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Your Life Is Social, Why Isn't Your Company?

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Do you remember when social media really arrived about half a decade ago? It was feared by enterprises. Managers banned Facebook access at work to prevent the scourge of employees wasting the day away on Farmville in much the same way we had to promise to not make personal calls from our desk phone back in the eighties.

These thoughts returned to me when I read an interesting document titled "Top 10 Corporate Social Media Predictions for 2012," published by the Useful Social Media group -- an advisory firm. They picked ten executives responsible for social media strategy within their company and asked them what would be the most important change in 2012.

Take a look at the prediction of Jen McClure, the director of social media at news organization Thomson Reuters:

The term "social business" will become more ubiquitous as organizations of all types and sizes start to think of social technologies more strategically as business tools, not just marketing channels. And then it will eventually become a meaningless phrase as we come to realize that all business is, at its core, social.

This is a complete about turn. Now executives are telling us that companies need to become more social. Of course there is a precedent for this, like the telephone calls, then email access, then the company mobile phone. New technologies are always seen as damaging to the enterprise, but end up being adopted as essential.

McClure is arguing that social media is going to fundamentally change companies and how they operate. Forget about social media being just a tool for PR or marketing or community building -- it is changing every part of the enterprise, root and branch.

If you don't believe me, take a look at your personal life. You probably have an online diary, address book and news feed with information on current affairs as well as what your friends are up to. Let's just call it Facebook.

But whether it is Facebook or not, you have tools easily available that let you talk without cost to your family overseas, to find out which friends of your friends went to the same university as you, to find out which of your friends is around in New York when you are visiting.

This is taken for granted in your personal life. So your own life really is social and connected, yet most companies still languish with CRM systems that cost millions and have never really worked. Imagine if you had the same level of knowledge about your colleagues at work, and your customers, as you have about your friends online.

Companies are just collections of people, with various skills, all attempting to pull in the same direction. Companies are social, yet we often use better tools to organize our social life than to organize how we work.

McClure from Thomson Reuters is absolutely correct, business is not "going social" because of social media tools; it already is social, we just need to learn how work more effectively with the tools around us.