The best social business friends you could have

If you’re a large enterprise, one of the best ways to bootstrap your social business efforts is to understand what other firms are doing. But where would you start? How would you even find other practitioners and get them to share?

It turns out the Social Business Council has already solved those problems. And, if you’re trying to change how your firm works, it’s one of the best resources you could have.

The people & their firms

I joined the Council a little over a year ago (it was free) and I was immediately surprised by 3 things:

  1. the number and variety of companies represented
  2. the generosity of the people
  3. the effectiveness of the community leader and lynchpin, Susan Scrupski

Members stay connected using a few different tools. Combined, those tools allow you to get short, casual updates as well as in-depth write-ups of best practices. And Susan is always there, connecting the dots and the people, and generally keeping things moving.

That range of interactions let me get to know people. I learned more from their online contributions over a few months than I ever could in a single phone call or meeting. And those relationships became richer when I recently met several of them in Boston. There, I took part in my first Council workshop (it attracted well over 100 people) and several Council members spoke at the Enterprise 2.0 conference.

The knowledge

While the Council members are indeed social (they’re an extremely friendly and open group), they’re also businesspeople.

I’ve come to rely on them for their expertise on a wide range of social business topics:

  • implementation strategies
  • handling barriers to adoption
  • technology
  • best practices in community building

Sometimes I’d just pose a question from my mobile phone. Other times, I’d research content others have contributed or curated. Each time, I would find something useful.

Now, when a problem comes up, the first place I go is the Council.

A detailed example of the value

So, recently, when I came up against a legal issue, I looked to the Council for help.

In seeking formal approval for an enterprise collaboration platform, I wanted both employees and contractors to have access. But several people in legal and HR were concerned about co-employment risks. Some went so far as to say contractors in certain countries could not have access at all.

My first question was “How could we contract people to do work and yet not share information with them?”

My second question was “What do other firms do?”

So I posed the question to the Council. Within minutes, I got several responses. Over 2 days, responses kept rolling in and I heard from 18 different firms. They explained their policies (yes, they all allow access) and their processes (most differentiate contractors in their profile and restrict access to a few sites like employee benefits).

And that information is making the conversations with legal and HR much, much easier.

In the past, I’d have paid tens of thousands per year for the privilege of being in a certain network. Maybe they’d meet a few times a year. Maybe they’d conduct some surveys and compile the results.

Now, for free, I can tap into the best practitioners globally and get responses within minutes. And while I’m sharing knowledge and interacting with other council members to help my firm, I’m extending my own network and shaping my own reputation.

A (very) positive side effect

There’s one more thing I got from the Council that I never expected: an even greater sense of urgency.

Interacting with all the other practitioners has made me aware of just how much others are doing. How they’re changing their firms in so many ways.

And that’s pushing me. Pushing me to be more ambitious about the changes I’m trying to effect. To do more in the field and less in Powerpoint. To contribute more, both to the Council and to the general body of social business knowledge.

Thanks to the generosity, peer support, and experience of the Council members, I’m ready.