Social media holds great advantages, whether for improving internal collaboration, communication and social learning, or for building and enhancing trust through more responsive communications with key stakeholders and clients. Unfortunately, some organisations still hold onto a number of fears that hold them back from utilising these tools:
1. Employees will waste time
Fear: Employees will waste time regardless of whether social computing tools are available to them or not.
Fact: Research from MIT notes that 40% of employees productivity is directly explained by the amoung of communication they have with others to discover, gather and internalise information. Employees with the most extensive digital networks are 7% more productive than their colleagues. 
2. Social media is for kids
Fear: Social media is used by a lot of kids, therefore it is only a toy and not to be taken seriously for assessment as a business tool.
Fact: Use of internet technologies has its highest penetration rates in the 15-17 y.o. demographic — 83.9% in Australia. The next highest usage is by 35-44 y.o.’s with 74.1% penetration, followed by 18-24 at 72.8% and 25-34 at 71%. Overall, 76% of Australian adults use social media at least monthly . Age demographics from the world’s hottest social media platforms also support this finding.Overall, the use of Web 2.0 technologies internationally has grown rapidly in the last few years with an increase in from approximately 0.5 billion to 0.67 billion participants between 2007 and 2008. Research by Nielsen in 2009  showed that use of Web 2.0 websites is now more popular than email with an estimated growth three times as fast as the pace of general online growth. Importantly, the survey shows that rather than the province of the young, the biggest increase in use of Web 2.0 websites in 2009 comes from the 35-49 year old age group – an increase in 11.3 million people.The highlights from Nielsen’s report:
Global share of time accounted for by people using social media increased by 38%.
Men and women aged 65 and above moving to social media websites grew by 7 per cent
The 17-and-under category dropped by 9 per cent
3. We will lose control to the ’nutters’
Fear: If allowed to interact freely online, people will post spam and abuse online forums
Fact: In the wiki forum FutureMelbourne, the Melbourne city council in Australia engaged citizens to discern their view of the city in order to contribute to planning for the future. Their results may surprise some:
“We received over 7000 individual visits to the site and several hundred edits to the plan by members of the public. Not a single instance of spam, offensive or off-topic content was recorded during the consultation period. We employed a process of direct community management, directly engaging with citizens as edits were made, answering questions, referring them to the appropriate area of expertise or correcting formatting errors should they occur.” 
Developing a clear social media strategy and plan is the best way to achieve success. Rather than automatically implementing a program on the four major social media avenues — blogs, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn — it’s important to first step back and see what makes sense to reach your stakeholders and customers. Ultimately, because social media is about relationships, it is important to thoroughly understand what matters to them, rather than what is easiest for you.
In the end, having good, simple, and easy-to-understand policies for managing online communities with dedicated, trained people, is key to ensuring control remains with you. The policy should also encompass how your employees should interact with clients. If everything has to be vetted by legal and corporate comms, though, before a conversation can take place, though, you’ll be dooming the venture before it begins.
4. Social media is a security risk
Fear: Employees will share the organisations IP or say something that could land the company in legal trouble if they depart from their traditional editorial control processes. A study from Russell Herder and Ethos Business Law finds that 81% of companies believe social media is a corporate security risk. As a result, many organisations place a blanket ban on all social media platforms.
Fact: [find the WW2 posters]Despite this fear from corporate heads, the study also found that 69 percent of those surveyed said they did not have a written social media policy in place. Of this group, 25 percent said they were unsure what the policy should include while 9 percent said it was unimportant.
5. There is no clear ROI
Fear: What we’ve done has worked til now, there’s no reason to change!
