Why Social Media In The Enterprise is Failing So Far

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.

Mobile & Social Media Global Issues Forecast

Just last year the Indian government decided to implement a program to bring the world’s cheapest tablet device to the population. This to drive increased use of the Internet by it’s citizens. A brilliant move. A Canadian manufacturer won that bid. This signalled a radical change that will begin to have a significant global impact into 2012. In ways that go far beyond the world of consumerism and brands.

2012 Will Be The Year of Mobile. So what?
Nothing new in that proclomation is there? Every pundit and forecaster is saying the same thing. Yet it is true. The impact however, is not just on the world of brands and presenting yet another challenge to marketers, it is more about the impact on the developing world and in regards to how we live and connect as humans globally. As millions of devices spill into the market with high-end devices in developed nations, the developing nations will suddenly have access to a whole new world of content and learning…and engagement.

The Nature of Mobile Content in Social Media
Our research has shown us that engagement in mobile devices is different for social media. For the most part, the most popular form of content created is images via cameras, followed by sharing of other content created more often by non-mobile devices such as PC’s or in media facilities. Very little text content is generated beyond essentially, that of a “tweet” or 140 characters. It is the exception, not the rule, for long blog posts to be written on a smartphone or tablet like the iPad or Galaxy.

The Nature of Mobile Engagement in Social Media
Engagement – or actual interaction on social media services tends to be shorter than on a PC or fixed-device, even a laptop. While laptop computers are mobile, we don’t really classify them as such as they are not “instant-on” or “always-on” devices like tablets and smartphones. The primary purposes of engagement in social media with mobile devices is 1) status updating & checking 2) planning & organising for social or business meetings 3) sharing content from another in ones network or received from another and 4) sharing images and videos. We anticipate significant increases in the sharing of live and streaming video of everything from music concerts to protests like the Occupy movement.

Civil Society & Mobile Device Use
The protests of 2012 will be lively and they will be shared in still and moving image form unlike ever before. This increased sharing will result in either bigger and longer-lasting protests or smaller protests where people can observe and don’t feel the need to participate. More likely we will see wider spread use of these devices in the areas of change for civil society. One risk is the possibility of more “staged events” by protestors and activists such as acts of vandalism or stunts to generate increased awareness. This may present a new challenge to corporations and policing services trying to maintain some form of healthy expression of democratic rights.

The Societal Debates Will Increase
As a result of the use of these mobile devices in civil society by populations for change and democratic expression, we anticipate even more debates around privacy and civil actions. Governments in democracies can no longer just hit a “kill switch” for risk of facing significant outrage by the public. Carriers and content providers will increasingly ask citizens and consumers to give up more of their privacy and that will spark even further debate.

The Mobile World Is Upon Us
So no doubt that significant changes are coming as more and more people are connected. Consumers have found their voice regarding engagement with brands. Now the consumer as a citizen may very well find their voice for changes in society; good and bad. Over 2 Billion humans connect to the Internet today. With the rapid spread of mobile devices, a far lower infrastructure cost than landlines, increased data rates of mobile service providers and ease of use of these devices, the game is truly on in 2012 into 2015 and beyond. An additional challenge for governments and corporations will be capturing useful insights out of the ever increasing and vast amounts of data available online.

Why Are We Still Having PR Crises in Social Media?

We’re a good 5 years into the whole commercialisation of the social web and social media tools now. Facebook has become a channel and so has Twitter. Over 2 billion people are connected in the world. We’ve had some doozies of PR fails in social media and crises evolve from the use of social media by average citizens. Some have hit major news media like CNN (e.g. United broke my guitar and Motrin moms.) Yet we’re still seeing these crises occur. Most recently with the Penn State issue over Sandusky. In fact some might say these crises are on the rise. Why?

The C-Suite Still Isn’t Listening
We’ve seen it with a number of our clients, even this year. We provide them the analysis of how the social media crisis they’re facing happened, where it spread, which group or individual drove it and the content/messaging that evolved. Usually there is a deer-in-the-headlights look from the CEO or VP followed by an expletive. The other phrase we often hear is, “but this stuff is for kids.” Unfortunately that sentiment is still largely the case in the C-suite. Few executives actually, if ever, use these social media tools in many industries. They just don’t have the time and the responsibility for this is levelled at the PR or marketing teams and seen mostly as part of a marketing channel. For the marketing VP it is seen mostly as a broadcast channel, not an engagement channel. Unless you use social media tools it is hard to wrap ones head around it.

The Impact is Still Intangible
Sort of. In some cases such as United and the guitar fiasco it is immediately measurable. In others, like the Keystone XL issue, it is more complex and harder to definitively say that social media use directly resulted in Obama’s decision to delay. But social media was used by individuals and groups; it was very coordinated and  focused over a long period of time. For many businesses the impact is soft in a sense, until sales decline or a legislative issue doesn’t pass. Sometimes it is hard to clarify. But the fact is, these tools are being used by citizens and they are having an impact. It’s just about degrees.

