For the last 4 years, we’ve been monitoring how companies are using social media (being internally or externally) and the results they’re obtaining. One of our most striking discoveries is that many social media initiatives fail. They don’t attract interest or they never create business value, resulting in no adoption, nor the emergence of any active community.
Some of the key reasons for failure reside in the ongoing misconceptions that have grown in this area:
“Social media and social tools don’t deliver real business value and can waste a lot of employees’ time.”
“Social media is just another marketing channel. All you need is to get a Facebook page, open a Twitter account and give your CEO a blog.”
“You don’t need a business justification for social media because it’s so cheap and you can’t anticipate or measure the benefits anyway.”
“Social media brings unacceptable risks to privacy, IP protection, regulatory compliance, HR infractions, customer service and more.”
“All you need to do is provide social media technology and the rest will happen on its own. After all, isn’t that how it works on the Internet?”
Social media initiatives fail most frequently because organizations focus on the technologies when they should focus instead in achieving a PURPOSE through the collective behaviors that those technologies make possible. They fail as well as organizations lack knowledge of the fundamental principles of collaboration and community building.
A “social organization” or a “social business” is about people and relationships. Because people are at the core, relationships come front and center and all relationships are built on trust. People want to buy from sellers who act more like friends. They want to call someone in product support who really cares about them and wants to help them. Your clients are seeking a relationship with you that is not one-sided. Building your community over social media takes time, as building trust takes time. And trust enables people to do business with each other.
But building a community is not building a group of people – a crowd. The best communities have strong community managers, who provide leadership and direction for the group. They help establish the goal of the community experience and define the business problems trying to be solved. They help develop and shape the community norm, start conversations and listen. They attract and build the right content, stories, and subject matter expertise. A community is motivated by a purpose. Its members share a goal. They are powered by belonging to it. The best communities collaborate as a normal working style. The amount of members is not the key metric and does not equal a strong community. Yammer has very recently developed this comprehensive guide to community strategy, design and execution, which sums it all:
Sharpening our organization’s communications capabilities, creating greater transparency, and improving access to our intellectual assets (i.e. people) could only increase our flexibility and responsiveness
- knowledge sharing and transfer
- identifying subject matter experts
- thinking out loud
- cross-department, cross-company, and cross-boundary communication
- collective intelligence and memory
- inspiring employees and building trust
- identifying new opportunities and ideas
Businesses that will successfully transform into a social organization will potentially take advantage of great benefits, among them the ability to deepen customer relationships, increase workforce effectiveness and drive product/service innovation.