A comment on the challenges of implementing social media

Inclusive Economy08 Nov 2009Janelle Ward

Recently, Richard Lalleman wrote an opinion piece on The Broker website, discussing why organizations should adopt social media tools to create a social learning environment. Richard makes a number of interesting observations. He is right to point out the informal nature of communication via social media tools. He takes the optimistic view that social media equals a social learning environment. However, I’d like to point out a number of barriers that organizations may face. First, there is a perceived shift in job descriptions, and second, many employees may be concerned with a request to combine personal and professional domains.

1) Shifting job descriptions
It is true: IT-departments are often appointed to integrate social media technologies in the workplace. Such a move creates more work for the IT department, since social media requires constant surveillance and updating. But it also adds to staff members’ workload. It’s easy to see why many individuals do not see why they should maintain online profiles particularly when they have established offline networks. Perhaps such an implementation would be more successful if organizations appointed an individual that was purely responsible for helping employees understand the benefits of such a move, as well as assist them with technical aspects.

2) Combining personal and professional domains
I do agree with Richard that these changes are coming, albeit slowly. And at a minimum, organizations should at least be aware of what is happening in the online world, particularly when content is directed at their organization. However, full implementation will take some time, or may not happen at all. I can understand why a professional would rather leave their Facebook page as a social outlet and not construct it as an expression of their professional identity.

I am very interested in how social media is being implemented particularly on an organizational level. But it’s important to retain value in traditional communication styles, and be reflective about whether the latest Web 2.0 craze is indeed useful at an organizational level.