A Twitter Inc. tweet regarding the company ringing the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange is displayed on an Apple iPhone. Bloomberg News

How Social Media Is Changing Business — And Your Job Search

A Twitter Inc. tweet regarding the company ringing the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange is displayed on an Apple iPhone. Bloomberg News
A Twitter Inc. tweet regarding the company ringing the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange is displayed on an Apple iPhone. Bloomberg News

A decade ago, businesses didn’t have company Facebook profiles, Twitter accounts or Instagram feeds.

In fact, Facebook didn’t exist.

When you start thinking about how much social media has changed the way that businesses operate in the past few years, you can’t help but wonder how much more — and how — it will change in the coming decade.

According to Sandy Carter, General Manager of IBM Ecosystems and Social Business Evangelist at IBM, there are a lot of exciting changes to come. As an author, speaker and expert in social business, Carter not only makes sure her company stays on top of the latest technology trends and how they can be incorporated into the workforce, but makes sure other companies recognize that potential, as well.

To learn more, we chatted with Carter about what exactly a “social business” is, why it’s beneficial, and how companies can start to adopt that kind of forward-thinking strategy in their business and hiring practices.

What is a “social business,” and why is it so effective?

Over the past two decades, the Internet has disrupted the way companies operate in a huge way — it’s almost unimaginable to think how we got anything done without it. Now, we’re seeing that same transformation in the social realm — businesses are moving beyond having just a Facebook page or Twitter account, and they’re incorporating social functions into everyday business processes and decisions, from sales and marketing to HR and product development.

It’s really a shift in the way we work, communicate, collaborate and share expertise with each other. Social businesses use social tools to listen to customers, spur innovation, identify new market opportunities and create a smarter, more effective workforce.

For example, IBM is one of the most prolific users of social networking in the industry and one of the largest corporate-wide social media communities. Every IBMer has a social network page, as well as access to thousands of internal information sources, blogs, communities, wikis and instant messaging. IBM takes social networking seriously — to develop products and services, enable sellers to find and stay connected with clients, train the next generation of leaders, and build awareness among clients, influencers and other communities.

What is the most important element of a strong social strategy? What advice would you give to an entrepreneur or executive who wants to expand his or her social strategy?

Far and away, the most important element of a strong social strategy is the corporate culture behind it. Without a culture that supports sharing and collaboration, the underlying social technology being implemented is futile.

That might sound harsh, but it’s the reality.

Social tools will collect dust unless employees feel empowered to use them.

Social tools will collect dust unless employees feel empowered to use them. For organizations with a traditional, hierarchal structure, this is a big shift in thinking that will affect how, when, where and what employees communicate. It can be a bit scary for executives to overcome this initial hurdle, but once done, the results will speak for themselves.

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