Social Media in the Enterprise

Toby Ward writes on the Intranet Blog about a survey conducted by Robert Half Technology that found that over 70% of US CIOs don't plan to use social media tools -- such as blogs and wikis -- in the next five years.

That number might sound a little daunting but, really, it isn't.

Issues with the Survey Itself

Because these are aggregate numbers, they're too generalized and don't give us much information. In fact, they're pretty useless: so what if 70% of US CIOs don't plan to use social media in the next five years? What does that "70%" actually mean to you and me and to our company and its social media adoption decision? Not much.

A breakdown of the results by industry and company size would have been better...but even that wouldn't have been enough. Had each social media tool included a follow-up question that asked "Why will you not be using this particular tool?" the survey may have been somewhat useful.

Also, "next five years" in technology or Internet time is ages! How can CIOs realistically predict whether or not they will be using a particular tool or technology five years from now? The question should have asked for a one-year prediction and the survey should then be conducted annually. Which is why Forrester's surveys, or the annual Enterprise 2.0 survey conducted by McKinsey (which I wrote about earlier), are much more useful.

Issues with the Conclusion

That said, even the implicit conclusion -- that most CIOs don't see the benefits of social media in the enterprise -- isn't all that worrisome because true social media adoption rarely starts at the CIO level. More often that not, it's bottom-up instead of top-down.

That is, employees first start to use social media on their own and among each other. Over time, the business begins to benefit from this. Once usage crosses a particular threshold -- and the benefits become more obvious and more measurable -- management (finally) realizes what's going on and has social media (or just the particular tool in question) implemented across the entire organization.

This is pretty much the conclusion that Toby Ward reached as well. Read his complete post (with conclusion) on the Content Matters blog.

So What's My Point?

Surveys like this provide neat sound bytes and are used as justification by senior management for not looking into social media.

So be careful when you talk to senior managers about social media usage and adoption in the enterprise: they usually don't have a clue but, sometimes, they do have a little bit of knowledge (such as this survey) but turns out to be dangerous.