Several years ago, your CMO or maybe the corporate head of communications shot you an e-mail with a call to action around doing something with “social”. Since then, you’ve launched numerous Facebook, Twitter, YouTube initiatives and yes, you even have a company Pinterest page. Now comes the hard part. As an organization with a national if not global footprint, you find yourself in a chaotic situation as regions scramble to “do their own thing” at the local level. You find this out only after you’ve seen yet another unsanctioned social property launch. Integration becomes a massive headache. You have several websites and mobile apps with poor or misguided attempts at social integration. Employee social usage becomes a black hole–your employees are all over social media, but mainly you just don’t want them saying the wrong thing. Vendor management has become a nightmare–your organization is using every new technology vendor under the Sun and losing efficiency and dollars in the process. In short, you operate in a complex organization and there is nothing simple about integrating social, mobile, and the latest iteration of digital into your legacy systems.

These are the types of challenges we’ve been tackling over the past few years with clients–many who are large, complex organizations. If you can relate to these pain points you are not alone. The good news is that you can address them if you shift your mindset from social media (tactical) to social business (strategic) and look at problems and opportunities more holistically.

Here are a few considerations for those of us tasked with integrating social into a complex and sometimes complicated business environment:

Perform Stakeholder Interviews

Partner up with an objective third party and interview the critical stakeholders across your organization who will feel the impact of social integration. The interview guide should be designed to extract nuggets of insights which can prove to be immensely helpful if articulated correctly in a summary. Often themes tend to emerge when you talk to a variety of individuals.

Establish a Center of Excellence

Companies like Adobe* and Intel are well known for their social centers of excellence , but this construct is not limited to tech companies. When an emerging business trend hits the mainstream, a center of excellence becomes mandatory, not optional. When set up correctly, they can help guide a complex organization as it grows and scale efforts around the emerging opportunity.

Organize for Integration

You may not like it, but there is no way a complex organization can deal with change without changing itself. Organization design around social business challenges is becoming more commonplace amongst companies who are doing more than lip service when it comes to social integration. We’re not talking about “social media gurus,” we’re talking about roles, responsibilities and formal job descriptions with social woven into them.

Design New Processes

Does your organization have a process for launching a new social property? Maybe it should. No initiative can scale or be repeated without some degree of process. A true social business will always be flexible enough to launch pilots, but it also has to have enough process in place to ensure that programs can be executed with a certain degree of rigor.

Formalize Governance

Who approves what and what groups need to be in the know? Governance is painful, messy, difficult to construct and see through to fruition, but it also sets a foundation that will deter chaos from taking hold of your initiatives.

Expand Globally

Whether your organization is national or global, if it’s big then you need to able to scale efforts around a methodology. Figure out what methodology works for your organization and roll it out globally.

Define a Role for Employees

Social media guidelines for employees are really a fancy way for a complex organization to “C-Y-A”. A social business understands that not all employees are created equally, and yet some of them are not only connected to multiple social networks, but they are actually great representatives of the organization itself. These companies match up employees with opportunities in social both internally and externally.

Establish a Communications Protocol

There are literally millions of conversations in play thanks to social technologies and the desire of individuals to share and connect. These conversations happen inside your organization and of course out in the open. Having an established communications protocol provides helpful guidelines for how social interactions for business should go down.

Collaborate In Real Time

For the social business, e-mail has its limits. Working groups form “clusters” around project initiatives and often need more connected ways of sharing files, knowledge and project updates. And it’s not just about Chatter, Yammer, Jive or a host of other enterprise collaboration platforms, for example at Edelman multiple Facebook Groups started by employees have been popping up around topics such as trends, community management and even Pinterest. Instead of an e-mail alias, these groups allow employees from around the globe to gather around a more connected virtual water cooler to share tips, links and exchange knowledge.

Launch a Command Center

A “command center” does not have to be a physical space but should be the system a complex organization has in place to monitor and potentially respond to a host of scenarios generated by social media. A social command center is also a great way to make sense out of social data. Edelman’s SICC is designed not only to monitor and analyze social data but to craft content informed by social signals, not unlike how a newsroom operates.

Establish a Measurement Framework

How does a complex organization measure what it does in social, digital and even mobile? The starting point is to combine data points from across multiple digital properties and initiatives and align what gets measured to business KPI’s. A measurement framework can also integrate traditional Web metrics with emerging social metrics and set the foundation for creating standards across multiple brands and business units.

With business trends moving toward connectivity and adaptability, complex organizations may find dealing with change more challenging than ever–but it needs to be done. The above initiatives represent a sample of the types of programs organizations will need to undertake as they make the journey from operating as a business built on the legacy models of yesterday toward becoming the fully integrated social business of tomorrow.

*Adobe is an Edelman client

This post was compiled in conjunction with Edelman Consulting.

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