Time for a reality check

I’m reading an increasing amount of stuff taking swipes at social media along the lines of … it was all just hype … it’s not delivering what it promised etc. I guess it was only a matter of time before we switched from build-it-up mode to knock-it-down mode which so often seems to pervade our culture these days.

Also, bucket loads of stuff from the early-adopter-sphere about the death of blogging along the lines of … blogging is dead, long live micro-blogging … if blogs could speak, I’m sure they would be quoting Mark Twain: “… reports of my death are greatly exaggerated”.

Back in social-media-in-the-enterprise-land, you can bet your negative equity on at least 50% of any given audience not even knowing what RSS is, let alone thinking blogging is sooo 2004!

It feels to me that now would be a good time for a reality check … so, for what it’s worth, here are my views on the subject:

  • Do I think social media tools have been over-hyped? Yes
  • Does this invalidate their value/potential value? No
  • Do we have stable and fully functioning social media platforms in BT? Yes
  • Are they perfect? No
  • Do we have company/senior management buy-in for them? Yes
  • Are all our people using them? No
  • Are BT people flocking to them as the answer to all their problems? No
  • Am I worried about relatively slow take-up? No
  • Do I still think these tools will fundamentally change the way employees relate and collaborate? Yes
  • Is this going to happen overnight? No
  • Is this likely to happen slowly over the next 12-18 months? Yes

As is so often the case with these things, when the hype dies down and after the beautiful people have moved on to the next big thing, change will happen quietly behind the scenes and what it feels like to be at work will change irreversibly for the better …

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  1. Great post Richard, a question that springs to my mind is: have you observed substantive opposition/ resistance to the social media expansion, from people who perceive the changes as a threat to their established positions?

    I am particularly interested in how this plays against the intrinsic dynamics of power and politics within the organisation.

  2. Colin – actually, I haven’t experienced any forceful opposition from senior management … there has been some nervousness from the comms community – both internal and external. I do expect to experience resistance from some pockets of middle management as people use the tools more widely – it strikes me that middle management has potentially the most to lose.

  3. Good post Richard.

    Re the blogging is dead question, there is ad hoc research that I would like to share.
    I am currently doing a project for a retail client that involves the gen Y age group. Part of the research is around social media etc and one question we are asking everyone (UK + Ireland) is about the social media they use/visit etc. So far out of about 120+ people we have face to face interviewed (only about a third of our way through it), only 2 people have said they read blogs. Surprisingly many even asked what a blog was!!!!
    As an active blogger, this was somewhat disturbing, and when I have pushed further (out of curiosity of course) I have had a similar answer – why blog when I have got Facebook or Bebo.

    Maybe that wouldn’t be a bad thing if the number of bloggers shrunk a little? Surely those numbers quoted by some people, of new blogs being created/written etc are unsustainable aren’t they?

  4. Middle Management always has most to lose… delayering is a well established way forward in straitened times.

    Social Media tools make it easier for people to share goals, experience and direction.

    Middle management generates bureaucracy, and yearns for stability.
    In 1992 as a low level employee, there were 6 management layers between me and the BT Chairman. I got promoted (more than once).
    There are now rather more than that. Yes, the company has changed and globalised.

    Doers (as opposed to managers) now have – I think – substantially easier access to each other and to the strategic direction setters than ever before.

    The problem for a large corporate is adapting to the fact that it does *not* control all the channels (Twitter/Facebook etc.) and recognising that relationships build outside the intranet, and we have to make it *easier* to work inside rather than outside.

    FWIW, I think we’re really going the right way with MyBT/Signpost , but wondering who the mavens are that will lead to the tipping point of adoption. (Enough buzzwords?)

  5. Steve – agree with everything you say – I think there are a couple of ‘killer’ portlets that will build the MyBT user base and the switch-over/integration between Directory and SignPost will make a huge difference.

    Andy – interesting stats on blogging. I’m sure the numbers that are blogging are not sustainable but I don’t necessarily think having fewer is a good thing – as long as we have mechanisms to extract value (e.g. RSS; Google blog alerts etc.) then the more-the-merrier as far as I’m concerned!

  6. Hi Richard,

    Thank you for sharing this thought, that I recognize from my own experiences. Here are my thoughts on this: HYPES come and go. Blogs, microblogs, MSN, Second Life could be hypes, who knows. Some may even survive for a long time, but the TREND is here to stay, and this trend is: people share content in peer-to-peer networks, using social media (in whatever hype available). The impact of this trend on marketing, sales, internal communications, brand management and our organizational structures will be massive. You, at BT are on the forefront of that trend, never mind the late majority.

  7. “Do I still think these tools will fundamentally change the way employees relate and collaborate? Yes”

    Just look at the flywheel principle in Jim Collins “Good to Great”. Stick at it and don’t change direction and at some point you’ll have an unstoppable force. It’s just you will never know which of the thousands of pushes on the 2.0 wheel is going to be the one that hits the tipping point.

  8. I blog. I blog for no purpose other than to leave a little piece of me out there for those that come after me. I don’t care that no-one reads it now. But my grand-children, and their grand-children just might and as a result find out a little bit more about who I was, what I did, and what I thought than they would have done otherwise.

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