Risky Business?

No, this is not a posting about Tom Cruise in a 1980’s movie but about the perceived risks in implementing social media in the enterprise. So what are the risks that people think of when social media implementation is suggested? The main issues as I seem them can be categorised into a couple of over-arching themes, but far & away the biggest risk I hear about is staff abusing it and wasting time.

Security, Loss of (perceived) control, reputation management and productivity are the key risk areas that business owners raise as the reason why they are not embracing social media. Are they real risks, or just managers being overly conservative? I think it is a mix of both, certainly there is a general misunderstanding of what social media is and what it isn’t. I conducted a very unscientific poll of my co-workers and posed the question ‘What is social media?’. Over half said it is sites like Facebook and Twitter. A couple said it is websites that let people communicate and share news. One person did say it is Web 2.0 and it is sites that allow collaboration and communication – in fairness he has been at a Social Media for Business seminar recently.

So if the majority think social media is Facebook is it any wonder that people are adverse to implementing?

I am not going to go over all the risks in this post, The 2.0 Adoption Council have a really good presentation over on SlideShare that goes through the issues mentioned above and other issues and offers up some suggestions on ways to counter the risks.

Perhaps the way to bypass a lot of these objections is to stop referring to it as ‘social media’ with the negative connotations it brings. Maybe it is time to focus on the business value the underlying platform can bring instead.

Let me know your thoughts below.

Pssst! It’s me, Opportunity. Is anybody listening?

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If a customer talks about you online and you don’t listen, do you lose an opportunity? The answer to the first question depends on which school of thought you subscribe to. The second answer is yes you probably will, which is why a new C-level role is emerging in enterprises around the globe. That role is Chief Listening Officer or CLO. It may also go by other names such as Community Manager, Chief Blogger or Head Tweet. Their function is to listen to social media for opportunities to engage with consumers and to direct market intelligence around their organisation.

Dell and Kodak have been high-profile examples of organisations dedicating a role to listening to social media and customers, but you don’t need to be a global giant to have the same function in your own business. Telecom NZ have a team working this function as opposed to one person. Xero has a Community Manager that is also supported by three others. There are free and not-so-free tools available to businesses to help them monitor the array of social media sites so there is no excuse not to be doing it!

Two of my personal favourite free sites are Social Mention which lets you create alerts similar to Google Alerts and IceRocket. But getting alerts is one thing. I think to be truly valuable the CLO, whether it is a person or a team, need to actively engage with consumers on the sites and encourage and nurture relationships. It always amuses me how some large corporates in New Zealand claim to be active and responsive on Twitter, yet you mention them negatively and it can take literally days before they respond!

One company that I think really ‘gets’ social media in New Zealand is Xero, there is a brief interview below with CEO Rod Drury where he outlines their approach to using SM effectively. One of the stand-out quotes in it for me that really sum up what it is all about – ‘.. its all about starting conversations with our customers.

YouTube Preview Image

Can you really afford not to listen to the conversations that are taking part around you? In my mind no.

Learn to listen. Opportunity could be knocking at your virtual door very softly.

Are you being social with your co-workers?

In the last post we looked at social media from an externally facing perspective using things like You Tube, Facebook and Twitter to engage with external consumers. But what about your internal consumers? Are you being as sociable with them as you can (or should) be?

Communications within an organisation tend to be asynchronous and often top-down – the CEO sending a ‘proclamation from the ivory tower’ to the minions announcing a decision or a strategy is all-too-common. Michael Fauscette commented on the phenomenon of information overload where employees do not have proper collaborative tools and how traditional information systems were designed for information capture, not sharing. Think about the file structure of a network drive. A network server will have folders that are shared, but unless you have permission you cannot access the files contained in them. Sure there are things the general workforce should not see such as payroll information but a large amount of other content may benefit from a more collaborative approach.

There are a number of tools that organisations can deploy internally, such as Microsoft Sharepoint, Yammer and Ning all with funny names that make it a hard sell to CFOs and CEOs but that can deliver value to a business. Aristocrat are an organisation that have realised the power that social media can bring, deploying Yammer globally and now seeing people in the company that ordinarily would not contribute engaging and collaborating. Dion Hinchcliffe over at ZDNet has an interesting series on Enterprise 2.0 success stories that are well worth a read and they highlight how powerful the openness of social media can be.

The only thing that seems to be stopping wider adoption of social media in organisations is culture, more specifically a culture that sees power in knowledge ownership, of control of the information flow. Staff engagement seems to be a hot topic at the moment, with a number of companies I have spoken to highlighting it as a focus for the year. The consensus is getting staff engaged with the business is key to growth. How do we expect them to get engaged if we filter and block their access to the business through out-dated attitudes and risk-maps.The infographics below is from David Armano’s blog about the weaving of social into the organisations DNA and for me sums up what needs to occur for mainstream adoption.

Social Media cannot be an ‘IT-thing’ or a ‘Marketing-thing’. It needs to be seen not as a gimmick but as a value-adding platform that enhances the workplace and allows staff to be engaged. Imagine if there was a way to remove the workplace silos, where everyone had an equal voice and could share their problems and ideas. Who knows, little Mary the intern in finance may just have the next big product idea. Tom in HR might just have the solution to a budgeting issue or an ad placement. If only they knew there was a problem in the first place….

Time for the old guard determined to maintain a top-down command-and-control attitude to leave? I think so.