By Caroline Coles

With Social Media Week in full swing, various professionals and enthusiasts were invited along to contribute, challenge and engage in Like Mind’s event ‘Social Consumerisation of the Workplace – Social Tools in Business’. Accompanied by a select panel of industry professionals and radical thinkers, the audience was treated to an array of concepts and ideas surrounding the role of Social Tools in modern day business.

Lee Bryant of Dachis Group set the ball rolling by starting off the panel discussion. Asking ‘What does social consumerisation of the workplace mean?’ he examined the role consumer tools and cloud-based devices now play in corporations, from large to small, and how exactly this has impacted the way modern day businesses are run.

With the growing number of advanced social tools and networks now readily available Lee questioned whether the existing infrastructures of many organizations should be removed, or at least in part replaced with social functionalities. Through incorporating the ideas behind such networking sites like Twitter, businesses can help promote growth, innovation and creativity in employees and therefore improve the organization itself.

Madlen Nicolaus explained Salesforce’s approach to this with the implication of the internal tool ‘chatter’ allowing all employees to openly communicate with one another. Although this creates a much flatter structure enabling quicker task solving, it does bring up the important issue of trust. Allowing employees free reign on social networking sites can potentially carry huge risks for a business because the security of confidential data is lowered somewhat through the introduction of these tools in the workplace. It was discussed that this is one issue that must be acknowledged by companies wishing to become ‘more social’.

Security was not the only concern that was addressed at the event, Molly Flatt from 1000 Heads pointed out that ‘tools have outpaced the mindset’. She said that so many organizations are obsessed with the notion of becoming a ‘social business’ they are forgetting their goals as an organization. It is true that although these tools have opened up a whole new form of business, it does not necessarily mean they are suited to every organization.

Will Koch from LinkedIn talked about their research on iPad App activity showing a spike of usage in the morning and evening on their App. He pointed out that this contrasted with the belief that social tools can help improve productivity in the workplace as it suggested that not everyone wanted to merge their personal and professional lives.

Another important issue that must be evaluated in businesses wishing to delve into the social world is the way in which these tools should be implemented to create a beneficial and productive outcome. Although the creation of social tools like Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn may seem like a relatively new concept, the idea of a social organization has been around far longer and it seems as though we’re moving back to the original business structure. As Guy Stephens from GapGemini, said, ‘we’ve moved away from personalities in many businesses – and now we’re moving back, relearning things. It’s about small steps leading to bigger steps.’

Perhaps the most important lesson to be learned from the implementation of social tools in business is, as Molly Flatt said, ‘education, education, education’.