If anything is definitive about the way that businesses are adapting to the lure of social media, it’s that the data frequently changes depending who you ask:
- 74 firms, or 15% of the Fortune 500, are blogging, including technology companies IBM, Dell, Motorola, Lucent, Intel, AMD, Amazon, and Google
- 39% of the Inc. 500 are using social media (which includes blogging)
Critics are quick to disagree how to interpret such data.
“A big challenge in the world of corporate blogging is getting busy people who already have a lot on their plates to commit to blogging,” writes Tom Diederich for Harvard Business Publishing. “One successful tactic in doing so is convincing them it’s worth their while.”
Business moguls Jack Welch, Bill Gates, and Steven Jobs are examples of people who “take risks and emerge as winners,” writes R. Todd Stephens. These men and their ilk, busy with their jobs, recognize the potential gain of a risky idea and bring it through the design stages to success.
Stephens, a technical architect at AT&T, elaborates:
…It is “they” that are the ones that take risks. We on the other hand, do everything we can to avoid risks. We buy flood insurance to protect us from the Noah’s revenge. We take those extended warranties to assure ourselves that the new Wii will last forever despite that fact that the next big thing is only a few years away. We take our children to the park that is surrounded by fences and six inches of cushion in case they fall off the monkey bars. We chuckle at warning labels that protect us from ourselves like McDonalds warning that the Coffee may be hot or the superhero costume that says that the “Cape does not enable user to fly”.
Society is resistant to change, and technology, like the invention of the abacus as brand-spankin’ new and wonderfully received, should not cause policy creation overnight.
But some companies are embracing this new technology, and not just the Fortune and Inc 500 bloggers.
An April 2008 Forrester Research report (via Sarah Perez vectored from Larry Dignan) predicts corporate spending to exponentially increase on Web 2.0 technologies, such as social networking, RSS syndication, blogging, wikis, mashups, podcasts, and assorted widgets.
Erin Byrne, chief of digital strategies for PR firm Burson-Marsteller, says, “I thought that the number [of Fortune 500 bloggers] would have been higher. I think the reason…is that companies are still grappling with how they participate in the conversation when they don’t have control over the message.”
That’s not always the case, as Kelly Spors indicates in The Wall Street Journal, focusing on smaller firms uniting with each other on social networks to raise their collective profiles.
“Small businesses are often better positioned to take advantage of social networking than larger businesses because they often seem more approachable and so customers and prospects are more likely to be interested in connecting with them online.”
Whether a large or small business, technologists agree, the Forrester report indicates, that businesses will focus on collaboration and productivity tools, not consumer-oriented services like Blogger, Facebook, and Twitter.
Viewed differently, of 140 organizations surveyed in Beeline Labs’ 2008 Tribalization of Business:
- 35% value the lure of social media by word of mouth
- 51% believe the greatest obstacle to success is getting people involved
- 45% question time management to maintain the momentum once it starts
- 34% don’t know how to attract people
“At conferences around the world we’ve heard marketers say that their biggest challenge is executives’ resistance because they fear losing control,” says Beeline Labs partner Lois Kelly.
“But this research indicates that this may not be as big of an issue as marketers think. The bigger challenge is focusing the community around a purpose that people want to contribute to and be involved with – and devoting the right resources to promote and support the community.”
One way of devoting resources is to follow Holli Maestas’ list of 12 proven methods to leverage social media tools. Her list, while not paragraph-indented, sufficiently gets the message across that if a business is not willing to tread the waters, the competition will to remain relevant.
What do you think?
Is your business embracing social media and spending money on the technology? Or are you restricted in your day job routine because of factors beyond your control?
If you’d like to interact in social media technologies with me, see my relevant connection links on the right.