Despite what you may think about it, social media has become one the most influential, fastest growing and most ubiquitous forms of communications in decades. It can create and diminish world leaders in 150 characters, unite people around the world to humanitarian causes with just a few clicks, and it can help companies accomplish large-scale business objectives.

But it can’t do it alone. To be successful in this arena, business leaders must support the deployment of social technologies with as much vigor and dedication as any other technology initiative.

According to Gartner, 80 percent of social business efforts will not achieve intended benefits through 2015.  McKinsey & Company reports that 72 percent of companies use social technologies in some way, but very few are achieving its full potential benefit.

Much of this failure stems from a lack of understanding and support from business management, and poor planning by project owners.  But if properly supported and deployed, social technologies can make a substantial difference in motivating employees.

A motivated employee can be the most underutilized resource in a company’s arsenal. According to a Corporate Leadership Council study, organizations with highly engaged employees are growing profits three times faster than their competitors, and 87 percent of their employees are less likely to leave their jobs.

Social business strategies must be aligned with strategic business goals and receive the support of major stakeholders who set them.  This goes beyond a key executive making a technology buying decision and then forcing it on a business unit. In order for this to work well, the key stakeholders need to agree on a common vision and strategy that maps to key business objectives and priorities.

To get business leaders behind your social business rollout, consider these five steps:

  1. Determine what success looks like for your organization and measure it. Several studies are available to help you determine key metrics. A few examples are McKinsey’s study on unlocking value and productivity through social technologies and Altimeter’s report on Making the Business Case for Enterprise Social Networks.
  2. Define who the influencers are within your organization and get them on board early. If they don’t believe in this project, you will have an uphill battle. Adoption will be directly tied to their extended networks and their use of the technology you choose.
  3. Select a technology that fits your organization. While this seems pretty straightforward, a rush to judgment can kill your project. When evaluating a social technology, ask these questions: Is it easy to use, and easy for employees to access the information they need?  How is the mobile experience? What resources will be required to implement it? Gartner estimates that 60 percent of workers will interact with content applications via mobile devices by 2015.
  4. Create an environment that fosters collaboration. Make sure employees understand their input is valued. Additionally, reinforce the technology as the go-to resource moving forward.
  5. Seed your community with meaningful content before you launch to your end users. Conduct a concise audit of the content your main internal/external customers will use, and organize the data so that it can be easily accessed after the initiative is launched.

These steps will help you align social business strategies with your strategic business goals, and get executive support. Once properly deployed, social technologies can bring people together and enable them to more effectively accomplish key business objectives.