hope it all goes away. Whether it's promoting your company brand and engaging with customers on externally facing networks or collaborating with colleagues and business partners on internal social networks, 2012 will be the year that social networking for business really takes hold. With that will come new challenges, some of which are in the good-problem-to-have category. Following are five issues that companies can expect to run up against, and some advice for overcoming them.
1. Scarce resources
A robust social networking presence doesn't just happen. It takes care and feeding, and that requires resources. Most companies these days are still running very lean, but resources simply must be dedicated to social networking efforts if companies want to see any return. Depending on the company and how extensive the social networking initiative, dedicating resources doesn't have to mean hiring 10 new people; it doesn't even have to mean dedicating an existing head to the cause. What it does mean, at the very least, is identifying people within the organization who have demonstrated some insight around social networking tenets and processes and ensuring that they are freed up to some extent to cultivate social networking programs.
2. Wake-me-when-it’s-over syndrome
Many employees have a been-there-done-that attitude when it comes to collaboration platforms that will CHANGE THE WAY COMPANIES DO BUSINESS. (Groupware, anyone?) More seasoned employees, especially, have seen collaboration platforms die on the vine and may expect social networking initiatives to do the same. If enough people take this stance, it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is important to tread carefully with wary employees, but it’s also important that they be made to understand clearly the business’s goals around social networking and their expected roles. But don't just leave them out there to fend on their own. Provide training and mentors. Reward participation. Build social networking into existing policies and, where appropriate, employee evaluation criteria. Give them reason and incentive, and they will come.
[ The path to a successful social enterprise network can be rocky. Read Ten Enterprise Social Networking Obstacles. ]
3. Too many cooks ...
The converse of the wake-me-when-it’s-over syndrome is the I-want-in-too syndrome. While there’s probably no such thing as too much participation when it comes to internal social networking tools, too many cooks could theoretically spoil the company-brand broth on externally facing social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Organizations need to decide who should be posting on behalf of the company, what they can and cannot say, and what kind of training to provide. While totally scripted collaboration with current and potential customers isn’t really collaboration at all, there should be some kind of clearly stated plan and purposeful vision for the company’s persona on external social networks.
4. Data overload
As your organization wades deeper into social networking--internally and/or externally--you will be amassing a great deal of new data and new data types. Further, for data to be useful, it must be analyzed on an ongoing basis and in real (or near-real) time. Doing so is challenging; not doing so will significantly reduce or even negate the value of your efforts. There are a number of free or nearly free monitoring and measurement tools available, but even more important than the tools organizations use is the time they spend deciding which metrics matter to their business.
5. Increased development needs
If your company has evolved its social networking initiatives to the point that it needs custom apps to move internal employee use forward and compete on externally facing networks, that's a good problem to have. How big a problem it is depends on the level of development expertise available within your organization. Typically, those resources are stretched pretty thin to begin with. Fortunately, most social networking platforms make app development relatively easy, so you may be able to sic your most savvy and evangelical social networkers on the task (once goals have been clearly developed and articulated, of course). But again, these people must be given the time to do the job right. Your organization may also have to weigh the cost of procuring outside development talent against the need to pump up social networking presence.
What new challenges is your organization facing as your social networking efforts evolve? Please share in the comments section below or by emailing me at email@example.com.
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