IBM: Companies facing social media conundrum

IBM study shows many companies embracing social media tools, but to what end?

IBM issued a report today that found while most companies are accelerating their social media plans, many are struggling to figure out what it all means.

The enigma defined: IBM's survey of 1,160 IT professionals shows that while 46% of the organizations increased their social technologies investments in 2012, only 22% believed that managers are prepared to incorporate social tools into their daily practices. In addition, two-thirds of respondents were not sure they sufficiently understood the impact that social technologies would have on their organizations over the next three years.

MORE: Gartner: 10 critical IT trends for the next five years

BACKGROUND: Gartner: How big trends in security, mobile, big data and cloud computing will change IT

The IBM report, "The Business of Social Business: What Works and How It's Done," says the key to accelerating widespread social media adoption "lies in an organization's ability to build social business expertise among employees, while encouraging behavioral changes that may influence a wider cultural shift. However, only one-quarter of companies believe they are fully prepared to address the cultural changes that are associated with this transformation."

social media

Big Blue suggests a number of strategies for organizations to better evolve into social enterprises, including:

• Management must provide an infrastructure for engagement -- setting up forums, team rooms and collaborative spaces.

• Social practices should be integrated into day-to-day work activities. For example, the use of blog posts and activity streams can positively accentuate project management tasks.

• Create the capability to understand where and how data generation could benefit the enterprise.

• Management must teach employees how to collaborate effectively with individuals outside of the organization's boundaries, using social business methods and tools.

• A social business embeds social technologies into core business processes, and then applies the technologies to drive customer-facing activities such as lead generation, sales and post-sales service.

• Get people involved in using the tools.

• Create hands-on opportunities to use new social business tools.

• Provide one-on-one coaching and reverse mentoring and encourage leaders to model desired behaviors to signal social "permission."

• Capture success stories through use of social tools (wikis, blogs, video).

• Apply traditional change management concepts to support transitions.

• Appoint a number of social business champions/subject experts to encourage and accelerate adoption.

• Provide education about why this is important and what the guidelines are for using social tools inside and outside the organization.

• Recognize desired usage and behaviors.

• Incorporate social approaches to support the change.

• Develop user narratives and scenarios of possibilities provided by using social approaches.

• Use social networking approaches to identify and engage with influence leaders.

"With the effective use of social technologies, organizations can integrate and analyze massive amounts of data generated from people, devices and sensors and more easily align these insights to business processes to make faster, more accurate business decisions. By gaining deeper insights in customer and market trends and employees' sentiment, businesses can uncover critical patterns to not only react swiftly to market shifts, but predict the effect of future actions," IBM stated.

IBM goes on to say that simply establishing a social media footprint does not guarantee an active, vibrant community. The company suggests four critical activities that can help make customer communities successful:

1. A governance process to oversee the community's operation

2. Recruitment, training and ongoing development of community moderators

3. The development of a critical mass of external participants to influence the influencers and to promote the community

4. The ability to quickly react to opportunities and challenges presented by customers, while seizing upon new business opportunities

All of this is important as social media will become more of a key enterprise technology. Gartner recently said that in the next three years, many companies are establishing social media as a discipline. Gartner predicts that in three years, 10 organizations will each spend more than $1 billion on social media.

"Social computing is moving from being just on the outside of the organization to being at the core of business operations," said Peter Sondergaard, Gartner senior vice president and global head of research. "It is changing the fundamentals of management: how you establish a sense of purpose and motivate people to act. Social computing will move organizations from hierarchical structures and defined teams to communities that can cross any organizational boundary."

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.