The X Factor in Corporate online social networking

Cooked a new dish at home or dining at a restaurant?

Meeting friends or having a get-together? 

 Travelling for work or pleasure? 

Received an appreciation or won an award?  

Feeling excited, happy, sad or depressed? 

Have spoken in a conference or published paper somewhere? 

These experiences (and many more) seem incomplete without posting on social media!! 

Today, many of us are living our lives on Facebook or other social networking platforms, albeit to varying degrees – some high, some low. Even if we don’t post, someone tags us in their posts. Social media has become a convenient way to express ourselves, stay connected with friends, be updated with latest information, get some entertainment. Given the popularity and all pervasiveness of social media across generations, it’s hard to believe that human beings had lived a fulfilling life without social media, just about a decade or so back.

Despite this immense success in personal sphere, online social networking has miserably failed in corporate world.  While the market is littered with online collaboration tools and several organizations have tried to implemented it, success has been limited. A survey done by Altimeter Group in 2014 indicate that less than half of the enterprise collaboration tools installed have employees using them regularly.

Why are the organizational social networking platforms not able to create a pull factor?

Employees are not averse to staying connected with colleagues; on the contrary, they use social media as means to stay connected with the current and ex-colleagues (including bosses at times).

Organizations can derive immense benefit out of online social networking: geographically dispersed employees can be brought together, information and knowledge can be shared easily, ideas can be replicated – possibilities are immense.

Despite this, online social networking has not taken off in organizations. Agreed, the tools are less intuitive, less user-friendly and not so fun to use. Surely, these are not key reasons. Several authors have written about lack of role-modelling by leaders as a reason; if leaders don’t adopt social media and integrate it in their day-to-day lives, employees will not adopt it either. Agreed, this is an important reason, however it’s not all. There are three other critical reasons:

Sense of control – on social media, we decide what to write, which picture to post, what to comment on, what to read, who to connect with, who to block, who to chat with, which group to join, which to exit etc. Sometimes, we are even a mini celebrity! It’s about us. We feel that we are in control – it’s content posted by people for people. No one is trying to moderate it. Compare this with social networking platforms in organisations: employees are channelized towards specific topics that organization want to focus on or groups are formed and employees added to it to collaborate, learn, share knowledge etc. This leaves the employee wondering – why should I? An employee feels shepherded into a direction which he may nor may not wish to take!

Freedom to express – We feel free to express our opinions in social media; there are no consequences, no one is judging us. This belief is undoubtedly misplaced: our posts can be used by our prospective customers or employers or even current employers to form opinions that might influence their actions. Many of us are aware of this, still there is a perception of security. However, this safety net is perceived to be missing in most organization social networking context. In organizations, we believe that we have to be careful about what we write, what we share, when we share: there is a sense of being constantly evaluated. In such a scenario, easiest thing to do is ‘not participate’

Purpose is self-driven – We join social media for our own reasons, there is no one forcing us to do so. And each of us have different reason to join and contribute – we decide what and to what extent. However, in organizations, the purpose is decided by someone else. Employees may or may not connect with the purpose. Worse still, they may not even clearly understand the purpose.  The question continuously lingers in their mind – “what’s in it for me? Why should I participate?”

Without incorporating these aspects into online social networking, only a miracle can make it work in organizations.  


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