Mark McDonald

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Mark P. McDonald
GVP EXP
8 years at Gartner
24 years IT industry

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a former group vice president and head of research in Gartner Executive Programs. He is the co-author of The Social Organization with Anthony Bradley. Read Full Bio

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It is time to ‘breakout’ of social media’s marketing beach head

by Mark P. McDonald  |  March 14, 2012  |  5 Comments

Marketing has been the beachhead for Social media in many organizations.  Social media has served its purpose in this context raising awareness of a new set of technologies based on new principles of peer-to-peer discussion, openness and cross-boundary communities.  Marketing has put these technologies to work and very visible effect.

Now it’s time to breakout of that beachhead and start to talk about more than Marketing and more than social media technology.

Why? Because social media is becoming associated with the technology rather than the ability to collaborate in new ways.

Continuing to use social media as a comprehensive term may be doing more harm than good, particularly for business leaders interested in creating more collaborative, creative and engaging organizations.

The application of social media only to marketing creates false comfort and limited appreciation for what is possible using mass collaboration that is enabled but not defined only by social media.

An executive can crow about employing social media by saying, “We have Twitter and SharePoint, and we’re on Facebook.” But ask them how all this is having a positive impact on business results, and you have raised a significant issue.  Social media applied to market creates activity and in marketing activity is a good thing.

Activity alone does not create results, particularly for applying social media technology, as we now know there are ways these platforms can be used to go beyond marketing the brand, to truly transform the business.

Social media technology has opened the door, enabling business leaders to think differently about how they engage and interact with both customers and employees.

But opening the door doesn’t mean you’ve crossed the threshold into a new way of working, managing and leading. Those ends — what we’ve described as the attributes of a “social organization” — take more than setting loose the technology and praying something good will happen.

A social organization strategically applies “mass collaboration” addressing significant business challenges or opportunities through creating collaborative communities driving toward a purpose and enabled by social media.  That combination defines mass collaboration.

As we commented in our initial post, every organization is social, but few are social organizations.    Mass collaboration gives an organization the ability to amplify its capabilities through raising the engagement, innovation and involvement of people internally and externally.

Using the terms mass collaboration and social organization takes social media up an important notch, recognizing that its potential value requires more than new technology.  Recognizing that is application can break out and breath new life into processes practices and challenges.

We need to move beyond the technology tool and determine how to apply that tool, with others, to do things that were previously impossible or prohibitively expensive.  Consider CEMEX’s SHIFT! Initiatives that have radically reduced cycle time and increased results via mass collaboration. Loyola University, Chicago engages potential new students in ways that raise the quality of its admission decisions. Improving revenue realization by 15%.    Electronic Arts what has created collaborative decision-making that fosters rather than fights creativity.

What will happen if we don’t?

Well it is likely that social media will join other technologies that remain popular buzzwords but have fallen short of their potential value.   We also risk breaking the expected promise of social media marketing engages customers when we serve them through autocratic business processes.  It does not have to be that way.  It is time to break out and create a social organization that can deliver to customers who expect more than marketing.

So as a business leader, talk about social media technology, celebrate the results it achieves in Marketing but recognize that is a start.  Break out beyond the marketing beachhead.  Think about how you can create mass collaboration and become a social organization.

That will put you well past brand awareness, on your way to breakthrough performance.

Related Posts

Welcome to “The Social Organization”

Enterprises don’t need social media, they need to become a social organization.

Social Organizations transform culture from a constraint to a capability

Why social media is not enough to become a ‘social organization.’

Does social media equal social unrest?

Social organizations need managers that guide rather than direct

5 Comments »

Category: marketing Social Media Social Organization     Tags: , , ,

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 CHopeMurray (chopemurray) | Pearltrees   March 14, 2012 at 12:28 am

    [...] It is time to ‘breakout’ of social media’s marketing beach head Activity alone does not create results, particularly for applying social media technology, as we now know there are ways these platforms can be used to go beyond marketing the brand, to truly transform the business. Social media technology has opened the door, enabling business leaders to think differently about how they engage and interact with both customers and employees. An executive can crow about employing social media by saying, “We have Twitter and SharePoint, and we’re on Facebook.” But ask them how all this is having a positive impact on business results, and you have raised a significant issue. Social media applied to market creates activity and in marketing activity is a good thing. [...]

  • 2 Ravindra Datar   March 14, 2012 at 8:17 am

    Interesting point of view. While “Marketing” can help facilitate leverage of social media, it cannot and should not be left to marketing only to leverage social media for corporate benefit. It is important to have an all-encompassing strategy around social media across the organization, to leverage the opportunity to effectively use thought leaders and subject matter experts for brand image building and visibility management in social media.

  • 3 Wipro Council for Industry Research   March 20, 2012 at 10:47 pm

    You are right, Mark. Social media is no longer about the various platforms and having a marketing plan in place for each of them. It is necessary to go beyond marketing and branding and see the bigger picture in the organizational context. The CIOs role is becoming increasingly connected to social media as they leverage this asset and use social media policies and tools/technologies to encourage employees to participate. That way, the CIO is no longer fighting social media, but embracing it as a long term strategy for the “social” enterprise. More on how the CIO can play his role at http://www.wipro.com/Documents/Murthy_CIO-Insight-2-26-12.pdf

  • 4 Cate Crandell   March 22, 2012 at 6:47 am

    I absolutely agree with this. Social media is great- for connection. But as an active user of Facebook and Twitter myself, I often have found that I have ‘liked” too many of my interests and some people FLOOD my Facebook minifeed with updates that quite frankly I’m not interested in. Some posts are silly and unnecessary. There is one photographer that I found on facebook who was a huge inspiration to me when I was in high school in regards to portrait photography… and a couple of months ago I found her and while she is the founder of an incredible cause, some of her facebook posts have really turned me away from her. It’s disturbing the things she (and others) post on their social networking sites… for ANYONE and EVERYONE to see. There is a difference in public and private life and some people forget those boundaries because they are concerned about having more “likes” than anyone else. But I’ll tell you one thing- I have hidden many of my “liked” groups from my minifeed because I’m tired of their BS and they aren’t helping me like their product any more. Post inspirational quotes every day or post something genuinely funny or tell me something about your new product… and you’ll bring me to your page. I don’t care if you hate your current cable company and you want to switch companies… and I don’t care if you are flying first class with your 5 year-old kid next to you… and I definitely don’t want to hear you talk about your “potential” or “ex” clients… In these cases, you’re one stop closer to losing a client.
    Social media is supposed to be for keeping people up-to-date with what’s happening, and in regards to a business, it’s supposed to make people want to come to you…. not push people away.

  • 5 Ed Hawkins   November 26, 2012 at 10:20 am

    One idea would be to map the entire collection of consumer touch-points throughout the lifecycle of the relationship and begin to align the enabling digital collaboration capabilities to those touch-points so as to improve and deepen the relationship for the mutual benefit of the consumer and the company.