In just a few short years, social media has quickly become the dominate medium of many of our personal communications. We cannot deny that with the popularity of social media it has greatly helped increase the ease and frequently that individuals now collaborate. Today, we collaborate daily to accomplish our work – sometimes productively, sometimes not so much. However, it turns out that most businesses still fear social media.
According to a recent Harvard Business Review report of more than 250 organizations surveyed by Anthony Bradley and Mark McDonald, the most common attitude of business towards social media is one of fear. According to their survey, organizations today are “split 50/50 between a positive and challenged attitude towards social media with many indicating that they recognize the potential for social media to address strategic needs and generate durable change.”
The problem is, the way business is done is changing, and fearful, folly, and flippant attitudes make it extremely difficult to realize the benefits of mass collaboration through the use of tools like social media. According to Bradley and McDonald, “The trouble with a fearful attitude is that an organization often doesn’t take a specific stance: it discourages and even prohibits the use of social media.” There is no question that this attitude does limit the possibility of dealing with undesirable behavior – that’s one of the reasons why social media is blocked. However, this attitude also stifles any business value that may be derived from the use of social media.
How do you move beyond fear?
If such a high percentage of organizations still fear social media, then the million dollar question becomes how do we move beyond being afraid of social media towards a culture of acceptance? Bradley and McDonald offer their views on tackling this problem. According to Bradley and McDonald, there are two ways to help alter an organization’s view towards social media: “use it to demonstrate executive support and build confidence throughout the organization, or start small with a narrow and specific purpose.” They key takeaway here is that in both of these scenarios, there is no mention of a small pilot program. This is because social media pilot programs, more often than not, fail. They fail because they either limit the initial audience – which to be successful needs to grow organically and aggressively – or they are launched with a half-baked plan or technology that fails to inspire the community to participate.
A good example of garnering executive support to build confidence in social media is best illustrated by the large grocery retailer SUPERVALU. The grocery retailer’s CEO and President, Craig Herket, saw social media as a way to “respond faster by market needs, create a flatter organization, and share ideas and innovations, according to Wayne Shurts, the company’s CIO.” Herket wanted to use social media both to communicate with the company and also respond to questions and comments directly and quickly. Herket encourages his executive team to participate and even assigns comments and action items via social media where everyone can see. Previously, ideas and experiences were kept within local store brands, now collaborative communities have formed based on commonalities that exist across multiple store brands. For example, a grass roots community has evolved of stores located in vacation communities. These stores face unique challenges from staffing during peak times, to handling peak demands in the summer months. By having a collaborative platform, these stores are able to share best practices and help each other with the unique challenges these stores all face.
The second suggested option (starting small with a defined purpose) can be easily achieved by trying to address a popular pain point. For example, instead of developing a corporate-wide social network for all employees and running a pilot program in the western region, try setting up a social solution for sales people on how to successfully identify and overcome your top three objections. Something like that is magnetic and will quickly attract users into collaborative communities, helping shift the culture past fear into action and experience.
By trying either of these two suggested strategies you’ll quickly move from fearing social media to realizing the business value that can be derived from the tools available. So why not give it a shot?