I wrote an article for Experton Group on Social Media in the enterprise. Above the link to the article in German (netzwoche.ch); the English translation of the article is below (as provided by the Experton Group).
Social Media in the Enterprise – Blessing or Curse?
As is often the case with the emergence of new technologies, the first thing you hear about are heated discussions about related concerns. It seems it runs in our blood to first see the risks and lose sight of related opportunities and positive developments. How do things stand with the Web 2.0-based social media that are about to enter the business arena?
Critics warn of a plethora of risks, including the following: uncontrolled leakage of information, very easy professional espionage; informational promiscuity; security risks for companies through social networks; open doors for electronic theft…
These warnings are quite justified. As is the case with any new technology, there are opportunities as well as risks that must be taken serious and managed accordingly. But in our age of global networking we must give up the idea that technology is all you need to solve a problem. Rather, it is important to involve employees and colleagues and take joint responsibility through good management and identification with the enterprise as well as through good faith and agreements.
Social media in the enterprise offer a great variety of interesting opportunities and improvement potentials, including the following, to just name a few: fast and flexible cooperation, enriched employee directories (internal “Facebook”); simple sharing and distribution of information through RSS (real simple syndication, i.e., subscriptions of changes to web pages); Wikis and (internal) blogs; easy integration; collection of tacit (implicit) knowledge in blogs; functional rather than hierarchical communications. Typically, such tools are used in an intuitive and participatory way: nobody must attend a seminar to learn how to use Facebook.
Interesting options evolve for B2B and B2C collaboration, where social media provide easy integration of partners and customers,
improved customer relations through customer integration, new means of communications, from outsourcing to crowd sourcing, and the distribution of customer recommendations and messages via YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Xing, LinkedIn and other services.
Social media application scenarios are manifold, from support of traditional marketing to instant social commitment. Marketing experts are particularly enthusiastic about “viral” marketing opportunities to distribute interesting links to their own contacts through social networks, which allows them to distribute one single message to millions of users easily.
Social media will cause profound changes in working environments. According to Ted Schlein (Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Beyers), “Enterprise Social is the most important SW category in a decade that no enterprise can afford to ignore”. By linking these technologies, CIOs can create an environment that provides added value and lifts customer and employee collaboration to new levels. With the platform and device independency of most available technologies, it is easy to put the “anytime and anywhere” vision into practice.
However, the digital maturity of companies and customers differs widely. Users range from the „digital hopeless“ to the „digital addicts“; while most of them belong to the “digital immigrants” category, the “digital natives” generation, who have never known dial plates, typewriter ribbons or communications without the Internet, are on their way to replace the digital immigrants within and outside of corporate environments. Young colleagues take social media for granted when they enter a company. Young customers expect access to the company profile through blogs or Facebook, otherwise they will not be seriously interested in a company’s offering.
Even companies that have decided to not join and use these new technologies are challenged to carefully monitor the “twittering” and respond accordingly in order to protect their reputation. To be able to do so, they need their own resources, whether they want to or not.
Experton Group has observed that innovative companies are already leveraging these social media and expects strategic decisions in most companies regarding their social media approach; within 2-3 years, social media will have evolved to constitute an integrated part of corporate communications.
What is the best approach to embrace the social media trend?
Internal implementation can be time-consuming and might fail due to departmental struggles over competences. Successful implementation requires clear internal policies and agreements, and companies are advised to set up adequate frameworks. Experton Group recommends the following approach:
• Involve an experienced external partner in the implementation process.
• Ensure that the management board has a clear understanding of social media usage within the company.
• Provide the required budgets and resources.
• Select a project that has an impact on the company’s revenues.
• Ensure the long-term viability of such efforts.
• Ensure that project success can be measured accordingly.
• Ensure that the top management is involved in internal project marketing efforts.
It is important to take care of these issues, since often you won’t get a second chance!
- Hellmuth Broda, Experton Group: Mainstreaming Social Media
- Digital Dinosaur, Digital Immigrant or Digital Native? (janelouisemcdermott.wordpress.com)
- Digital Natives Digital Immigrants (kiwibelma.wordpress.com)
- Curation and the enterprise: part 4: the Rumsfeld section (confusedofcalcutta.com)
- Don’t Forget The Digital Immigrants (businessinsider.com)
- 3 Social Media Syndrome That Will Kill Your Reputation (& Job) (kommunikate.wordpress.com)
- Brian Blau, Gartner: Early Adopters Fatigued with Social Media (Outlookseries.com)
A remark to the last article quoted: Brian Blau sees a usage decline of early adopters in Social Networking. I just wonder why he does not apply the Gartner hype cycle curve to his findings. I think what we see is the separating of the wheat from the chaff. And yes–lax data protection can turn people away. This week Facebook announced an improvement of their privacy policies.
But I think that these observations do not apply to Social Media in the Enterprise. There most are just starting and the benefit of web 2.0 communications will be much more apparent here than in the private realm where it is often just about reconnecting with som buddies from school.