Language, Innovation & Social Media for Business – Sam Lawrence at Interactive Austin
This is my site Written by Alora on April 27, 2009 – 1:48 pm

The former CMO of Jive Software, Sam Lawrence, spoke to a crowded room at Interactive Austin this morning. His message was on the lessons needed to specifically apply in order to make social media work in your business.

How We Say What We Say

One of the challenges social media evangelists face is based on the language we use. As with all emerging technologies, the language is new and it’s not compatible with standard, well-worn executive jargon — worse yet, it has the unfortunate tendency to be too “cutsie” to be taken seriously by business leaders.

In order to get past the knee-jerk language reactions, stop using tech-speak and start using business-speak. The business already has a language, so use it. Evangelists can’t expect that the population at large is going to adopt a new language for a technology for which they are not yet onboard. Technologists and evangelists need to remember to speak the language of business.

The value of using the business’ language is clear in everything from initiating change, to clarifying the value of social media, to measuring the impact. In and among all of the ROI debate on social media one key is often over-looked: businesses already measure their efforts. For social media to be understandable to that business, it needs to be measured using metrics those executives already understand, expect and are comfortable with.

The Push-Pull Between Entrepreneurism and Process

As companies grow, entrepreneurism gives way to process until people can sleep walk through their day. Unthinking action is unthinking business. If your business is being run by unthinking people, then your business isn’t innovating.

Innovation is key. Even more importantly, innovation is different. Improving on a competitor’s product is not innovation. To truly innovate you must create something new, you must do it first, and you must own the market space.

Innovation Is Not Just for Products

In order to have innovative products, organization’s can’t fall into the trap of doing things the way they have always done. Instead of highly-connected leaders, most organizations have a collection of independently run fiefdoms. Lawrence calls these “Un-Knights at the Round Table.” In order to have the internal organization necessary to support true innovation, internal silos must be broken down, and all players must re-engage with each other.

One example Lawrence gives of how internal organizational patterns can benefit from social media is in its ability to “shorten the ramp.” Getting new employees up to speed quickly on new roles, projects or teams can be radically improved in organizations that leverage social media. Instead of having to spend six months learning who’s who and where to find what, an organization with an internal social media eco-system (facilitated by robust search capabilities) can provide opportunities to catch up quickly and start contributing to the team’s value much faster than traditional on-boarding processes facilitate.

In Conclusion

Social media has transformative capabilities, but the true transformation is in the people using technology to facilitate change, not in the technology itself. Like so many other lessons learned in social media: no matter how sexy the technology may be, business transformation is driven by people.

Sam Lawrence