Perhaps it was irrational exuberance, but the frothy buzz surrounding social media was nearly irresistible. According to the social media happy talk, all we had to do was start sharing at work and the world would be a better place. We were told that social media was the next big thing and we’d better hurry and jump on before the train left the station. So some of us jumped and were initially heartened by the success stories. Remember the praise for the spies who discovered the joy of sharing via Intellipedia? However, like all bubbles this one was bound to burst when it confronted reality. And now we’re told that Intellipedia is facing its own midlife crisis. It turns out that much of that initial success was the work of early adopters and enthusiasts. Now that they’ve made their contribution, things are in a holding pattern waiting for the next big surge.
So what will it take to trigger that surge? They are going to have to find a way to embed social media in their essential business processes. It’s hard to get real enterprise-wide traction as long as you treat social media as a geeky parlor trick or as part of a carnival sideshow. When business critical reporting is done via a blog or wiki, you’ll have excellent adoption rates. Similarly, if company benefit plans are administered via social media tools, you’ll find that everyone will want to learn how to use those tools. It’s not complicated in theory. The catch is that this requires more than a handful of tech savvy cowboys inciting under-the-radar grassroots efforts. To get access to business critical processes, you will need some management involvement. And obtaining the necessary management approval will require some convincing facts and figures. Now you’re talking hard work.
When you try to sidestep the hard work and rely on social media happy talk, you create situations like the one discussed in a recent BusinessWeek article about Social Media Snake Oil:
… the buzz around social media has led many companies to buy these systems before they’re ready to put them to work. Jennifer Okimoto, associate partner at IBM Global Business Services, says many corporations took the plunge into social media and now are sitting on loads of uninstalled software. “I’m working with a company that has made huge investments” in social software, she says on a phone call from Switzerland. Yet only a small number of employees at the company use it. A Forrester Research (FORR) study shows that despite buzz around Enterprise 2.0, less than 15% of the knowledge workforce makes use of internal blogs, wikis, and other collaborative tools. “E-mail is still dominant,” says Ted Schadler, author of the report.
Social media happy talk involved a fair amount of optimism. That optimism was not necessarily misplaced, but now it needs to be backed up with results.
[Photo Credit: chemisti]
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