8 reasons why Social Media fails in organisations Part 1: No Strategy, Governance or Ownership

July 18, 2011 § 5 Comments

Last week I was in Brisbane Australia having been invited to share insights that we have learnt in the development of our Social Media Field Guide Masterclass. I was invited to present to two different groups of practitioners whilst i was there, one was a group of HR and OD practitioners, the other a group of KM practitioners.

In each group there were a smattering of people who were fairly savvy on social media, the KM crew more so than the HR people.

Where I am starting to see the level of interest and need to know more growing in “how can social media be used within and across organisations to enhance collaboration and networking?” Some are even getting the idea of how to use it effectively to connect and collaborate with customers and suppliers.

One of the biggest hurdles for many organisations is around the HOW?  This fear of the unknown freezes many organisations into inaction or even outright banning of these tools. Sadly, many organisations haven’t worked out that with the mobility provided by smart phones, banning just ain’t gonna work, not to mention the distrust message they are sending to their employees by not even entering into a dialogue on the subject.

So to continue to engage in the dialogue I am doing a series of 3 blog posts covering 7 of the top reasons why social media fails in organisations. These are certainly not exhaustive so I look forward to hearing your experiences and examples along the way.

Fail 1: No strategy
When there is fear in an organisation around social media the default position is either not having a strategy  or denying it completely by banning or heavily restricting acces to Social Media.  No strategy may in fact be the strategy but best to be explicit about it. As people so often do, they find workarounds to enable them to work the way that makes sense to them.  The stats you will find in the slideshare presentation about the Field Guide will give you an insight into just how much people really like communicating and connecting with these tools.

One approach we use to make sense of developing a strategy is to use the POST framework. This structure helps you keep the right priorities and order in the development of your strategy:

  • People,
  • Objectives,
  • Strategy and then
  • Tools.

Fail 2:  No governance
The lack of understanding or belief in the myths around the governance of Social media creates many problems for organisations. It’s a bit Henny Penny really, when email was introduced many believed it had no place in an environment where people were working :s.  We know that email can be a real pain, but seriously could you have got by without email as a work tool?  Social Media is just the latest version of this evolution.

Companies like the ABC here in Australia are finding that their email usage is reducing with tools like Yammer on the rise. Many organisations fail to understand they already have the governance requirements in place to deal with Social Media. Where organisations have created volumes of what not to do with Social Media they have very low engagement if any at all, and it quickly ends up in failure.  The ABC Social Media Policy is a One Page document about what you can do (not what you cant). They recognise they already have all the policies and safeguards in place (we will discuss these a bit more in the Barriers section in an upcoming post), all they need to do is to help their people join the dots.  Another great example of communicating the Social Media Policy to help join those dots, is the Department of Justice in Victoria’s You Tube video. It’s awesome the way they have used the tools themselves to explain the Policy as well as demonstrate the possibilities of the way it can be done.

Fail 3: No ownership
So often the question of who should “own” Social Media in organisations comes up. I believe no one should own something as truly organic as the “socialness” of your people in the organisation. That being said, no matter what your functional role is, the opportunity for people who understand this space is leading a collaborative Social/Digital Strategy development for your organisation. It’s a great value proposition for any connected practitioner.  By involving your peers from other functional groups as well as the employees, especially those already doing something in Social Media in the company, you will no doubt maximise the chances of success for both the communities and business by modelling what it is you are trying to nurture and learning along the way.

I look forward to discussing more of the reasons why many organisations fail over the coming weeks. Watch out  for our upcoming posts to generate conversations around: Business Requirements, Resourcing, Culture, Building communities and Barriers.

Please join us in the discussion we are interested in your experiences and ideas of how to get it right on this topic.

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