I eventually wrote more extensively about this particular challenge at the end of last year on that CMSWire article that I got published under the heading “Social Business in 2013: A Challenge, An Opportunity, A Commitment“, but I think it would be worth while quoting the section Social Business in 2013 – A Challenge to see where I’m coming from and perhaps for you folks as well to confirm whether that perception is something that you may have seen, or experienced, or talked about in the last few months. To quote: 

For a good number of years we have witnessed plenty of businesses insisting on blocking the use of social networking tools within the firewall, hoping to stop the use of these social technologies in order to prevent wasted time while at work. This has now essentially backfired, as we have all seen the use of social media tools increasing more and more over time. Erik Qualman recently showed this in the next take of Social Media 2013 video clips.

On its own, this presents a good challenge for Social Business, because as fewer and fewer businesses block social networking tools, knowledge workers have increased their exposure and extended use of social tools in their personal lives, but not in relation to their work. And they would like to keep it this way.

If you take a look into rather revealing elements like Twitter’s Trending Topics, Facebook and LinkedIn’s timelines, or Trending in Google Plus, you will see how we do have a rather interesting challenge for 2013 where businesses will need to focus not on driving the internal and external adoption of social software, but on strongly convincing their own knowledge workers that social technologies can be used as well as business tools. Right now, we are starting to see how workers remain unconvinced, while being incredibly active on social media from a personal, private perspective.“

I can imagine how there would be plenty of knowledge workers out there who may not be too sure about this being necessarily too much of a challenge, but I am starting to suspect it will be. If fact, it is already! Just look around you how many fellow colleagues you know at work who are incredibly social outside the firewall engaging in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, and whatever else, yet when you look around inside the firewall they keep using the same good old traditional collaborative tools: email, Instant Messaging, even the phone! And it gets worse, perhaps, because when you ask them why they are not using internal social networking tools deployed by their company they take a rather defensive position stating how no-one should determine what’s best for them. They surely know better! They just don’t want to mix pleasure AND work together, because, you know, after all, you just can’t have fun while at work. It would show like you are slacking off! 

And that is going to be a challenge! And a quite ironic one, too! Because if you look into it, we have spent several years now trying to convince people of the genuine value behind social networking activities to help improve and augment the way we collaborate and share our knowledge out in the open much more effectively and once we did that something went wrong along the lines and, instead, that value just remained intact for personal, private matters, whereas in a work environment email still rules, or so they tell me. My initial reaction, of course, is… Really? But then over the course of the last few weeks, and in all of the various different customer or internal Social Business enablement events, workshops, seminars, conference events, etc. etc. I have attended and participated in that worst case scenario keeps getting confirmed. Sadly. 

Gran Canaria - Artenara in the WinterWhat can we, social business evangelists, do then? Well, there are plenty of things that we could do to address this challenge and turn it into a huge opportunity for Social Business, but I’m just going to focus on a couple of them that I have decided to become even stronger about them than ever before as part of my focus areas for 2013 and beyond. The first one, of course, as you may well have guessed, is to keep pushing for “A World Without eMail, now that we (Yes, indeed, I can now call it a Movement and very soon you will find out plenty more why!) are just about to enter its 5th anniversary since I first ditched corporate work email at IBM and instead decided to lead by example, embracing social networking tools not just for work, but also as a philosophy, as a way of life, that is, social networking enhancing living a life in perpetual beta as my good friend Harold Jarche would probably say as well. 

The thing though is that the stakes are higher. Much higher than in February 2008 when that little crazy idea of giving up on corporate email came about through my brain and decided to give it a go, why not?, despite people telling me I was (Probably still am!) rather crazy to do such thing and how perhaps I may well be on my way out getting fired in under two weeks. Well, 5 years on, and I’m still here!, continuing to challenge the status quo of how certain things happen in the corporate environment. Work. Our work. Or, at least, the traditional concept of what work entails.

The challenge is tougher, too!, because we need to, finally, understand that, after the couple of years of honeymoon between the business world and Social Business (Yes, I know! Perhaps a bit too long of a honeymoon, don’t you think?), we are still witnessing that 70% of failure rate that I mentioned above in successful Enterprise 2.0 deployments and that’s just huge! Something that we probably can’t afford much any longer. So what can we do about this one? Well, as a starting point we will need to start thinking about Social Business in higher terms than ever before. Aim for a bigger purpose. Yes, Sales, Marketing & Communications, New Hires, Technical Leadership / Thought Leadership, IT Infrastructure and so forth are cool beans and everything, but they are not enough. Not anymore. The stakes are higher. We are just scratching through the surface of that business transformation we all know that Social Business is rather capable of provoking. How? Hummm, what do you think? In my opinion, it’s going to be down to two different groups, within the corporate world, that we would need to aim at higher than ever. Can you guess which ones those would be? 

(That will be the topic of my next blog post over here … To be continued …)