Culture and established process are the key reasons for social media failing in the enterprise. Social Enterprise tools (essentially a Facebook for business use) is a very logical tool for businesses and can be a game-change. And that’s the problem – it’s a game-changer. It’s disruptive. It sets everything on it’s ear. Larger businesses, the Enterprise segment, has spent billions of dollars integrating tools like SAP, or SharePoint etc. SharePoint is a great tool – yet has not truly succeeded when it’s biggest competitor is DropBox. DropBox is used by employees to store and share files online – because SharePoint is too complex. Enterprise tools are complex by nature because they focus on the nirvana of bringing clarity to all aspects of the Enterprise.
Big Doesn’t Quite Get It
The other reason social enterprise tools are struggling to find a grip is that the enterprise management solutions offered by Oracle, SAP, IBM and others don’t really have a truly “social” element to them. Sure, they include some pseudo “social networking” tools, but they aren’t truly reflective of what a social networking tool should and can do. Just as the social enterprise tools are anathema to corporations, so they are to the manufacturers and implementers of existing solutions like SAP and Oracle. They haven’t figured out how to make money off these tools, so they’re advising against them to their clients. Some elements of social media are in these tools, but not enough. Yet.
We Don’t Want People Partying All The Time
This is a perception issue with social media. We see it all the time in our own research projects. The C-suite is still under the illusion that “social media” or “social networking” is only about kids, teens and college students and that these tools aren’t used in serious ways. We definitely saw this attitude shifting in late 2011 and we suspect in 2012 it will shift even more to the C-suite taking social media seriously, beyond reputation management and simply marketing.
But many a senior executive also may see “social enterprise” meaning people are going to be sending each other jokes and silly videos and planning luncheons with these tools, rather than being productive. Our suspicion is this is largely a problem of wording. The word being “social”. There is a connotation with social, that it is not “working”, that it means being, well, social. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. But perceptions are what they are and so good, effective marketing is needed.
We Haven’t Hit Decade One Yet
The reality is, all these social media tools and services that exist today, haven’t even been around a decade. Enterprises move slow. Adoption of new technologies takes time. The commercial Internet has only just reached 15 years of age. Today, business takes advantage of and leverages the Internet. But social media services, even though they are delivered via the Internet, are still less than 10 years old. Blogging is approaching a decade, but only just. Blogs are the most adopted tool by large corporations, but it took them nearly a decade to get there.
The Marketing Echo Chamber of Social Enterprise Solutions
For the most part, the companies marketing social enterprise tools are doing an amazing job marketing their tools. Not. The problem is, they are marketing them via social media channels. Not where their market is. Some no doubt, are getting to the CEO. But marketing inside your echo chamber is not going to get the message out. As we know, the C-suite reads news online, but social enterprise needs to be the channels they are reading. Engagement by the majority of CEO’s in Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc is still very low outside the tech industry. Publishing articles in LinkedIn is good to garner lower echelon support, but not much more.
2012 Could Be The Year
In 2012, we’ll see a lot more focus on the business value of social media, as we’ll see similar value for social media in civil society. In large part it will be up to the software companies that can figure out a better way to market to and reach the right CEO’s, CIO’s and CTO’s in the enterprise. We also suspect that the likes of SAP, IBM and Oracle will start to look more closely at the value of these tools.
In the meantime, the other big challenge is dealing with the “social” perceptions of the C-suite. And that is not easy. There’s an interesting and good article on Forbes that discusses the logical benefits of Social Enterprise tools here.