MAD Perspectives Blog

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 Company Culture and Adoption of Social Networking

Peggy Dau - Monday, August 02, 2010

You’re thinking about social media.  You’re convinced you need to have a plan to add social media to your existing marketing and/or communication strategy.  You’re thinking, well, we’ll just tiptoe into this effort, participate in a few social networks and see what happens.  There is nothing wrong with this plan, except you should think about  your corporate culture.  Of course, there are other details you also need to consider, but for the sake of this conversation, let’s focus on corporate culture.

Does your culture inhibit executive or employee adoption of social networking tools?  Do employees feel empowered to publically communicate on behalf of the company?  Do executives understand the openness of social conversations?

I’ve had comments to several of my blogs related to B2B social media, emphasizing the importance of culture.  So, I’ve done some thinking on this and refreshed my memory as to the different types of corporate cultures (it’s been a long time since those undergrad and MBA courses on organizational theory).  Culture is a combination of shared values, attitudes, assumptions, beliefs and behaviors.  Culture is grounded in the assumptions about how people interact.

A successful social media strategy is best achieved when there is a corporate culture that balances tops down direction with bottoms up initiative with external (customer) facing communication.  However, existing corporate cultures can inhibit this balance and subsequently the success of a social media strategy.  Which of these cultures best reflects your company?

Adaptive – just like it sounds, this company tries new processes, solutions, business models to see what works best.  This company is usually very externally focused and will adopt solutions that help them communicate effectively and efficiently.  This culture will easily adapt to social networks for business use.

Inert – this type of company is very internally focused and struggles to deal with new ideas.  In technology parlance, they are a laggard when it comes to adopting new technology.  This culture will be one of the last companies to adopt social networking.

Networked – this is a sociable company, but employees exhibit little company loyalty.  This company may lag a bit in adopting new ideas solely due to high employee turnover.  Once this company has decided to use social networks, employees will take advantage of it and it may foster employee retention.

Mercenary - this culture is ruthless and highly competitive.  If the new solution doesn’t fulfill the goal to win, it is not considered.  Without a strong ROI argument, this kind of company will not leverage social networks at the business level.

Fragmented – this company is a loose alliance of independent workers (i.e., law firm).  If a solution can be easily adopted by these workers and help them achieve their goals, it’s a winner, but it is unlikely that all workers will utilize the solution at the same level.

I’ll be writing more about company cultures and organizational dynamics as it relates to B2B social networks over the next few weeks.  Do these cultures resonate with you?  What kind of culture does your company exhibit? 

What’s your perspective?