Ideas for Leaders #062

Last Call for Social Media Sceptics

This is one of our free-to-access content pieces. To gain access to all Ideas for Leaders content please Log In Here or if you are not already a Subscriber then Subscribe Here.

Key Concept

Social media sceptics have all but scurried back into the woodwork. The game is up and the die cast: social media is here to stay. Each week the ‘fad’ seems to blow open a new way of doing things in a different industry; democratizing our flow of ideas even further. The scope of opportunity for science, art, and business here – seems infinite. But what role can leadership play to facilitate those opportunities and create value for their organizations?

Idea Summary

How are managers today using social media tools and how important are those tools becoming to their organizations? In collaboration with Deloitte, MIT Sloan Management Review conducted a survey of nearly 3,500 executives to gain insight into, and a richer understanding of, how organizations are leveraging social media and social networks.

They define “social business” as activities that use social media, social software and social networks to enable more efficient, effective and mutually useful connections between people, information and assets. Their survey data offers insight into how the value of social business is perceived among small, midsize and large companies, within the C-suite and across industries, highlighting that whatever the difficulties organizations have with adopting social business activities, social business appears to be a trend with staying power.

The authors found four areas where social business is creating significant opportunity and value for companies, namely:

  1. Managing customer relationships: Monitoring online communities, creating and supporting virtual communities, developing new communication channels and fostering a wide range of customer engagements, including coupons, contests and other sponsored events.
  2. Innovation: Companies can use social business activities to source new ideas and refine existing products and services.
  3. Operations: social business offers value by enabling knowledge to flow into and within an organization.
  4. Leadership: social business activities can make valuable contributions to leadership in at least two different areas: strategic insight and strategic execution. In these areas, social tools can help leaders sharpen their vision and extend their reach.

Overall, the findings show that the importance of social business to organizations is expected to grow and grow over the next few years.

Business Application

The challenge for an executive trying to drag their organization into the social media age is two-fold: 1) acceptance by leadership and wider culture (getting it through the door), and 2) ensuring proper usage to create actual value in the organization.

Convincing or demonstrating the opportunity to leadership is critical to increasing the use of social tools within an organization. Lack of management understanding was seen as the biggest internal barrier impeding the adoption of social software in organizations by respondents of the survey referenced here.

The critical question to ask is: Do your leaders have the right mindset for integrating social business into your organization? Having the right leadership mindset (i.e. being open to new ideas and encouraging others to share rather than hold onto information) is an important determinant of whether social business will gain traction in your organization.

Cultures that tend to be more open to new ideas and more collaborative than other companies significantly help in deriving value from social business.

As well as leadership and culture, other key factors include; social tools that are simple to use; properly structured incentive systems; a clear purpose for what problems the social initiative is intended to solve; and clear direction about how to communicate with social tools, both inside and outside the organization.

Finally, don’t wait ‘until the technology matures’ – that ship has sailed - or ‘until there is more evidence’ to support its business value - massive value is being created here every day. A wait-and-see approach may delay achieving the potential of social business in your organization to the detriment of customer relationship management, innovation, leadership and operations. This is the last call for social media sceptics.

Real Time Analytics