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The Hidden Costs Of Social Business

A recent story in Fast Company details IBM’s efforts to work towards a social business enterprise; I thought I’d comment on the notion of corporate social media.

The issue with social media is that you have to put the same level of effort into building and maintaining relationships in the virtual world as you do in the real world. It's not just about making some content, but actually responding to community member's content, sharing, commenting, and even talking about stuff you don't focus on. By paying attention to others, they will be more likely to pay attention to you. To optimize in social media you have to build a following by engaging, it’s not the results you should expect every week, but the effect of building relationships over time. Now you can also just try a strategy of content production, but that relationship building on social media beats out pure content generation every time, you still have to make content though! Reasons include:

  1. Personal connections, people will be more likely to read your stuff if they really know you.
  2. Insights, by reading, monitoring and building relationships your company will really be in the know regarding the pulse of the industry, and as a result you'll be ready for breaking events, and ready to give better context.

The article goes onto to talk about IBM empowering its individual employees.. that's classic cluetrain manifesto (a book/movement published in 1999 that set the agenda for social media in the early 2000's.)

There's a critique of the cluetrain (mine), but also IBM isn't the only company encouraging their employees to use social media: There’s Dell, GM and more. Partly this strategy comes from the realization that you couldn't pay enough people to manage social media, and it’s better to have part timers. However, there's a problem, having part time engage in social media means that the employee doesn't do their day job well or social media well. You really need paid staff supporting social media efforts.