Social Media Snake Oil

The “new” business week has a pretty funny article focused on some of the perils of social media, cleverly titled “Beware Social Media Snake Oil.” Key grafs:

Yet the buzz around social media has led many companies to buy these systems before they’re ready to put them to work. Jennifer Okimoto, associate partner at IBM Global Business Services, says many corporations took the plunge into social media and now are sitting on loads of uninstalled software. "I’m working with a company that has made huge investments" in social software, she says on a phone call from Switzerland. Yet only a small number of employees at the company use it. A Forrester Research (FORR) study shows that despite buzz around Enterprise 2.0, less than 15% of the knowledge workforce makes use of internal blogs, wikis, and other collaborative tools. "E-mail is still dominant," says Ted Schadler, author of the report.

And then:

Many argue that a fixation on hard numbers could lead companies to ignore the harder-to-quantify dividends of social media, such as trust and commitment. A Twittering employee, for example, might develop trust or goodwill among customers but have trouble putting a number on it. "There is this default assumption that return on investment is the correct measure for everything," says Susan Etlinger, senior vice-president at Horn Group, a San Francisco consultancy. "Everything needs to monetize within 12 weeks, so we can understand that we’re successful. But frequently the thing they’re measuring is misleading."

Some years back, I wrote about the concept of losing the idea. I said:

Why is it so damaging to lose the idea in the face of its current incarnation? Because some ideas take multiple instantiations to succeed, and if we summarily disregard the idea because of a flawed example, we run the risk of missing a huge opportunity.

So with that, a couple of points.

1. Social media is an evolution of communication, not a revolution. Social media experts today will look much the same as desktop publishing experts looked like in the past – aka not relevant.

2. ROI matters. Maybe not over a 12 week period, but if you can’t quantify value over time, don’t bother billing by the hour.

3. The story closes w/ one of my favorite mis-used words, this time using it properly. How many times a week do I hear that someone wants to “flush out” an idea? Lots. Hey – one “fleshes out” an idea. and as BBW (that’s bloomberg business week to you!) notes:

The best way to avoid a similar backlash today is for social media’s practitioners, including thousands of consultants, to shift the focus from promises to results. It may be the only way to convert the skeptics—and flush out the snake oil.

Indeed. Flush it out!

2 Responses to “Social Media Snake Oil”

  1. Tom Murphy – Murphy’s Law » Buying snake oil? It’s your own fault Says:

    […] Frank Shaw […]

  2. chaitrav Says:

    Great Insights Frank. If we don’t see results on the social media activities, no use trying to implement them.
    I personally believe social media if used with right strategy and approach it is very powerful. Just don’t tweet or retweet. To lead, have something to share with your community.

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