A few days ago, I wrote about the emerging enterprise battles between departments over who should control social media. I talked about the irony of how a few years ago, most enterprise social media programs and teams were parts of skunkworks projects just five short years ago. Now the very departments who disdained social media is now competing to own it.
A skunkworks project, is usually a small, low budget experimental endeavor. Big companies usually have several of them going on at once. They get to move fast because they are not subject to the labyrinthine processes that encumber most traditional enterprise programs. CEOs like skunkworks projects because they demonstrate vision at low cost and lower risk. Most skunkworks programs die.
Some, actually become a product, a service or a technology. The issue is that when this happens and permanence is added to what had been independent and ad hoc, it graduates from skunkworks and gets integrated into the mainstream corporation, where the formerly agile group suddenly have reports and quarterly goals to fulfill.
Social media in recent times has proven its worth. Measure is getting pretty accurate and companies are finally figuring out just what it is they want to measure in social media.
In fact for marketing, communications, human resources, customer support, product development, social media is proving to be a sustainable, scalable, low-cost impact tool set.
Suddenly everybody wants to run it.
My friend KD Paine likes to say, “we become what we measure.” This may be true, but social media, I think becomes who does the measuring.
In short, if an enterprise community, for example, becomes part of marketing, then it will be measured by marketing criteria. The social media program will become better and better at achieving marketing goals.
Simultaneously, the same community, will become worse and worse, at helping product development, recruiting and customer support, because those will be downplayed by a marketing-driven community.
Well, why not just divvy it up? Let marketing have a piece and product development have a piece and so forth. Problem with that is this is not convenient to the customers, and one irrefutable fact is that social communities that put customer needs in front of company needs are the most successful.
Personally, I think this is an over-worked issue. I;ll explain that in a moment. But currently, I am learning this is an enterprise social media issue upon which managers are getting overly worked up.
Social media, it seems to me, is not an app. Nor is it a channel, or an outreach program. It is a communications tool set. The tools are not what is vital to the emerging modern enterprise. The communications is.
I think social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter should be used ad hoc by whoever needs them to get her or his job done. The tools do not need to be measured quite as much as some people would have you think; the performance of the employee using them needs to be evaluated. Is the job getting done.
Where it gets muddy, is in the new enterprise communities Some of them, like IBM’s have more than 8 million users all over the world. They are producing content, sharing information and otherwise serving as an intangible global marketplace.
Companies start these communities. They invest significantly in the technology to host, communicate, store, design, establish and enforce community standards and rules. That’s many millions of dollars. The return is far, far greater.
But the return–and the value–isn’t just to the hosting company it is to the community of customers. Altimeter estimates that SAP’s network of communities is worth nearly $90 b, with only a slivver of that going to SAP itself. The real value to SAP is these communities are so valuable that customers will never want to leave.
So where do these communities fit in? Each company seems to be answering that question differently. How it works out over the next few years is to me one of the most interesting and strategically important questions that social media proponents face.
To tell you the truth, if I were running an enterprise community, I try to stay sequestered inside a stealthy skunkworks program for as long as possible.