Additional research is needed for social media technologies

Additional research that is recommended for leaders implementing social media in their companies is an introspective research. To implement a corporate strategy for social media, it is advisable for leaders to be collaborative with other leaders (Zhu, 2013). Leaders should practice open leadership, which has about five rules, which allow for respect and empowerment of the customers and employees, to consistently build trust, nurtures curiosity and humility, holding openness accountable, and allows for forgiving failures (Li, 2010).

Leaders should work with others to understand how their business meets the needs and customer pain.  That is because, open leadership allows for one to build and nurture relationships with the customers and employees (Li, 2010).  Leaders should work with others to gain ideas on how they should implement social media technologies, either internally or externally that will support their current business strategy. If the social business strategy does not align with the business strategy then why is the company pursuing it?  It will be a waste of the company resources if there is a misalignment.  Once a company has a social business strategy, they should first experiment with different social media technologies and platforms that meet their goals and objectives.  Once the experimental process is completed, those technologies that had the most return on investment it should be pursued (Mathaisel, 2011; Wollan, Smith, & Zhou, 2010).  These should be data-driven decisions based on metrics and key performance indicators.

Shortly, there doesn’t seem to be any major impacts to current business processes that are stemming from the continued proliferation of social media, like rumors of e-mail disappearing. Each social media platform has its customer base, customer segment, different purposes, and different uses. E-mail is safe from extinction as long as another social media platform or technology cannot fill the needs and purposes that e-mail fulfills.  Even if a social media platform or technology can fulfill the needs and purposes of e-mail, it has to become prolific enough to replace e-mail altogether, i.e. meeting a critical mass of users.

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CIOs and CxOs roles in implementing social media technologies

Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and Chief x Officers (CxOs) must take into account that implementation of social media technologies are not going to have high adoption rates initially and should then adjust their expectations accordingly (Mathaisel, 2011). CIOs are now in the position to help their companies adopt social media. According to Mathaisel (2011), CIOs should be in the middle ground when it comes to their willingness to experiment, use of social science, and personal risk tolerance. CIOs should take advantage to practice open leadership given the nature of social media technology projects (Li, 2010; Zhu, 2013).  Additionally, the concept of experimentation is key. CIOs should be willing to conduct deep analysis on parts of the social media experiments that succeeded and letting go of others that don’t succeed (Mathaisel, 2011).  CIOs must finally take into account that the nature of the social media technology project should depend on the goals and objectives of business (Zhu, 2013).

These business goals and objectives should be aligned with the business strategy (Wollan, Smith, & Zhou, 2010). Even though social media technology tools are the same, their focused use on the company whether internally and externally should change how leadership style practices are used (Zhu, 2013).  Internal adoption of social media technologies could involve retaining talent and knowledge, content, and data management tasks (Li, 2010; Mathaisel, 2011; Wollan et al., 2010; Zhu, 2013). This type of adoption requires enhancing corporate culture to become more collaborative, and the CIO should be the active user not necessarily a power user (Zhu, 2013). External adoption of social media technology could involve recruiting talent, recruiting more customers, developing a relationship with customers, and creating a corporate social brand (Berkman, 2013; Li, 2010; Mathaisel, 2011; Wollan et al., 2010; Zhu, 2013). This could involve collaborative efforts with other CxOs and other departments other than just IT. Thus the CIO does not need to be an active user nor a power user (Berkman, 2013; Zhu, 2013).  Thus, the CIO should not have to become a social media power user to influence either internal and external change but should be leveraging other power user’s strengths to connect ideas together and move the company forward with social media (Zhu, 2013).

According to Berkman (2013), the role of the CIO is starting to blur in the past few decades with other CxOs. This means that Information Technology (IT) departments are no longer a silo as they were in the past. Other CxOs and departments are starting to have their IT specialist outside of the IT department (Berkman, 2013). Therefore, for a successful implementation of social media technologies in business should involve the CIO and other CxOs to find collaborative wins, not just IT but for other departments in the company. Though the question lies on should the CIO and Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), or any other CxO, be equal partners in these types of projects? The answer to that is, it depends on.  It depends on who has more of the budget and human capital resources to dedicate to these projects (Berkman, 2013; Zhu, 2013). Although the ideation of the project’s goals and objectives, should be equal across the CxOs, not all CxOs should have equal influence in the implementation due to their resource allocation.  If the CMO has all the funding and human capital, it should be their initiatives that are given higher priority, whereas the CIO and the IT department are there to help and vice versa.

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2 phases for implementing social media in a corporate environment

There are usually two phases in which social media technology are implemented in a company: experimental and business transformation phase (Wollan, Smith, & Zhou, 2010).

Primarily in the experimental phase, the focus is on the social media technology tools, like blogs, forums, micro-blogs, vlogs, etc. (Mathaisel, 2011; Wollan et al., 2010). It is in this first phase, where the company has only implemented parts of the social media technology, and it may not be consistent across the company or the social media platforms (Wollan et al., 2010). This could have happened because a social business strategy was not drafted or implemented.  Another possibility could arise from the creation of a social business strategy where it outlines a specific experimental phase (Mathaisel, 2011).  Mathaisel (2011), stated that this possibility allows leaders like the CIO to be liberal on the technology, but still be fiscally conservative.  The inconsistencies between each technology in the second scenario could result from experimenting which techniques works best in creating relationships. However, companies should be wary that not all social media platforms will have the same type of customer base or customer segment.  Therefore, messaging can be consistent across social media platforms, but at the same time, the messaging must be tailored to the social media platform and their respective customer segment (eMedical Media, n.d.).  When this inconsistency is discovered, the silo and out-of-sync efforts will be reconciled to help move the company towards the second phase (Wollan et al., 2010).

