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IABC/buck find no plans for social networking

July 1, 2009

in communication,social media

if you’ve been reading any of the posts from SHRM09 this week, you, like me, may have chuckled in recognition of some bloggers’ frustration with their profession. yesterday, it was communication’s turn when @IABC tweeted:

“2 Out of 3 Communication Professionals Don’t Think Twitter’s Popularity Will Last” says IABC poll

being a former hewitt associate, and with old habits sometimes dying hard, i practiced a bit of what hewitt calls the “benefit of the doubt.” ok, maybe they just don’t think twitter will last — another microblogging platform will prevail. but no! when i read the full article, the news just got worse. further down in the article was data from a different study, the IABC research foundation and buck consultants employee engagement survey. inside the report was this one very disturbing finding: a vast majority of respondents have no plans to use social networking sites within their organizations.

use of social networking for employee engagement

the opening letter concludes that there are “opportunities for communicators to counsel and support employers and clients in using social media tools effectively and responsibly.”

yup, there sure are. if i can hazard a guess, there’s a lot at play here: cultural and leadership resistance, technical requirements, confusion and fear about social media — and, as i suggested in an earlier post, the need for communication professionals to get quickly up-to-speed.

i only want to address the last one today. i had planned to make this post a how-to, listing resources i’ve found extraordinarily helpful given my own learning curve. then i wondered if social media beginners would even see it! i mean, i push new posts out using linkedin, twitter, or facebook. otherwise, you’d need to subscribe or love me enough to check my blog regularly. not even my mom does that. instead, i’d like to throw out some questions to those of already using the tools. what if we stopped harrumphing about how this reflects on our profession (a reaction i admittedly first exhibited) and asked:

  • what is our role in helping educate our fellow communication professionals?
  • what is their barrier and how can we help them break through it?
  • how can those of us riding the learning curve reach out to those who haven’t even  boarded yet?

what would you answer?

perhaps next year’s survey will show miraculous movement we all can play a role in.

Leave a Comment

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

autom July 1, 2009 at 6:17 pm

‘reach out and touch someone’ indeed (in all the appropriate places, of course) ironically, i had pointed out an aspect of said IABC piece to @bergerchris; told him i noted how SM-challenged comms are made to sound. resistance, yes. how to help? oddly, i think use ole face2face networking, inform/educate first using timelines on SM’s (re)naissance up to its current state of evolution, and the various touch points from w/c MarkComm-ers need to place their attention.how they can connect the dots through blogs, microblogging, etc. @bergerchris would be good at this i think.

have missed past post n will review in detail when i get back to the TOe.



Chris Berger July 1, 2009 at 9:28 pm

I am inspired in the SM realm by reading and learning from companies that do it so well, and have the stats to back up that it actually is working—and the common denominator on most of these companies are when they have a strategic plan behind it. Many people and companies jump into it without having really done the necessary research or planning to make it effective, and then they throw the baby out with the bathwater and it goes into the “waste of time” and “ineffective” category when it doesn’t meet their high standards (that they probably wouldn’t even have for traditional media). I believe the resistance lies in many areas (probably discussion for another time), but the way to overcome the resistance and break down barriers in my opinion is:
-clearly defining what they want out of SM…and thereby determining if SM is right for them
-setting realistic expectations…SM is not the end all, be all…it is just a slice of the communications pie
-having the facts and knowledge to show how it can be effective in many different ways…not just monetarily (customer service, listening devices, etc.)
-be willing to admit that there is a continual learning process for even the most seasoned SM “guru”

I am convinced that those in communications that are not “riding the learning curve” in SM and are sitting on the bench are not doing their profession any favors. SM, like it or not, has changed the way the industry is doing business.


Robin McCasland July 1, 2009 at 11:26 pm

Appreciate your comments about the IABC Research Foundation pulse survey on Twitter use, and also on the results of the recent employee engagement survey. I, too, found the results quite interesting (surprising?) and I went through the same thought processes as you!

I think it is great that people are discussing and debating the results of the Twitter pulse survey. I believe it is important to emphasize that IABC is NOT saying it thinks Twitter is fading or will fade in the future; it is simply reporting on an opinion-based, quick poll of its members. In this instance, about 450 communicators responded. IABC is not advocating that we ignore Twitter. In fact, the association is promoting its adoption through its teleseminars, webinars and conference sessions.

The employee engagement survey uncovered some interesting twists, as you described. It is my humble opinion (and mine only) that the resistance to social media use within organizations is for some of the reasons you suggested — cultural or leadership issues — and not because communicators don’t understand it or embrace it. At least among the professional communicators I know — use of social media is growing exponentially. The survey results indicate to me that communicators have a window of opportunity NOW to influence responsible use of social media, and to shape organizational guidelines for how internal and external social media tools are to be used in their workplaces (or for their clients).

In the engagement survey there were also conflicting responses regarding use of an internal/employer brand, and how often key messages are reinforced in conjunction with the internal brand.

If we were to conduct this survey again, six months or a year from now, it would be interesting to see how the responses change over time.

