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Social Media is Here to Stay, Is Your Company Ready?

This past year has been a whirlwind for social media, from the Jive and Facebook IPO, to the acquisition of Yammer by Microsoft and Involver by Oracle. It’s safe to say that corporations have quickly shifted from viewing social media as “nice to have” to “have to have”. With social media quickly growing into a major cornerstone of companies overall strategy, it’s important to not get in too deep, too quickly. For example, a 2012 Altimeter report highlighted the possible problems that can occur if organizations jump in to social media too quickly. That said, social media is here to stay, it’s time to decide if your company is ready.

Before going full speed ahead with any major initiative, it’s always a good idea to stop, take a minute, and take account of how your organization stands. This is even more the case with something as new as social media. Today, I want to share a quick 5 question test courtesy of a post I stumbled across on SmartPlanet by Heather Clancy. These questions should help you determine how ready your organization is for social media software and whether or not it’s worth it to incorporate it.

  1. Is your organization geographically dispersed? Remote workers, multiple branch offices and business partners help your company expand its mission beyond a specific headquarters in both locale and mentality. According to Clancy, the trick here “is to embrace the advantage of that local presence while giving those people access to the same information and tools as the central hub of your business.” So, if this doesn’t sound like you – maybe you are a smaller company with one office – it’s best to focus on how your organization can best use existing social platforms for the time being.
  2. Do you serve customers through multiple channels today? For most companies this question really comes down to one thing: support. One of the single largest irritants that customers face is when they call a business for help. To paraphrase Clancy, usually it’s a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. Nothing angers customers faster than having different answers and processes for the same question. Social business software promises to help smooth this out and create a more uniformed customer experience.
  3. Is IT behind you? Clancy aptly points out that Forrester Research highlights the “fact that social business software will spook many IT organizations, because it puts control in the hands of line-of-business manager and not the technical types.” This type of software will naturally require a different sort of evaluation and procurement process. Because these tools take control out of the hands of IT, it’s important that they are on board. Inevitably there will be some who push back, but as Moxie Software President and CEO Tom Kelly puts it “The CIOs who fought it will be just like the CIOs that fought email.”
  4. Are your employees willing to share? May sound like a bit of a no brainer, but for some employees the idea of sharing years of experience and knowledge is extremely threatening. Some people prefer to hold their knowledge close, which in the case of installing social software will be counterproductive.
  5. How risk averse is your organization? Today, social business software is still pretty bleeding edge. This means that it may be difficult to see an explicit “return on investment”. Clancy points out that “for some companies, that will be tough to stomach.” For companies that are more risk averse it may make more sense to hold off awhile until more concrete metrics are in place.

Purchasing new software is always a difficult and tricky endeavor. To make matters worse, there’s the pressure of becoming super social immediately. However, before jumping in feet first, it’s important to make sure your organization is ready. I hope that these five questions help guide you in making this important decision. Have any other questions or tests that you’ve used to decide whether social software is right for your organization? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Image Source: www.iStockphoto.com

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