Fact: With Baby Boomers about to retire from the workforce that leaves Gen-Xs to move into senior management and Gen-Ys into positions of power. One thing we know for certain about these later two demographics is that they’re very technology literate. This, of course, has its consequences for the workplace and how organisations communicate with their stakeholders.The importance of the adoption of these tools within organisations is highlighted by a Telindus survey of more than 1,000 European office workers. The survey found that employees have begun to expect that the Web 2.0 tools they use at home will now be available in their workplace:
39% of 18 to 24 year-olds would consider leaving if they were not allowed to access sites like Facebook and YouTube
A further 21% indicated that they would feel ‘annoyed’ by such a ban
The problem is less acute with 25 to 65 year-olds, of whom just 16% would consider leaving and 13% would be annoyed
These expectations are generated because individuals use these tools in their personal lives to help them process data effectively and reduce information overload . This need is all the more important in a work context, therefore, where business silos and network drives make it all the more difficult to share knowledge, communicate information, and collaborate. Web 2.0 tools can help essentially because they are designed to enable people to collaborate more efficiently, preserve and share corporate knowledge, and thereby reduce expenses.
No ROI? What price do you put on keeping your workforce?
Proceeding from fear to managing these aspects of social computing as risks is the obvious next step.
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1. Bulleit, B. 2006. Effectively managing team conflict. Cary, NC: Global Knowledge Training LLC
2. Analysis of ABS cat no. 8146.0 and ABS cat no. 3201.0
3. The Nielsen Company, 2009. Social networks & blogs now 4th most popular online activity, ahead of personal email, News Release. New York, NY. 9 March.
4. Dale Bowerman comments to Atkins, D. 2008. Using a Wiki to Improve Town Governance, 9 Jan. Online at: blog.davewrites.com/index.php/2008/01/09/using_a_wiki_to_improve_town_governance#c886
5. Robert Half Technology, 2009. CIOs Weigh in on most popular communication tools at work, 7 Aug. Online at: http://www.roberthalftechnology.com/portal/site/rht-us/menuitem.8e8f9ba1fb1aaad656932a0202f3dfa0/?vgnextoid=368b9926053d8010VgnVCM1000002d3ffd0aRCRD&javax.portlet.prp_392cb099d6a955fd8bbe7a8902f3dfa0_request_type=RenderPressRelease&javax.portlet.prp_392cb099d6a955fd8bbe7a8902f3dfa0_releaseId=2301
The following is a guest post by Dawn Rivers Baker, a member of the Small Business Trends Expert Network.
At this point, you probably don’t need me to run through the litany of woes that hit the U.S. economy during the second half of 2008 and prompted fears of the End of Capitalism As We Know It.
Nothing quite so dire has transpired since then, of course, but I think it’s safe to say that we’re living through economically game-changing times. The challenge for all of us will be to evaluate what those changes are and respond appropriately — as consumers, as business owners, as policy makers, and as students of the economy.
Since I look at everything through a microbusiness lense, I’ve been understandably curious about how recent events might have changed the game for them. My conclusion: they have but they haven’t.
I think that the biggest changes for the largest segment of microbusinesses are still to come. I’m talking about nonemployers.
Nonemployers are outfits with no paid workers outside the business owner(s). There seem to be as many names for these firms as there are people to write about them: freelancers, independent contractors, the self-employed, sole proprietors, soloists, personal businesses, side businesses, SOHO businesses, and more. I prefer to use the term ‘nonemployer,’ for the simple reason that it is the most accurate.
From March 2006 through March 2007, the number of nonemployers rose from 20.8 million to 22.4 million, a 4.5% increase. In the context of U.S. business population growth, that’s a pretty large increase (the annual average for all U.S. firms is 2-3%) and it continues a trend that we’ve been watching since the turn of the century.
Almost all the growth in U.S. firms during that eight-year period has been growth in nonemployers. Their numbers are simply exploding, up 41% since the Census Bureau started its annual nonemployer nose counts back in 1997. As of 2006, they were 77.5% of all U.S. firms.
Now, what is interesting about those numbers is what they imply.. Back in January, I predicted in this article that, after a lackluster 1.6% increase in number during the 2005-2006 period, “we will see a return of the 4-6% growth in nonemployer numbers that we saw during the last recession” this year.
But that’s not what has happened. Instead, nonemployers had returned to those strong growth numbers by early 2007, before this recession had even started. Under the circumstances, it may very well be that we’ll be seeing annual increases of 5-10% in the 2008 and 2009 nonemployer numbers.
