MORE THAN A LAG PHASE WITH USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA
I have watched over the last few years (very few) as the beauty and power of social media unfold. Web 2.0 as they are also known, Face book, twitter, LinkedIn and many others are now very powerful tools with the ability to ‘move mountains, literally. They say that mountains can never meet, but through face book, these mountains have been moved and friends have been re-connected after many years without them moving an inch form their physical locations. These tools have such a huge impact in terms of communication and outreach and organisations are now fast embracing the use of online social media as an avenue for networking, outreach, feedback and the list is endless. This is a phenomenon which has now become a must for any business or organisation seeking to make an impact to its stakeholders and targeted audience.
I cannot boast that I am an expert in this field and subject, but with the little that I know, I have made an observation and I ask, is it enough to just acknowledge that use of social media is now an imperative and they way to go? I think social media can only do so much. How much have these organisations invested in building the capacity of their employees to use social media? To what extent are they willing to go familiarize their staff with the knowledge needed to fully realize the benefits of web 2.0 tools? I recently had an encounter that made my jaws dropped, where an employee of a certain organisation was at pains figuring out what a ‘handle’ is. When I asked her what their official twitter handle is, her response was: “what’s that?” I almost laughed but then thought, ‘what?’ UNBELIEVABLE! In this day and age? You see in my mind, the ‘gospel’ about social media is now wide spread and nobody has the right to ‘claim’ that they are not aware. And there goes the problem…… we have assumed that enough has been said about social media, everybody knows about them and what they are capable of achieving.
Therein lays the problem- Assumption! Organisations assuming that their staff is familiar with web 2.0 and their applications. Organisations assuming that creating a twitter account and a face book page are enough. Just because social media and its use seems to have spread like bush fire in less than ten years, then everybody should know what it is, and how to use it. Unfortunately, that is not true.
Do these organisations embracing use of social media for communication and outreach think of attaining an exponential growth with these tools, or they are content with the lag phase attained after the initial step of having an online presence in the social media. Yes lag phase, that of the biology fame, describing the initial growth phase, during which cell number remains relatively constant prior to rapid growth. You see I choose to use the phrase lag phase here to signify ‘no growth’, constant. Julie Urlaub in her blog on “why your social media efforts are failing and what to do about them” points out three major missteps which organisations take, that hinder them from realising the full benefits of social media as essential tool for value creation (http://blog.taigacompany.com/blog/sustainability-business-life-environment/why-your-social-media-efforts-are-failing-and-what-to-do-about-them ). Julie mentions the need to build and active social media engagement strategy, under which I boldly say, organisations need to build their in-house capacity to full y exploit social media
I believe that in this strategy, one of the main objectives should be towards attaining exponential growth in their operations and end results, as a result of embracing use of social media to make their presence more pronounced. How? Awareness, awareness, awareness! Spread the knowledge about them (technical knowledge inclusive): That ‘knowledge is power’ no longer carries the day, but the sharing of this knowledge. Let us enhance the capacity of our employees to use social media, let us not ASSUME that they know what a twitter handle is. J. Let us invest in training!
Training does not have to cost the organisation so much in terms of their budgetary allocations: how about in-house seminars form those employees with this knowledge? How about obtaining literature on these topics, for example this useful article I came across on how to maximise use of twitter, available here: (http://www.computerhope.com/tips/tip149.htm ) One of the most powerful channels of knowledge sharing is face to face interactions acknowledged by various scholars in the field of knowledge management and communication.
In addition, where necessary, the management should seek the services of professional trainers in the field of web 2.0 to enhance the skills of their staff.
There are resources available which contain information describing how to use the social media tools both for individuals and organisations. Some that I have particularly found very helpful include:
- The Information Management Resource Kit (imark module) by FAO and CTA, an e-learning programme available online here: http://www.imarkgroup.org/moduledescription_en.asp?id=109
- Participatory Learning and Action (PLA), change at hand: web 2.0 for development, by CTA
The time has come for our organisations to invest more in making the most out these web 2.0 tools. Else, we are danger of ending it at the lag phase and still talk of how much power is in social media, yet without realising ‘that’ power.