In the second phase, the business transformation phase is where the real business value can be realized because in the first phase the derived value could be small as they are usually connected to a project or simple purpose (Wollan et al., 2010). In this business transformation phase, social media technology is seen as a strategic tool to engage and build relationships with their employees, future talent, and customers (Mathaisel, 2011; Wollan et al., 2010).  In this phase, the social media technology is integrated into the company and in particular in integrated part of Information Technology (IT) department (Wollan et al. 2010).  The integration depth into the IT department depends if the social media technology is used internally or externally.  Depending if the social media technology is used internally IT must integrate it with Active directory, data warehouses, content management, etc.; whereas if the social media technology is used externally, IT must integrate it with web analytics, logistics management, customer relationship management software, etc. (Wollan et al. 2010).

Compared to the first phase, the second phase has a more considerable amount of planning, resources, and experience (Wollan et al., 2010).  Finally, Wollan et al. (2010), stated that the key focus of the second phase was to focus on a thorough and thoughtful approach to picking the right social media technology and platform that is sustainable and scalable for interacting and building relationships with the customers.

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Achieving full benefit of social technologies through a culture of trust

“To achieve the full benefit of social technologies, organizations must transform their structures, processes, and cultures: they will need to become more open and non-hierarchical and to create a culture of trust. Creating a culture of trust is even difficult for organizations that have not implemented social technologies as well. Ultimately, the efficacy of social technologies hinges on the full participation of employees who are openly willing to share their thoughts and trust that their contributions will be respected. Creating these conditions will be far more challenging than implementing the social media technologies themselves.”

The most important element from the above premise statement is that creating a culture of trust is difficult and that social technology will fail or succeed based on trust of their contributions.  If there is no culture of trust, there will be no contributions to a social technology. Even if the tool is perfect, if no one uses the tool, it was just either a waste of money, waste of time, waste of messaging, or all of the above.

It is true that a culture of trust is more important in a highly collaborative environment powered by social technologies (Burg, 2013).  It is needed because this could be an avenue where ideas can be fully expressed to improve certain parts of the company, product, or service in a constructive and respectful discussed (Burg, 2013; Li, 2010; Vellmure, n.d.; Wollan, Smith, &Zhou, 2010).

However, establishing a culture is much hard than introducing a new piece of technology. There will always be naysayers and resistors to a new piece of social technology (Li, 2010; Wollan et al., 2010).  Even though people who are willing to share their thoughts and ideas are hoping that they can do so in a trusted environment, that their shared ideas are respected, and still have a job the next day.

The leadership style that is more conducive to creating an open culture based on mutually shared respect and trust would be either an open or democratic leadership style. Both the open and democratic leadership are heavy on team participation and are customer and employee centered (Cherry, 2016; Li, 2010).  Cherry (2016), describes that in democratic leadership styles the final decision comes down to the leader, whereas Li (2010) describes that the open leadership styles give more autonomy to the team.  Thus, both are more conducive to creating an open culture, but it depends on the current company culture and the willingness of leadership to give their employees full autonomy over social technology that defines which of these two cultures will prevail in the end.

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Social media technologies and employee collaboration

Social technologies can help drive tangible value for the company through: product development, knowledge sharing, increasing collaboration, operations and distribution, marketing and sales, customer service, business support, reduction in travel expenditures, reduction in costs, reduction in time it takes to complete a project, etc. (Li, 2010; Vellmure, n.d.; Wollan, Smith, & Zhou, 2010). Thus, if employee collaboration increases through social technologies, it would help drive tangible value to the company making it an important part of any future business strategy.

Employee collaboration does not automatically increase within the organization when social technologies are set up because each employee has a different work style, ethic, values, and set of beliefs (Wollan et al., 2010).  The organization must change the culture to embrace social technology, by having social technology champions to help bring the resisters into the fold (Li, 2010; Wollan et al., 2010).  Wollan et al. (2010), suggested three techniques close the gap between resistors and advocates of social technology:

  • Building a rapid knowledge sharing toolkit on the social technology, because it is critical for all employees to learn what they need to about a project or on a specific topic in the context of the company. It should be an easy tool, where information and people can be found quite effortlessly.
  • Set standards and requirements to encourage the social technology’s use through annual performance reviews of each employee and having feedback loops to help improve the social technology and its content. Restructuring how rewards and incentives around metrics are key.
  • Change initiatives are most successful when middle management is involved and become sponsors and advocates for social technology tools. So, who do we pick to be social technology champions in the company to help out middle managers? Usually, it would be highly motivated employees regardless of their status in the company.

As the second technique suggests, an example of some of measuring employee engagement in social technology metrics could be word of mouth scores, resolution scores, frequency and value of support, the size of the employees’ network, productivity scores, etc. (Li, 2010; Wollan et al., 2010).

Li (2010), states that there will always be a naysayer to change and one of the toughest reasons that they would give would be that the change is “too risky.” However, that is why the role of the champion is needed, to help change this mentality of social technology being “too risky” (Li, 2010; Wollan et al., 2010).  This mentality stems from they either not trusting people enough and if that is the case encourage the naysayer by talking about building a sandbox version of the technology before full deployment (Li, 2010).

Finally, Wollan et al. (2010) suggested that the best social technologies to introduce to a company to increase collaboration and engagement among employees are a desktop technology with an implementation plan on how to make it an enterprise-wide knowledge repository.  Subsequently, the social technology should be easily implemented, searchable, accessible, and usable.  This is because people do not have enough time in the world to make their normal statement of work along with learning some new complicated piece of technology they are resistant to learn in the first place.

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