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I had an interesting conversation today with a 'social media skeptic'. This happens all the time. I speak about the topic with passion, telling stories and weaving in successful case studies ranging from Threadless to Lego as ammunition. This usually works well, but every now and then, there is the need for further 'scientific proof' beyond any doubt - numbers, metrics, data: how many companies are engaging with social media (in other words, "is it safe for me to go there, will I not look foolish?") and what is tangible proof of the benefits, not just 'fuzzy metrics' such as better internal collaboration or closer connections with customers, but "real dollars & cents" (in other words: "how can I justify spending money on this fluffy stuff?").
To answer the first question, this new research (via eMarketer) that came out recently from the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
is really convincing: The Center ....
"...has followed up on its 2007 and 2008 studies of social media usage by the Inc. 500. Adoption and awareness continue to trend upward, with 91% of firms using at least one social media tool in 2009 and three-quarters describing themselves as “very familiar” with social networking.
The Center for Marketing Research also noted that the Inc. 500, a list of the fastest-growing private companies in the US, is outpacing the larger, more traditional companies in the Fortune 500 in many social media activities.
80-90% of the tools were considered a success!
I know, US centric, and Europe is probably at least one to two years behind, but still very compelling, especially since the Inc. 500 is a group of highly succesfful companies that grows faster than the average US company.
For the second question (the 'tangible' evidence), I often refer to this McKinsey September 2009 research:
- increased marketing effectiveness
- reduced cost (marketing, communication, supply chain)
- increased number of successful innovations
- increased satisfaction (customer, employees, partners)
Not bad, eh?
Now... before rushing to create customer communities, internal facebooks, department wiki's, etc. - one not of caution. Gartner in a recent study predicts that these type of social media projects (when led by IT departments) have a very high chance of failure:
" Through 2012, over 70 percent of IT-dominated social media initiatives will fail.
When it comes to collaboration, IT organizations are accustomed to providing a technology platform (such as, e-mail, IM, Web conferencing) rather than delivering a social solution that targets specific business value. Through 2013, IT organizations will struggle with shifting from providing a platform to delivering a solution. This will result in over a 70 percent failure rate in IT-driven social media initiatives. Fifty percent of business-led social media initiatives will succeed, versus 20 percent of IT-driven initiatives.
Enterprises will need to develop entirely new skill sets around designing and delivering social media solutions. Until this happens, failure rates will remain high. A dearth of methods, technologies and tools will impede the design and delivery of social media solutions in the near term. But long term, enterprises will realize that social media is not a "hit or miss" activity naturally prone to high failure rates, and that a calculated approach to social media solution delivery must be an IT competency. At that point, post 2012, the social software market growth will accelerate as will the overall impact of social media on business and society. "
I would tend to agree with that, not because IT departments do not know how to install these tools, but because IT departments usually focus on the systems side of things and pay less attention to the behavioral side of things. It is very important for companies to approach this holistically and develop a "social architecture" that in addition to picking the right tools, also incorporates social-media-related values and rules of interaction into its leadership styles and organizational culture. In other words, in addition to 'act 2.0', companies also need to 'be 2.0', creating communities of practice is one thing, allowing peers from different parts of the company to self-organize and openly share sensitive information from their departments is quite another!
What is your experience with IT-led social media adoption processes?
What else do you see as critical success factors to social media success at the rates experienced by the Inc. 500?
Who else do you involve - besides the IT department - when running a social media adoption project?
How do you adapt your organizations leadership styles and culture to mirror the behavior and values that come with the adoption of social media tools?