Innovation in Social Networking
This is the fourth of several 'Innovation Perspectives' articles we will publish this week from multiple authors to get different perspectives on 'What is the role of social media in innovation? (Either inside or outside the organization)'. Here is the next perspective in the series:
by Bob Preston
What comes to mind when I think of social networking is the typical idle gossip and tidbits of information from friends and family for personal updates on "what are you doing now?" Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube... We all know them for fun personal and individual social news which spreads faster than wildfire. Beyond the personal use of social networking, however, organizations in many industries are using social networking sites and tools for collaborating with stakeholders, ultimately driving business value and innovation.
The use of social networking allows organizations to reach mass markets quickly, creating web 2.0 communities of stakeholders for viral word of mouth and exchange of ideas. Microsoft, for example, has been promoting the importance of their social communities and stakeholder collaboration in their recent TV ads featuring individuals who make the claim "I'm a PC and Windows 7 was my idea" (click link to view videos). As Microsoft puts it: nearly a billion people use Windows, and their ideas added up to Windows 7. The message is that Windows 7 was created out of user feedback and complaints. PC users wanted an operating system that was faster, less complicated, smaller, more secure. Microsoft Connect is a social networking community site with the purpose of engaging users to suggest features, report bugs, and enter into discussions with Microsoft product managers and developers.
Another example of an organization's social networking program is Dell's IdeaStorm, an online community to encourage innovation through idea exchange, feature suggestions, and market opportunities to beat the competition. Dell started this project with a basic blog in 2007 which was a one way push of content to stem the tide of user complaints. The blog then morphed into IdeaStorm in 2007, inviting participation for a collaborative environment. This is a great example of a company whose desire to engage stakeholders has matured from just spin doctoring into true collaboration and idea exchange.
My Starbucks Idea, launched in 2008 by Starbucks Coffee, utilizes the tag-line "Share.Vote.Discuss.See." Social networking features have been added to the site in order to allow for collaboration around consumer suggestions. Members can vote on items, discuss them, and really show Starbucks how serious they are about a particular idea. Collaboration to the fullest! Of course, I offer my opinions to Starbucks directly, in fact every morning when I get my Grande Soy Latte at the local stop on my way to work. I wonder if those comments are captured?
Organizational social networking is not just limited to Web 2.0 blogs, communities and online forums. Xerox, for example, a company striving to reinvent itself in a paperless world, has fourteen blogs, a Twitter account @XeroxCorp with >1800 followers, a Facebook page titled "So, what DOES Xerox do?", a LinkedIn profile page, and a YouTube XeroxCorp Channel with over 120 video uploads, >30,000 channel views, and >350,000 upload views. All of these pages and sites have areas where comments and discussions can be posted. Xerox is definitely collaborating and communicating with its constituency on all fronts!
These are just a few of my favorite examples of how social networking is shaping innovation and collaboration with its stakeholders for organizations of all types. A larger list of company social networking examples can be found on my blog. Provided that a company's social networking program is sincere (and not just a pushing information or handling damage control), social networking seems to be an acceptable practice and the new standard for engaging consumers. Who needs expensive focus groups when you can capture an ongoing dialogue in real time!
You can check out all of the 'Innovation Perspectives' articles from the different contributing authors on 'How should firms develop the organizational structure, culture, and incentives (e.g., for teams) to encourage successful innovation?' by clicking the link in this sentence.
Bob Preston is a blogger and frequent speaker on collaboration within the enterprise for increased productivity and innovation. He is Chief Collaboration Officer at Polycom, Inc., a leading supplier of voice, video, and telepresence collaboration solutions.