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Social media is still in the early phases of use as a business tool, according to a recent study from thinkJar and Beagle Research Group. Results of “Social Media in Business” indicate that internal resistance relating to a number of non-IT problems is hindering more widespread adoption and advanced enterprise use of social media, and service providers can help CIOs looking to expand social media in their organizations overcome this resistance.
The Market is Young
One thing CIOs facing internal resistance to social media plans need to remember is that enterprise social media by and large is still a fairly early market. Most of the companies surveyed primarily have experience with social media through the big name consumer networks such as Facebook and Twitter. This suggests that employees are bringing the social channels they use at home to the workplace and modifying them for corporate use, which is a typical early step in enterprise adoption of leading-edge technologies as evidenced by the “BYOD” trend and going back a bit further the introduction of PCs to the office.
In addition, the report points out that the types of social media most enterprises are currently using are primarily oriented toward outbound personal communication, which serves as a good indicator of their level of sophistication for social media use. Outbound personal communication is critical for any business, but represents the “last mile” of social media.
Most companies are not using social media for higher-level functions like capturing customer input, to say nothing of internal uses. Naturally technology-savvy CIOs probably would like to see their organizations move up the enterprise social media food chain, so to speak. But that leads to the other main finding of the report, which is….
Obstacles to Adoption Remain
The youth and inexperience of the enterprise social media market should not blind CIOs to the fact that significant obstacles to wider and deeper adoption remain. Interestingly, the leading issues are not directly IT-related. Fear in various forms creates the biggest enterprise social media adoption challenges. Not understanding the benefits (which stems from a fear of there not being any), security issues and fears of negative impacts and unproven technologies are much more prevalent than IT apathy.
The underlying assumption CIOs can take from these findings is that social media vendors have not done an adequate job of making their cases for incorporating social media into business processes. They may be trying hard but in a new market, the messages need repetition and supporting documentation in the form of success stories, lessons learned, and early best practices.
Potential customers (i.e., a CIO’s bosses and constituents) simply do not understand how the addition of social media to their business processes can make business better. Third-party IT service providers are an ideal resource CIOs can tap into for their general social media expertise, as well as their familiarity with current best practices and learnings from other clients they can share.
For many companies, social media outsourcing may be more a case of bringing in qualified personnel rather than farming out technology infrastructure. But whatever the social media case may be, third-party service providers can be a crucial resource for CIOs to make it.