by Kristin Burnham

Three Dangerous Social Media Misconceptions

Mar 12, 2010

At a Gartner conference this week, the point was clear: Ignore reality and you put your business at risk.

I spent the week in Baltimore at Gartner’s Portals, Content & Collaboration Summit, a conference for IT professionals exploring the use, integration and implementation of social media and Web 2.0 in the enterprise. One facet of the conference surprised me more than anything else: how far behind in the adoption of social media IT departments actually are.

Consider these two tidbits:

  • Only half of the 500-plus attendees had a Facebook account.
  • About 70 percent of attendees in one session said that their company blocks access to social media in the workplace.

Business leaders are hesitant for a number of reasons when it comes to adopting social media: They’re concerned about security, liability, risk and compliance, for example. But these concerns can’t be deal-breakers. In fact, the biggest risk lies in foregoing or deferring social media adoption—you gamble losing an edge over your competition.

To stay ahead, businesses need to come to terms with these three common misconceptions.

1. “Face-to-face relationships are far more valuable than virtual ones.”

While some level of physical interaction will always add value to relationships, Gartner says that come 2020, most relationships and teams will be based on “weak links”—that is, you may not have personally met a contact, but you’ll know of or may have interacted with him via social sites like Facebook, LinkedInand Twitter. The sooner your enterprise adopts these tools, the sooner your employees will learn them, and the sooner you’ll begin to cultivate these relationships-of-the-future.

2. “The best way to control the use of social media is to block.”

To nab the best talent, you can’t—absolutely can’t—block social sites. Gen Y is the future of your workforce: They live, breathe and demand that these technologies are accessible. If you block an application, they’ll find a way to access it. Like Andrew McAfee said in his keynote address, “While IT departments are slogging behind, employees are moving on without you. Take a cue from your employees. They’re crying out for these tools.”

3. “There’s no ROI in social media.”

ROI will come, albeit slowly, and you can’t judge it through traditional means. Social media gives users a platform to reach an audience larger than they could ever reach before. Employees can use this expanded world to cut down on the time spent searching for an answer to a question. It also allows them to become known as thought leaders in the industry and positively promote your business. But rather than trying to quantify these hard-to-measure benefits, look at it this way, McAfee recommends: What do these tools allow your employees to do now that they weren’t able to do before?

Do you tweet? Follow me: @kmburnham.