There’s no doubt that social technologies have changed the way we do business and live our lives. We use social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn to build and communicate with our networks. We keep up with what’s happening and on trend via Twitter and use apps to do everything from monitoring our fitness levels to booking a taxi. We are also seeing the rise of virtual worlds, gamification, crowdsourcing and crowdfunding... the list is endless and new platforms are coming on stream almost every day.
Added on 21 January 2016 by Ronan Gruenbaum
Actively embracing these technologies can bring enormous value to organizations. It allows companies to get the word out about new products or services quickly and easily, helps them engage better with customers and stakeholders and can encourage a culture of collaboration and knowledge-sharing among staff.
Social technologies can, however, have a devastating effect if ignored – isolating businesses from their customers and putting them at risk of being outstripped by their more technology savvy competitors. While there are many examples of organizations who have successfully ‘gone social’, there are just as many who are still either fearful or resistant and haven’t yet woken up to the benefits these technologies can bring.
In his recently published book ‘Making Social Media Work: How to Implement Successful Social Media in the Workplace’, Ronan Gruenbaum from Hult International Business School sets out a framework for successful implementation of social technologies. So what are the six key steps you need to take to ensure a project to bring social technologies on board is destined for success?:
Organizations need to think carefully about what they want to get out of social technology and how much time they want employees to spend on it. Finding out what the intended stakeholders need is fundamental and will help with the conversation about whether the tool is intended, for example, for knowledge sharing or project collaboration. Is it aimed at reaching new audiences or intended as a vehicle for customer feedback? How will the target audience, whether they are customers, employees, suppliers or other stakeholders, know about it, who will have ownership and who will hold the budget? Other key questions to be asked are ‘Who is going to manage the process? How will it work in practice (i.e. will it be manned 24/7?) and last but not least, how will you evaluate success?
Employees need to be incentivized to engage with whatever social technologies you introduce – it’s not enough to simply just expect that because the tools are there, they will become enthusiastic users. The key is to help employees answer the question ‘what’s in it for me?’ Each person and each situation will be different. Some people will respond well to public acknowledgement. Some will like ‘badges’ or ‘points’. Some will need it to be part of their job description and built into their performance appraisal. For others, the incentive could be seeing that the leadership of the organization are listening to the conversations taking place, that they approve of social technologies and that they engage with them too.
Trust can be a real issue when it comes to implementing social technologies. Organizations often block access to social technologies because they fear employees will waste time on Facebook or Twitter or because they are worried security will be comprised if staff inadvertently download malware to their computers or click on a suspicious link. Another excuse for shying away from social technologies is that the organization might get into trouble if employees published comments or used material that could be construed as defamation or would be in breach of copyright. The truth is that if you trust people to behave like sensible adults, most of them will repay that trust by acting like sensible adults. The key is to set clear boundaries and educate people about safe and appropriate practice.
A champion – or network of champions – is essential if social technologies are to be introduced successfully. We are talking about the people who know everyone, who understand the technology and are good at explaining it to others and helping them embrace it. Having the leadership show interest and lead the way helps, but the social technology will only embed if people have a local ‘super user’ they can turn to for help. Someone who is well versed in the organization’s social media guides, who knows how to resize images for web use and can show others how to tag and hashtag in the right way. The champion does not have to be a dedicated ‘social technologies guru’ or a member of senior management. The appointment of a champion or champions does, however, send a signal to the rest of the organization that the business is taking social technologies seriously and is encouraging everyone to get on board.
If an organization implements social technologies but the employees do not engage with them, the exercise has been a waste of time. Likewise, if champions drive engagement internally but it drops off after initial training, their efforts have been pointless. The challenge is how to ensure there is momentum behind using the technology and that it won’t be dropped by the organization and the individual as more immediate and pressing issues arise. The key is to listen and respond, rather than just broadcasting, and recognize that everyone who asks a question or posts some kind of comment needs a reply. Make sure you engage rather than enrage by posting relevant information often, but not too much. Seeking feedback, demonstrating humility where appropriate and interacting at all levels of the organization are also important.
You cannot implement social technologies and then just leave them and assume everything will carry on working as originally intended. By their very nature, social technologies develop and evolve and it’s important to review and evaluate how they are working on a regular basis. Success for social technologies will depend on whatever the original strategy was – and there is now plenty of software available to help organizations track everything from engagement with a particular target audience to internal knowledge sharing. It’s also important to review regularly what new tools are available, what new platforms are being used and which platforms have been overtaken and are now of no significance to the target audience.
‘Making Social Media Work: How to Implement Successful Social Media in the Workplace’, Ronan Gruenbaum is available on Amazon
Ashridge Executive Education runs ‘The Digital Organization’, a three day program designed to help your organization compete in a world of ever-changing digital technologies and Big Data.