People are social beings, and socializing as a part of work is ubiquitous. It is not surprising, then, that a multi-billion dollar industry has arisen to facilitate online socializing in our fast-changing, mobile world. Yet three key assumptions underlying many current social media deployments in organizations jeopardize their success.
First, the assumption that merely introducing a social solution will assure its adoption is misguided–unless an organization takes the time and effort to ensure that a socially-enabled project provides observable business value. At Ultimate, because of our strong culture of putting people first, we recognized an opportunity to improve the onboarding process and enhance communication between new and long-time employees using our partner solution, Yammer. Now new employees are welcomed into a network of colleagues who answer complex business questions, and allow them to experience Ultimate culture, regardless of their geographic locations. Other organizations, like logistics companies, offer social media solutions that quickly help stranded truck drivers find repair parts, resulting in significant cost savings. If a social solution solves a known operational challenge, broad adoption and success are much more likely outcomes.
Second, assuming that social behavior inside and outside of work is similar creates expectations about the use and adoption of social solutions. People in the workplace collaborate and engage with different motivations than in their personal lives. At work they usually have a specific purpose beyond mere sociability for reaching out to a colleague. Nor do they generally “follow” co-workers’ activities unless they have a reasonable expectation they will find solutions or innovation that impacts them directly. In reality, social interactions in the work place are more focused. A more apt term for “social media solutions” in the workplace is “collaboration solutions”, which more clearly defines the nature of workplace social interactions.
My final observation: another danger is that a project with the overused term “social” runs the risk of trivializing these more open and collaborative solutions that add value to any organization. I believe going beyond “social” to “collaborative” solutions and recognizing that they bring real measurable value to an organization, is the best way to ensure that we all benefit from the richer and more engaging work life these solutions can provide.