Policy makers and economists are inclined to ignore nonemployers at this point because the economic mantra is ‘jobs, jobs, jobs!’ The National Bureau of Economic Research based its declaration of the start of the recession in December 2007 on the onset of job losses and the assumption (probably erroneous) is that we won’t be out of this recession until we start growing jobs again.
And, of course, nonemployers are not going to help with that effort, by definition.
But nonemployer businesses are not just businesses. They are also newly-created jobs — self-created jobs. They represent the efforts of American citizens to solve their own economic problems without waiting for our would-be caretakers in either the public or privates sector to do it for them.
As of this moment, new nonemployers are almost the only still- functioning engine of job creation our economy has left. Our nation’s leaders seem to be having trouble wrapping their minds around the concept of self-created jobs and there are ways in which our government quietly discourages self-employment (as opposed to the creation of new employer firms).
So, what happens if businesses are faced with a need to expand capacity and turn to independent contractors and microbusinesses instead of creating full-time jobs? Because of the way the Labor Department collects and publishes employment data, it will look like the economy is still losing jobs when it’s not, really.
As of 2007, nonemployers comprised almost 15% of the civilian workforce and that percentage has probably increased significantly in 2008 and 2009 as more employees got laid off and more individuals started nonemployer businesses. What happens if the nonemployer business begins to jostle the regular, full-time worker in the labor market? What happens in the nonemployer model actually begins to replace the traditional employment transaction?
It’s worth thinking about because, for all we know, that may be happening right now.
About the Author: Dawn Rivers Baker, an award-winning small business journalist, regularly reports and analyzes small business policy and research as the Publisher of the MicroEnterprise Journal, where the nation’s business meets microbusiness. She also publishes the Journal Blog.
Just found a good article in The Futurist about the future of the job market. In the current economy we’re all concerned about creating enough jobs to get back to something resembling full employment. But given the demographics of the work force, employers who think long term may have a very different challenge ahead of them.
This isn’t new news, but it serves as important reminder of how critical demographics is to thinking about the future.
The newest issue of THE FUTURISTmagazine features writing from career and labor experts John Challenger and Edward Gordon. The picture they paint of the future of work may prove surprising for a number of readers. For instance, despite the presence of millions of people out of work, a shortage of skilled labor could have a devastating effect on the U.S. economy in the decade ahead, according to Gordon.
The full article in The Futurist is available only to paid subscribers, but it can be downloaded as a pdf file for a one-time fee of $3.00. The essential message is simple: as the Boomers retire, there is likely to be a huge shortage of talent in the United States (and no doubt in other countries as well).
As an employer, you should start doing something about it now, while the current slowdown gives you a bit of a break. As an individual, do some soul-searching about what kind of job you want to be in five to ten years from now, and get started on the research and training you’ll need to have.
Why did that particular article come to mind ? In the context of McKinsey’s research summary, for two reasons.
The first because the article started out with several paragraphs that took us back to the 50′s and William H. Whyte’s famous “The Organization Man“, noting that basically organizational structures and basic management techniques haven’t changed much since then, whilst juxtaposing that with the increasingly obvious facts that with the Web, web services and tools and mobile devices many (if not most) knowledge workers are continuously connected and ever-more densely interlinked … today we euphemistically call it ‘networked’.
The second because towards the end of the article The New Organisation McKinsey and Mercer (two high-end blue-ribbon management consulting firms) were cited as demonstrating rapidly growing interest in, and awareness of, the emerging new landscape for networked knowledge work.
So … given the arrival and settling into place of what’s called Web 2.0, I think that the McKinsey summary mirrors what many leading thinkers have been saying for some time about the impact of the interactive participative Web on the workplace. It’s useful, as it offers a fairly concise overview of the core issues associated with the shifts in leadership, management and basic organizational effectiveness management; and because it’s McKinsey, it provides an imprimatur of legitimacy to the ongoing discussion of and refinement of strategic and practical implementation issues related to this massive era-defining shift in the way work is perceived, designed and carried out.
