Don't expect much from social media projects just yet

Gartner research says that most social business efforts will not achieve intended benefits through 2015

All those folks driving social media initiatives in the hopes of building a social business, shouldn't expect too much in return, at least not for another 2-3 years. Why? Well, according to experts, it's because most projects being deployed currently are subjected to poor leadership and suffer from too much focus on technology.

Researchers at Gartner have found that social media projects are being treated like technology projects similar to an ERP or CRM initiative. When in fact, such initiatives need to be treated somewhat differently. Gartner's research says that as many as 80 per cent social business efforts will not achieve intended benefits through 2015.

"Businesses need to realize that social initiatives are different from previous technology deployments," says Carol Rozwell, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. "Traditional technology rollouts, such as ERP or CRM, followed a "push" paradigm. Workers were trained on an app and were then expected to use it. In contrast, social initiatives require a "pull" approach, one that engages workers and offers them a significantly better way to work. In most cases, they can't be forced to use social apps, they must opt-in."

This means that the leaders of social business initiatives need to shift their emphasis away from deciding which technology to implement. Instead, they should focus on identifying how social initiatives will improve work practices for both individual contributors and managers. They need a detailed understanding of social networks: how people are currently working, who they work with and what their needs are.

"There is too much focus on content and technology, and not enough focus on leadership and relationships," adds Rozwell. "Leaders need to develop a social business strategy that makes sense for the organization and tackle the tough organizational change work head on and early on. Successful social business initiatives require leadership and behavioral changes. Just sponsoring a social project is not enoughmanagers need to demonstrate their commitment to a more open, transparent workstyle by their actions.

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