How Organizations Navigate Today’s Social Media Terrain

Social Media is about people, while business is about a product or service.  Inherently, businesses will have difficulties integrating social media into their businesses.  Those that succeed in fully integrating social technologies, will find that social technologies can and will create whole new business processes.  Businesses will value data driven decisions over opinion and experience based ones.  This of course is a ground breaking change in how organizations operate, and there will be cultural and procedural boundaries that will need to overcome for this to happen.

McKinsey & Company surveyed over 4000 companies across a multitude of variables to capture the current state of social media within organizations.  According to a survey “social technologies as a group have reached critical scale within organizations.” showing the energy sector having the smallest adoption rate of social technologies at 62% and High-Tech/Telecommunications having the highest at 86%.

However, adoption does not mean that they are tapping into the full potential that social technologies can bring to organizations.  McKinsey & Company categorized the surveyed companies into 4 groups: Developing, Internally Networked, Externally Networked, and Fully Networked.  While integrating social media into external communications has become a much more refined practice, integrating it for internal communication has been less emphasised.  By the numbers, externally networked organizations still account for only a small percentage of organizations and over 75% of companies are still only developing.

The friction between how organizations normally operate and how social technologies operate clearly is slowing down the process of integrating social media in business processes and strategies.  Teaching an old dog a trick isn’t impossible but it can be difficult.  Start-up companies have much more opportunity to integrate social media into their processes but even then, social media has to be at the start of their foundation.  Growing companies will eventually create their own cultures and practices, once this is established social media is much more difficult to integrate.

Social Media is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.  Even for individuals to have social media success they must ensure to have a commitment to engagement and participating in conversations.  This same principle applies to organizations looking to integrate social technologies and in dealing not with one individual, but now many individuals, it becomes exponentially harder to integrate it in an organization.  Everyone involved must engage daily with the tools in order for social technologies to succeed.  The survey indicated that, “roughly half of the internally and externally networked enterprises slid back into the category of developing organizations”  and, “less than 15% of the companies in any given category moved up to the next tier”.

For anyone looking to integrate social media into their business, they must understand that for there to be success, there must be a strong commitment to the technology. It is so easy to fall back and so hard to make progress but once there is success there is a great advantage in being a modern social media integrated company. Although it is hard to integrate social media in organizations, understanding the value in doing so will assist in the success of this effort. When trying to integrate it, start by making it a part of the daily routine and have everyone on board.

The survey states, “…fully networked organizations say that they continue to realize competitive gains and performance improvements.”  These improvements are seen internally, externally and with partners. Social media is only one tool that can improve a business, but in the ever changing landscape it provides one of the greatest opportunities to gain competitive advantage.  The majority of organizations have difficulties implementing it, and those that have are very pleased that they did.