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How to Succeed in Social Networking and Collaboration

As social media continues to weave its way into more and more aspects of our daily lives, organizations are still finding themselves struggling to really take advantage of it. Today’s businesses understand the need to collaborate, yet most remain unhappy with their efforts and results. Whether it’s a lack of adoption, or an inability to identify the correct tools, there are only a few organizations today that are doing it right. Luckily, I came across a pretty cool post by Tony Byrne, President of The Real Story Group, where he helps outline how businesses can overcome their problems and take advantage of social media.

The Good

“The organizations I’ve seen that have been successful focus a lot on very specific business applications that they insert into a business process,” says Byrne. One of the key differentiators in organizations where social media adoption has been successful is that they focus on using social tools for very specific business processes. “What you don’t want to do is drop a social collaboration platform into the enterprise, give it to everybody and expect that you will get all this value out of it,” points out Byrne. That’s a surefire way to set yourself up for failure. So, instead of immediately rolling out a tool enterprise-wide, first focus on implementing these tools in a limited capacity.

You have to remember that with these tools you are trying to change individual’s habits. In addition to starting small, there needs to be proof that picking up this new tool is worth it. Successful organizations try to pinpoint specific purposes and business processes where it makes sense to use social networking and collaboration tools. Then, they communicate these across the organization. So, for example it could take the form of a social Q&A which can be very useful in mergers and acquisitions, or it could be around knowledge management – the point is that it is initially used for a specific process and that managers communicate the value of using these tools to the greater public.

The goal should not be adoption; it should be about deriving business value. To put it briefly, “If you can actually help people in their day-to-day work, they will use the tools,” says Byrne.

The Bad

When implementing these platforms, it’s important to remember that while they are a useful service, they are not actual applications — “they are kind of a helper application,” says Byrne. You have to think about the specific ways in which your employees can use this social collaboration application, and then customize it for the business – as I previously highlighted. Or, in the case of the more sophisticated platforms, you have to think about how to take this mass of capabilities — and shape it into specific business applications that solve real business problems. Another issue is the lack of cross system integration. Byrne points out that while it is possible to integrate multiple systems, it’s not an easy process. “With enough time, money and painkillers, yes [integration is possible]. But people really underestimate the difficulty in doing this.” This can be easily avoided by having an enterprise wide plan, even if only the sales team is currently using the product.

The social networking and collaboration space is still new, and with that comes a lot of unexpected obstacles. The power of these tools is universally understood, but having an understanding and being able to achieve these benefits are two entirely different things. I hope that by checking out how what some of these companies are doing right will help you and your team unlock the power of these great tools.

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