I have been talking with clients and publishing on a very prevalent worst practice I call “Provide and Pray.” This involves simply providing access to a social software tool and praying something valuable comes from it. They pray that a community actually forms and that its activity delivers value to the enterprise. This isn’t “build it and they will come” because nothing is even built. Almost every enterprise I’ve talked with has suffered from the provide and pray practice. Even those who eventually are successful with social media. It almost seems a necessary step in the maturity process. The “provide and pray” approach drives the failure rate up significantly.
I have been talking about “a purposeful approach” for a few years now hoping to spare Gartner clients this intermediate failure step. See “Toolkit: Planning for Social Software Applications Using a Purpose Road Map” and “Ten Primary Design Considerations for Delivering Social Software Solutions: The PLANT SEEDS Framework” (available to Gartner clients or for a fee). Also see previous posts here, here, here, and here.
An August 2009 survey by Mzinga and Babson Executive Education found that 84% of respondents were not measuring the ROI of their social media initiatives. You could argue that this represents a possible 84% failure rate if you consider ROI as the measure of success and believe that “you get what you measure” or in this case you don’t get what you don’t measure. However, many consider ROI a poor measure of the value of social media.
As many of you already know, I have spent this year collecting a set of social media cases. I have collected 200 good social media cases after examining over 350 cases and discarding those that either were not really social collaboration or were clear failures (no significant adoption). I’m not talking about a survey here but a collection examined by hand. Next week I begin writing up my findings which should publish by mid October. Here were a few interesting discoveries (minus the actual numbers).
- Cases with good ROI metrics are rare.
- Cases with well articulated business results are few.
- Cases with activity metrics are more common.
My research indicates that if you measure success by business results, the failure rate is very high. If you measure success by adoption rates (social activity metrics), the failure rate is just high. Again, keep an eye on this blog and I will post when I’ve completed writing up my findings.
BTW, one of my sources for cases was the social software technology vendors and by far most could not articulate the specific business value their clients gained by using their products.
What metrics are you using to measure social media success? What metrics do you consider a good measure of social media success?
And, of course, I always want to hear more success or horror stories (for my growing collection).