To be fair, people at McKinsey have also been paying attention to knowledge work for quite a while now. Anyone remember the name Brooks Manville – closely associated with McKinsey’s knowledge management practice back in the day ?
The research focuses on the key factors that drive, enable and amplify small business innovation. The report is part of the ongoing Intuit Future of Small Business research series and the first of several research briefs on small business innovation.
A key finding of the research is that small businesses have six inherent attributes that make them natural innovators. These are:
Personal passion: Personally invested, most small business owners are willing to try new approaches to make their business more successful.
Customer connection: A deep and direct relationship with the market and customers helps small businesses understand customer needs, identify new opportunities, and fix problems quickly and efficiently.
Agility and adaptation: Unlike large corporations, small businesses can quickly adapt to changing market conditions and implement new business practices.
Experimentation and improvisation: When pursuing new opportunities, many small business owners and managers aren’t afraid to experiment and improvise, accepting failure as part of the path to success.
Resource limitations: Small businesses are adept at doing more with less. And these resource constraints lend to their innovative mindset.
Information sharing and collaboration: Small businesses traditionally rely on strong social networks to share information and inspire innovative thinking. Online social networks extend and amplify this practice.
These attributes provide small businesses with the ability to respond quickly to changing market conditions and identify and exploit new opportunities.
The research also shows that small business innovation is not limited to tech or high growth firms, but used broadly by small businesses of all sizes and in all sectors of the economy.
Interestingly enough, one of the research findings is that small business owners and managers do not consider themselves or their business innovative. Most feel that innovation is something that only large corporations or venture backed companies do.
But despite not describing or seeing themselves this way, most small businesses are natural and continuous innovators who strive to improve their businesses and provide increased value to their customers.
As you know if you’re a regular reader of this blog, The AppGap last week hosted a discussion called “5 Big Ideas for Getting All That Work Done.” Moderated by AppGap contributor Anita Campbell, who was joined by leading commentators Jonathan Fields and John Jantsch, the webinar explored and shared insights on handling workloads that, in many cases, have only increased and gotten more stressful in these challenging economic times.
The major takeaways the discussion sought to explore:
How to automate what you hate
How going virtual can help
How being “social” at work is good for business
How to reframe what you do
And how to get your head in the cloud, i.e., move more work to the web
See the end of this post to access the recording of the great conversation – hit play to hear it in place or download it as a podcast for later listening.
There’s a great new story just published today in Business Week detailing how some organizations are turning to “telecommuting” and flexible work programs as a way to reduce costs and retain employees in these difficult times.
The really encouraging side of the story, though, is how many employees relish the reduction in commute times and the rebalancing of their lives (no surprise to us, but still a benefit that’s not widely enough recognized).
Be sure to catch Bill Ives' ongoing review series in which he looks at online, sharable database apps. The focus of Bill's reviews: web-based business software that enables companies and individuals to better organize, track, and share information, as well as better manage projects, processes and workflows.
Looking for apps that help you and your team get work done?
Check out the AppGap's Appopedia, an ever-expanding section with reviews of more than 150 of today's best tools to help you better manage projects and collaborate. Reviews are presented in a useful directory that breaks down tools by category and function, e.g., online crm, project management, human resources, security, etc. Check it out here.
The AppGap Webinar Series
The AppGap has hosted a series of discussions with leading thinkers and doers intended to illuminate how new apps and approaches are changing the way we work and help companies and individuals implement better collaboration, project management, and productivity practices and solutions. Access, via the links below, the recordings, each about an hour long, of the discussions.
The AppGap is a blog and resource on the future of work and how new tools are addressing age-old challenges of organization, collaboration, and innovation. But it is also an idea: that there remains a gap between the toolset that exists and what's needed...
Can today's project management software be done better? What can online CRM help companies companies accomplish? Which development platform can help individuals and organizations build better online databases, Web based applications, and HR solutions? And what are the processes and best practices that help organizations large and small achieve success. Find out more.