Getting the corporate culture clear helps make a social business strategy viable

Wordle image - cultural auditConversations about social media in business often start with questions about tools. “Should we have a Facebook page?” “Should we be on Twitter?” “Should we have a blog and if so how do we go about that?”

These are perfectly reasonable questions. But they jump the gun.

Before any decisions are made about social media platforms or tools, there needs to be a serious discussion about company objectives and social business strategy.

And about company culture.

Because a social business strategy that doesn’t fit with company culture is bound to fail.

Sometimes (usually?) it will become evident that there needs to be cultural change if the social business strategy is to have a chance of success. The principle of getting a good fit beween the strategy and the corporate culture still applies – it’s just that the process becomes a bit more complex and dynamic.

It is clear to me, from case studies I’ve read and listened to and from anecdotes shared by fellow social business practitioners, that the toughest challenge with social business or social media implementation may not about platforms or tools or even, in many cases, about budgets, but about culture.

To take just one cultural factor, attitude to risk, the kind of social business strategy and the speed at which it is developed and implemented will be affected by whether the culture of a company is more risk tolerant or more risk averse.

I believe there is a case to be made for conducting a cultural audit or scan of a company before getting into a discussion about social business strategy.

Cynics might see that as just another way for consultants and coaches to make money without delivering any extra value.

But a cultural audit or scan does not have to be lengthy or complex. In some circumstances it might just mean a day of interviews with people from across the enterprise: not just with senior management, who we all know often have either too rosy a picture of how the world looks from the shop floor, or too jaundiced a one.

And let’s all spare ourselves lengthy (and costly) reports from exercises like this.

One page of bullet points should do the trick.

My hunch is that, if the audit or scan is done in a focused and relatively speedy way, the development and implementation of the social business or social media strategy will deliver better value for money – and maybe even faster and more enduringly than would otherwise have been the case.

Do you know of any company where an audit or scan such as this has been done as a step before developing a social media or social business strategy? Does it look to you like a good idea?

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Des Walsh is an executive coach. He helps business owners and entrepreneurs worldwide deal effectively with the feeling of being left behind or overwhelmed, or both, about social media – especially LinkedIn - and how to engage safely and effectively with social media to help grow their business. Connect with Des on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter. And to stay in the loop, get Des’s weekly Social Business Bites (select snippets of his "best of the week" online finds).