Social media has evolved significantly from its roots in marketing and corporate communications to the point that it should no longer be viewed as merely a function or a discipline within a company.
In a business context, social media is no longer just a destination or a set of tools and features. It has evolved into a very powerful extension and dimension of work…a new way of thinking about how business is done.
Asking the question (today) 'who owns social media?' in business is like asking the question 'who owns email?'
Email has traditionally played an important role in how people communicate, collaborate and share information. In many ways, social media represents a massive evolution (or revolution) as to how we do the same – but in a different context and with greater benefit.
Everyone in a corporate environment needs to understand, appreciate and own how social media is used in the context of what they do.
Resistance is futile
A mistake that many companies make is to relegate social media to just marketing and/or corporate communications and associate it as only relevant to the youngest generations of people.
Adjusting to the use and rules of social media and social thinking is not easy for everyone.
For many people, the idea of something 'new' is not always welcome. After-all, many people have built great careers and resumes based on doing things a certain way and in an environment where they have influence and control. Anything new and as disruptive as social media is often adverse.
Success will come to those who embrace and understand how principles of social thinking can help them be more successful in what they do.
Politics and ownership
Another mistake that often stalls progress in big companies (related to social media) deals with the nasty issue of 'ownership.'
Ownership in business is one of those words that for something as ubiquitous as social media can only lead to frustration and political discourse. The moment someone claims ownership (usually associated with people and budget) a line is drawn…which creates a divide that fuels politics and bureaucracy…which slows everyone and everything down.
To help address these issues, Vanessa DiMauro suggests the importance of social media discovery – as a first step to being a media company:
Starting a strategic social media plan can be overwhelming. There are a few big questions that can cause organizational paralysis…the most daunting of which is "where do we begin?" followed by "what's happening that we don't know about?"
As business leaders take time to understand what their employees are already doing with social media (personally and professionally) they come to realize that their companies are far more socially engaged than they originally thought and that ownership is highly distributed.
Cases in Point
A company that represents a gold standard in the use of social media across its organization, is IBM. This case study shows impressive utilization and adoption of social media across the company that has helped to mobilize its core asset (employees) as strong and aligned 'media entities' and contributors to IBM's strategy.
IBM has institutionalized social thinking to tap into the intellect and experience of their employees to fuel innovation, create new business opportunities and advocate the IBM message and strengthen its presence and brand experience in the market. Following are a few impressive stats from the case study:
- No IBM corporate blog or Twitter account
- 17,000 internal blogs
- 100,000 employees using internal blogs
- 53,000 members on SocialBlue (like Facebook for employees)
- A few thousand “IBMers” on Twitter
- Thousands of external bloggers,
- Almost 200,000 on LinkedIn
- As many as 500,000 participants in company crowd-sourcing “jams”
- 50,000 in alum networks on Facebook and LinkedIn
- Crowd-sourcing identified 10 best incubator businesses, which IBM funded with $100 million
- $100 billion in total revenue with a 44.1% gross profit margin in 2008
As impressive an example that IBM represents, SAP is also a great case for effective use of social media and social strategies to embrace millions of its external users, experts and educators through its SAP Community Network (SCN). Here is a case study about the community that showcases the model and impressive results. Key stats include:
> 2 million members
> 200 countries and territories
~ 30,000 new members / month
~ 1 million unique visitors / month
> 2 million visits @ 20 million pages / month
> 200,000 have contributed (ever)
> 70,000 last year w/ 3,000 “top” contributors
~ 5,000 bloggers
~ 6,000 posts / day in 350+ forums
> 1.5 million topic threads @ > 7M messages
> 400,000 bi-weekly newsletter subscribers
> 500 SAP ecosystem solutions in EcoHub
– Thousands of demos and trials delivered
– Sales leads from >100 countries @ all industries
Companies must embrace the opportunities of social engagement with their employees to help (re)shape corporate culture, invigorate innovation, and customer centricity.
Everyone in the business needs to own, participate and adapt social media strategies and thinking as part of their jobs.
Both IBM and SAP are great examples to study.