Six approaches for social media adoption – 1. do nothing

So I promised in my post last week to set out the six approaches to using social media tools that I developed during my work on the GCN social media review, The first is – do nothing.

Despite all the innovation and good examples of use of social media tools in large organisations over the last year or so, investing in is still a tricky decision for many. In government, budgets and headcount allocations are tight and shrinking. The return on investment of social media is largely unproven. Many large organisations are naturally risk averse.

So it would be a legitimate tactic at this point in time for an organisation to do nothing.

This isn’t necessarily a strategy of avoidance, ignorance or even procrastination. But it is a short term position and not sustainable in the longer term.

While the skills remain relatively rare and the investment in time and people to embed the skills high, its natural to take a back seat and watch others innovate so that you can learn from their relative successes and failures. As more and more good examples of using social media tools for business are evaluated and shared, a consensus on good practice will develop and organisations will become more comfortable with the idea of investing in this area.

Meanwhile, you avoid the pain of early adoption.

On the downside, user adoption of the conversational opportunities afforded by social media is much faster than for the early web. They may well expect to be able to engage with you before you are ready for it. There’s also the risk of being left behind by the speed of others’ innovation.

Doing nothing costs nothing in monetary terms but the opportunity costs could be high if the strategy is sustained for too long and you have to play catch-up.

    • osimod
    • August 11th, 2008

    Hi Jeremy. There was a nice slide from the Dion Hinchcliff of ZDNET saying to business CIO:
    1) do nothing
    2) get out of the way
    3) keep energy levels up

  1. Thanks for that David. I saw Dion speak recently and he was very enlightening about the pragmatic approach to all this.

    • neilojwilliams
    • August 11th, 2008

    “They may well expect to be able to engage with you before you are ready for it.” – So true, but this is also such a great catalyst. Once you’ve dipped your toe you haven’t got an option but to start swimming.

    It’s also a strong argument against doing nothing: if our audiences are so hungry for an open, freeform dialogue that they bite our hands off as soon as we offer one, what does that tell us?

    But yes: the ROI is unproven. At least in any quantifiable way. And the time cost can be high, especially if you include the learning curve of someone who’s never touched a social web app before.

  2. One down, five to go. What’s number two? 😉

  3. Actually even getting to “Do Nothing” requires work. Social networking in government is too often literally unthinkable thus no one even considers it.

    That’s one of the reasons we are looking at emergent, invisible social networking.

    • andrewlewin
    • August 12th, 2008

    This reminds me of the mid 90s when I was asked to put together a business case for a website for a company I was working for. Despite being very keen on the new-fangled inter-web thing, my end advice to them at the time was not to do it – there was no ROI, no reasonable business case you could make to the accountants, you could only frame it as a brand and vanity project.

    10 years on, and a company without a website is a company without a future, and it’s social media in the same situation. But it’s very hard to know whether social media will end up going the same way or just being a “fad”, quickly absorbed back into the digital mainstream.

    I’d say not, of course, but it’s hard to prove in facts and figures anytime soon, and costly to try.

  4. @davied – patience!
    @mark – I agree, interested in what you are doing too.
    @Andrew – Sounds familiar but the ability to interact with customers is not a fad. In the meantime there’s no shame in watching and learning from others (a bit like the mid-90’s in fact).

    • andrewlewin
    • August 12th, 2008

    I agree, interacting with customers is no fad and no one can safely sit back and assume otherwise. But whether what we refer to today as social media (blogs, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) is anything more than a ‘fad’ that will last more than a couple of years – that is surely debatable.

    After all, in the mid-90s, having a static web page to talk to customers was state-of-the-art social media. Now it would be seen as a refusal to interact.

    But that just links back to your point about the dangers of being a trailblazer.

  5. Snap!

    Some people misunderstood and thought I meant that do nothing was the “best” solution. It is not it us the easiest. Doing nothing means it will hapen but you will have lost out on a lot of opportunity to influence.

  6. @Euan – Hadn’t thought of it being a good strategy to inadvertently encourage the disruptors to get on with it anyway!
    I was thinking more of it in more of these terms rather than in a completely passive or negative way:

    • Sebastian Crump
    • August 14th, 2008

    To continue where this comment thread seems to be heading I would like to add that “Do nothing” on its own worries me as a message to send out. Surely this is too dangerously close to “ignore it and put you head in the sand”.

    I don’t disagree that implementing nothing at the moment is a legitimate strategy. Personally, however, I would therefore headline advise as “Do nothing yet; but watch, learn and plan”.

    In the longer explanation I think that the organisation should be encouraged to engage with its staff on the issue, e.g. identify the early adopters and gather ideas about what may be possible with its resources and data.

  7. @Seb – well then we’d better end it then! This is not meant to be an ignore it’ option but a conscious, aware decision. Think I’d better get on with the other five as this is stretching it out a bit too much.

  8. @seb I wasn’t advocating doing nothing merely trying to point out that this stuff will happen whether organisations like it or not.

  1. August 15th, 2008
  2. August 18th, 2008

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