"Everybody loves the sound
of a train in the distance,
Everybody thinks its true."
For Decades I've listened to this Paul Simon lyric without fully appreciating its application to business and technology. Everyone is looking for that quick fix to the ails of the soul - be it in the arms of someone new, a new technology, or a new business process.
A train in the distance holds hope, redemption and relief from suffering. But in all these things, the actual key to success is careful selection, constant refactoring, and a firm understanding of yourself and your capabilities.
No relationship is a success because of one person, no new piece of software works in an organization because one person or one department demands it so. It especially doesn't work because the sales rep says so.
Social Media is the new Train in the Distance. Everybody thinks its true. Recently though one of my clients said to me, "You know, we installed a wiki the other day, but no one uses it. Why do you think that is?"
I told him the reason was the wiki alone doesn't do anything. It's a great tool, but it's not a panacea (Sorry, Ross :-) ).
The inclusion of a wiki will only work if you make it part of your life. If you design a wiki well and figure out where it fits in your processes and what processes could logically change and be improved with a wiki - then great! It's wiki time.
What many managers are hearing is that you can just install it and people will take to it like Senators to a fundraiser. But the truth is, they won't.
Like a marriage, you need to figure out what elements of social software are compatible with your existing processes and your corporate culture. If you take a look at your corporate culture and don't like it - don't expect social media to do your work for you. You need to sit down and have a long talk with your fellow corporate people and discover what is working, what you've done in the past, was successes you've had, and what you can change to help bring about more success.
Social media is a great set of tools that are constantly getting better. They make sense, they integrate well in existing processes and they are great agents for positive change. But they are not leaders, they are not people.
They are a train in the distance and people will watch that train pass right by (no matter how romantic a notion you may have for it) unless you can communicate to them why. Why is it needed, why it will make things better, why it is easy to use, and - most important - why it is good for them.
And why it is good for them has a continuum of roles from the personal to the professional. Your new social media friend will only have staying power and be accepted into the group if it helps people feel empowered personally and makes things easier professionally.
Politics mucks that easy equation up. Do your different departments love or hate each other? Do they trust you? Do they like dealing with IT? Is that train going to pick me up and take me to Nirvana, or is it going to squash me flat?
Social Media is social - while it can help diffuse some social snags, it can exacerbate others.
Your most recent Blue Ocean Purple Cow Social Media buzz word is only as good as the thought and care you put into it. I happen to like Social Media a lot and use it all the time with my clients. There is amazing things that can be done with both the applications and the concepts.
But beware of the Train in the Distance. It carries both pleasure and pain, make sure you get on the right car.
Blogged at a random Starbucks on California Street in San Francisco using Windows Live Writer