Businesses Run On Process
All businesses run on processes. Companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars shaping and refining their processes. From sales to marketing to manufacturing and hiring. With larger businesses, social media is disruptive and challenges industrial era thinking. It is hard for a large company to quickly shift gears. This presents an immediate disadvantage to business. One that people have knowingly or unconsciously taken advantage of.

So it is a combination of issues that come together and we suspect there will be more PR crises to come and probably some very nasty ones. In fact we expect them to rise into 2014. Until senior management in all industries comes to greater grips of the potential damage, even if they aren’t using social media as a company, these types of crises aren’t going away anytime soon. Some firms have implemented social media monitoring tools for online reputation management, but even then they are not immune to a crises happening.

(Photo Credit: Benedetto Tozi on Flickr)

Social Media As a Soft Power Tool in Global Affairs

Based on much of our research, social media is not just a tool for promoting democracy (although that is hotly debated) but we see it as becoming a “soft power” tool on global issues. Perhaps one that even citizens can use to garner influence and attention from other nation states. For those not familiar with hard and soft power, in a very simple way it is this; “hard power” is the use of military forces in a direct way (i.e. bombing Libya recently to aid democratic forces) whereas “soft power” are tools like sanctions (economic) that can impact a country (e.g. sanctions against Syria’s dictatorship.)

Social Media and The Art of Political Perceptions in Soft Power
Perhaps one of the best examples of using social media tools in the ongoing game of “soft power” is the US State Department. Closely followed by the UK government. On the dictatorial side is Iran with it’s army of counter revolutionary bloggers and the likes of Hugo Chavez using Twitter (given all the coffee Chavez drinks Twitter would seem to suit him.)

These tools become just another part of the arsenal of persuasion and perception development/management as part of a governments communications strategy. But they are not insignificant as some might think. In ways small and large, these messages enter the Cyburbian stream of concsiousness, they are shared, edited, discussed, debated and added to. They can also add context to a situation that may not find coverage in traditional news media.

Defining Positioning
Using social media services, governments can define their positions more clearly using text, images and video. This then becomes a relied upon source by academia, think-tanks and other governments. We’re not indicating the “truth” of a statement or definition of a position, just that this is how they can be used. How they are used.

Civil Society Has a Big Voice
The other side of this is that civil society groups (from Greenpeace to PETA to Medicins Sans Frontiers) now have a global voice. They can and do use these tools to shape views, opinions and perceptions. Influential citizens can join the conversation as well and become thought leaders both for an against issues in any language or culture. This new ability for civil society to participate in the global dialogue and have influence is a new dynamic in applying to soft power.

There is a whole new dynamic to global communications and their impact on the use of soft power tools. One that will offer some fascinating areas of study for many years to come.

Civil Society Groups & How They Use Social Media

From the Arab Spring to the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Keystone XL issue and even down to small, localised activities, civil society groups (from radical left-wing activists to the average and necessary protest) have figured out social media and are making increasingly effective use of it. Below, we’ve provided a diagram of how these groups, some that have been around a long time, others that just form for a short period, are using these tools. Businesses would do well to understand them and the processes for marketing, investor and public relations.

In the Management block, we can see how social media tools are used to manage the administrative functions of the group. In this case they may use email, a Facebook group, Wiki’s and other tools, that are a mix of “open” to the public and private. In the second block, Communication, we see how they use the various tools to communicate/broadcast the messages developed as a team. All forms of digital content are used across multiple platforms (e.g. Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Flickr etc.) Once the content and creative has been released it moves to the “Engagement” phase, where the grassroots group enters into dialogue with the general public, answering questions and ensuring the message is consistent and understood by the public and hopefully shared. The Actions shows how once the message is out there (i.e. “meet at the town hall, wear your t-shirts and bring signs at 2PM”) it can result in a number of real-world activities. The green circle indicates that if an event in public or online piece of content (e.g. video) is successful, the general public shares the results of the activity that took place in public and the feedback communications loop is triggered (the green line returning to the communications block.) Once news media picks up on a story, such as a highly successful public rally, this transitions the story to a broadcast public, usually significantly increasing recognition for the civil society group and expanding their message. Social Media is a highly cost-effective route to organizing, creating and communicating a mission. Traditional news media then plays a vital role in expanding audience attention and driving further public actions.

We have seen this process used in a number of actions over the past two years. It works and has become highly effective. The gap we often find that our business and government clients miss, is that these social media is simply a set of tools used to galvanize support and actions that take place in the real world. They might see videos after  a protest or action and say “oh well, yeah, we know that happened.” But the same tools were used beforehand to organize the rally. Those affected by these necessary and key parts of a democracy could, however, be better prepared.