This article originally appeared on 60 Second Social.
Facebook has 1.3B+ users, social media is everywhere we look. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIN and with social media companies enhancing their mobile apps more than ever before for the end user it is safe to say we spend more time social networking than we ever did before.
I love social networking, lots of people love social networking, so by that logic implementing a social network in the work place will work…right? Social networking vendors like Yammer will lead you to believe this and there are compelling case stories such as IBM. What about beyond these well publicised stories however? What makes you think it will work for your company?
Recently a company where I work has set up a social media platform via Yammer and in order to get it going they are looking for ‘power users’ to help gain traction. I received an email about it from a colleague in another department and had a look to see what it was like. As with any social platform I was excited at the start, I love exploring a new website and new features however I had reservations.
After a few days of using the platform and discussing the platform with colleagues in my own department I was convinced that enterprise social media just will not work for the majority of companies, at least not at the moment. Maybe at some point in the future it could work but right now, no and there are no widespread stories of success which back up my opinion.
The hierarchy structure of the workplace.
Firstly, the ingredients of social networking goes agains the grain of a traditional management structure. Working at IBM or Google is different from working at a bank or an airline. At companies such as Google for example, people and their intellectual outputs are the lifeline of the business, the culture is very much employee centric.
Comparing that to a traditional company, they are less open, less employee centric and are built on a management hierarchy. This is characterised by the need to minimise risk and to manage from the top down. Besides the risk of business, what is the risk to the employee? Many employees will tell you (and I know I have spent the past few weeks talking to them) that the main risk for them is posting something deemed inappropriate on a work social platform.
Of course companies could elect to approve comments before showing them but that removes the spontaneity that makes social networking magical in its own right at times. Many social networks begin with a flourish and soon transform to just another top down form of communication for management with little employee participation due to the hierarchy that exists.
The terms on which companies now employ staff.
Secondly, the employee contract is different to what we have ever had before, for example this company I work for, along with many companies in the same boat, employ a lot of part time temporary contract staff (I happen to be one of them) and as a result the message that the employees feel from the company is “fend for yourself.”
A social network for your company depends on employees taking the time to participate, contribute to the discussion and generate content without feeling the need to be rewarded for it. Due to the fact that employees receive a lot less commitment from a company these days than what existed in the past, the natural instinct is to turn to a ‘whats in it for me?’ approach.
Creating the beast.
The easiest thing to do is to deploy the tools to the staff however that is a fraction of the process. What makes social networking a true beast is that it is not mandatory for employees to participate but the success is 100% dependant on employee participation.
A common error is to try social media for the sake of trying it, meanwhile the time and skills required to nurture an online community are completely underestimated and rarely catered for. On top of this, do people really have the time for another social network? In between growing workloads and reducing staff numbers across the board in many large areas, would you want to commit to it?
Ask yourself this question, given the option would you prefer to spend time on Facebook or Twitter will your social community or would you prefer to spend time participating in social networking for work? I know what my answer is and I can tell you what the majority answer would be.
There is little time in such a fast paced world for employees to participate in what would be considered a non-essential work activity outside of work, many people these days like to leave work at the door of the office if they can.
The honeymoon period is long over.
The shine is coming off social media, increasing commercialisation and the need for people to balance with real life is the big barrier.
There is no reason why social networking could not work for companies somewhere down the line, but at the moment it seems doomed for failure. What needs to change is the intrinsics of how a company is run and it is simply not practical to run every company like it is Google or Facebook.
If you can make it work than it has the potential to produce amazing results, however for many companies it would seem to be doomed to die a slow death or be counter-productive. Maybe at some point down the line there would be room for it, I would never disregard it down the line but for now the cons heavily out weigh the pros that exist.
About The Author
Mark is the founder of 60 Second Social media where he provides social media news and digital marketing analysis, he is also a proud father of his bearded dragon, Lola. You can follow him on Twitter here. You can also follow 60 Second Social on Twitter here.