We've hopped around from 'Web 2.0' to 'Social Media' to 'Enterprise 2.0' to our current spot on the 'Social Business' train, keeping all of our baggage in tow.  And that's the problem. 

If we really want to see the same kind of effectiveness in the work place that we've seen in the consumer space, it's time to ditch some old habits. Here are four essential ways to make your business a social business.

1. Respect Time Management

I could be on Facebook all day. In fact, most Saturdays and Sundays I am. But if I'm on [insert your social business app of choice] all of my work day, how would I ever get anything else done?

Moreover, if we think about teams of people from various departments coming together in an effort to streamline workflow for what is most likely the very first time, a lot can go wrong. For example, a recent Forrester report entitled Social Breaks The Logjam On Business Process Improvement Initiatives outlines three challenges which impede business processes from being successfully implemented:

  • Getting on the Same Page: 
    Not everyone has the same level of comfort with new technology, and this can present a significant barrier for new "social business" collaboration and sharing tools. In fact, Forrester says professionals still report taking three to four cycles of testing and trials to standardize both terminology and methodology for their initiatives. 
  • Fighting Turf Wars
    Power struggles over business process management domains often pull teams in time-consuming political maneuvering. 
  • Lack of Ownership:
    The first two setbacks often result in a negative environment in which no one feels like taking charge, and taking the punishment for doing so.

Do your best to preempt these issues -- keep the focus on how new processes and tools can reduce the time spent on specific tasks.

In the end, social business tools are best thought of as opportunity costs. Will your investment in identifying and connecting with prospects, customers, and influencers outperform your other activities? The answer is yes for most businesses.  But make sure your initiatives treat time management as a deity of the first order.

"Analyze their workflows to see where key integration points between collaboration tools and other applications should be," writes David Roe. "If enterprises don’t do that, workers have to continually shift between collaboration tools and applications, which is time-consuming and often involves duplicated content."

2. Manage, Refine the Volume Controls 

One nice thing about consumer social networks is that your engagement can vary across the full spectrum -- from full time maniac, to lurker, to zero engagement. There's no pressure, and it's up to you to decide when or if you feel like participating.

But of course, this probably doesn't fly in the workplace.

Writer and consultant Clay Shirky is famous for saying, “It’s not information overload, it’s filter failure." Dion Hinchcliffe of ZDNet referenced this phrase in a recent piece called Seven Lessons Learned on Social Business, calling it "truer than ever": 

I consistently see reports from organizations engaging in social business that, after a couple of years, activity streams often end up looking like their email inboxes. In other words, too much to keep track of. But not every social interaction has the same level of social importance or needs to be encountered right when it's created. The newest enterprise social media applications now have "volume controls" and filters to give workers control over what they are watching or alerted to. Social business does indeed unleash a flood of knowledge. The secret to climbing the social media maturity curve is to learn how to see what you need, when you need it.