Four Steps to Success for Enterprise Social Media

An enterprise social media rollout may seem daunting, but a new Forrester Research report recommends four key steps to help it go smoothly. Also, can a CIO use social media to create business advantages?

Mention a phrase with the word "social" in it, and many CIOs will cringe. It elicits visions of data breaches, privacy nightmares and unproductive Gen Y staffers. But whether you like it or not, there's no denying social media's presence in the enterprise.

Contrary to what some IT stalwarts may think, many employees are using it for good, Forrester Research finds in a new report. Respondents cite "staying up to date with news," "getting ideas to help me in my job" and "to research information for work" as the top three reasons for engaging in social media. As a result of social media's reach, more CIOs are looking to set a policy and stage a social media rollout.

In The CIO's Guide To Social Computing Leadership, Forrester says that CIOs must position IT to lead a corporate social computing strategy. "There is a perception among some that 'social' is a marketing thing and that IT shouldn't be involved," says Nigel Fenwick, VP and principle analyst at Forrester. "It seems that this is also a perception from many people in marketing, too. But it's better to work collaboratively between marketing and IT," he says.

According to the survey, "CIOs can and should take a leadership role in this transition, helping to broker the changes needed across the organization and to garner executive support to take full advantage of social computing." To do this successfully, Forrester advises following four steps that encompass people, business objectives, strategy and technologies.

1. Understand the people you're engaging. Profile your employees and any participating customers to understand your demographics and gauge how active they already are in social media. Forrester cites that usually, the top types of users at any given business are spectators (those who maintain a blog or webpage and upload videos or audio), joiners (defined as people who maintain social networking profiles), critics (those who react to online content by posting comments, ratings or reviews) and conversationalists (people interested in microblogging).

2. Determine Your Business Objectives. "Early examples of successful social communities in use within organizations demonstrate the ability to solve multiple objectives because these communities provide multiple layers of social activities," the report states. Try focusing your objectives on innovation (such as a video-posting site where employees are encouraged to submit ideas), collaboration (project groups where members can IM each other, post ideas to a wiki and share documents), support (such as a discussion community where employees can post and answer questions), learning (like a Facebook site where employees can search based on expertise) and archiving (which encompasses document sharing with community tagging to highlight relevance and value), Forrester recommends.

3. Develop an implementation strategy. Refer back to your business objective and determine how you can achieve that. Social strategy should revolve around determining how you want to change the relationships between people in the social ecosystem, the report says. "By focusing on the relationships between the people in the community, and not the technology, CIOs can keep an eye on the long-term changes that matter," the report says.

There are four strategies you need to take into consideration, according to the report. First, how will you communicate to employees what's happening? Second, how will you help members find and make connections? Third, how will you reward members for contributing? And finally, how will you empower members to create content and collaborate?

You should also consider how you will measure the success of your rollout. "A collaboration initiative might identify productivity or cost measures such as revenue per employee or revenue generated from new initiatives, whereas a customer support project might measure the average resolution time," the report says.

4. Select and deploy appropriate technologies. Aside from researching platforms to determine which system you'll manage, this step also includes devising a social media policy: determining which employees are allowed to access parts of the site, when social media usage is acceptable and what can be shared. Read how NASA devised their social media policy here.

Staff Writer Kristin Burnham covers consumer Web and social technologies for CIO.com. She writes frequently on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google. You can follow her on Twitter: @kmburnham.

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