This post is part 5 in a 5-part series focusing on the potential impact of social media within the enterprise. Part 1 dealt with a framework for understanding how social media supports relationships and content in ways that both enable and constrain employees. Part 2 addressed the multiple types of relationships that social media supports, compared to earlier generations of collaboration tools. Part 3 focused on the implications of presenting and protecting content on organizational collaboration. Part 4 focused on how the features of enterprise social media can allow employees to network in new ways that can influence their performance. This series is based on an article published in Vol 14, No 1 (2015) of MIS Quarterly Executive.
Successfully implementing social media tools in the enterprise is by no means a guarantee for successful business or productivity outcomes. I’ve studied companies that have significantly improved productivity and collaboration using social media for internal communication and collaboration — and others that have seen no effect or even a negative effect on performance.
Successful enterprise social media use has less to do with the tools themselves as it does with the climate that the company cultivates. Cultivating the right climate requires managers to balance a number of tradeoffs through carefully crafted social media policies, adapt characteristics of existing organizational culture, and model effective social media practices for their employees.
Am I suggesting that executives should be using social media themselves? Definitely. If your executives are currently using digital tools for communication (i.e., email), then they too should begin using social media as well. It is important for managers to understand first-hand the strengths and weaknesses of these tools if employees are going to use them. These executives may also find that their influence and effectiveness as a manager increases as a result the increased communication capabilities enabled by these tools.
It’s understandable, though, that managers may wonder what they’re getting themselves into. Few changes can be accomplished without accepting certain tradeoffs. Let’s have a look at what those tradeoffs might be.
Exploration vs. Exploitation
The first tradeoff is between what Stanford Professor James G. March called exploration and exploitation.