If you could ask the survey respondents for more detail in their responses, what would you ask? I’m interested in your thoughts.

Robin McCasland
IABC Research Foundation


Jim Hoff July 2, 2009 at 6:45 pm

A provocative post, Fran. This is an amazing time to be in our profession, isn’t it? Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and others, may be here to stay or they may fizzle out. But this fundamental change in the way we communicate and interact has staying power.

Organizational adoption is an interesting discussion. Control is a word I often hear. Fear of losing control, wanting to control the outcomes or the messages, access control, etc.. To me that word signals we’re not all quite there. Complete control is not the model. Collaboration, community, conversation, connectivity — but not control. I think that’s the learning curve we all need to move along.

Marketers are realizing the power of letting customers own the message, the conversation, and ultimately the brand. The same forces can work inside the walls of an organization, too. It’s ridiculously exciting to think of how we can leverage these new tools.

And Robin, I couldn’t agree more: The window is open now.


Jon Stuckey July 2, 2009 at 11:07 pm

Great post, Fran. I agree with much of what was stated above. Specifically to your questions:
* what is our role in helping educate our fellow communication professionals?

I see our role primarily as an advocate role. We need to be role models and advocating the appropriate use of technology, not just using technology for technology’s sake. As mentioned above, we need to win people over the old fashioned way: one at a time through positive experiences.

* what is their barrier and how can we help them break through it?

Leadership buy in and corporate acceptance is a huge barrier for many organizations. Over time, as SM becomes even more mainstream, corporations will adapt and it will become a common part of doing business. It will be like email today, so common place that you take it for granted. It will be embedded in our daily corporate life. Clearly we’re not there yet, but some day we will be. Back to the barriers… I think one of the biggest barriers for SM acceptance at many corporations is the fundamental lack of hard ROI. Sure companies will tout impressive ROI but most of it is soft ROI and things that are hard to quantify into real dollars. The hard ROI that is out there is often picked apart or simply not believed at the decision making level. Improved case studies of hard ROI — and more importantly executives sharing success stories with one another — will increase adoption rates.

* how can those of us riding the learning curve reach out to those who haven’t even boarded yet?

We can demystify SM. Most people think of SM as this giant black box full of buzz words (that change on a daily basis). They are quick to throw their hands up and say “I don’t get it”. If we’re able to make it less intimidating, then we can start a dialogue. Demystifying is the first step, positive experiences is the clincher. Once people have first hand experience with SM and see how it benefits them, their company, or their colleagues, they’ll be on the bandwagon because they have a personal positive experiences. So on to the tactical… encourage folks to get out there and try Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Flickr, etc. and ask them how it felt to connect with someone they hadn’t talked to in 20+ years. Walk them through how to set up an RSS reader. Show them how SM can improve their personal and professional lives. Introduce them to YouTube and watch the evolution of dance http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMH0bHeiRNg. Have them rate the video after they watch it. If that doesn’t hook them, then sigh and walk away and try again in 6 months.


fran July 6, 2009 at 7:44 am

thanks for your thoughts, everyone.

autom (you bawdy soul) and jon. i’ve seen the same things work when talking with other communication professionals, or anyone uncertain of the “what” or “why” of social media, especially social networking. when i link it to something they currently do, it starts making a whole lot more sense. then it’s not about the tools, but about their purpose.

chris, you mean we can’t get excited about all our new toys and just play with them because they’re fun?! perhaps the recognition that a social media strategy needs to make sense within your larger communication strategy — and that not *all* tools need to work or will work everywhere — will put some concerns at rest.

robin, thanks for contributing. it’s great to hear from someone so close to the process and findings. honestly, i’ve seen communication professionals at different places along the spectrum. some, like you say, are early adopters. but frankly, i think there are many others who are aware of the tools and are cynical about what value they provide. organizations like CCM (disclaimer: i’m on the board), IABC, Ragan, etc are going to play a huge role in helping us get up-to-speed and to provide forums to discuss social media, how it changes our role, how orgs are using it internally and externally, how they’re measuring ROI, etc. if i was going to add a question to the survey i’d like to know how they are currently using social media in their orgs, since 79% also said they were using some form of social media frequently. i’d like to understand the breakdown between external/internal use and objective for each.

jim, couldn’t agree more that control — keeping it, wanting it — is a huge part of the barrier to change. ain’t it always?


Mark Bednar July 7, 2009 at 11:47 am

Have to throw out a quick comment:

I’ve been talking about facebook/twitter a lot lately, and twitter DEFINITELY has the worse reputation. Seems like each time I mention it as a tool, all I get are chuckles and guffaws. I think the likes of the uber-celebrity has ruined what twitter CAN be. The response I always get is “my life isn’t that interesting for me to be on twitter, and i don’t see how it would help improve communications or understanding any more than information on a website.”

I keep telling them that there’s so much more to twitter than what Ashton ate for dinner, but it’s hard for them to separate it from the celebrity angle. Maybe our duty as communicators w/ all SM is to show practical examples — even if we don’t have hard ROI yet — at least practical examples (like qwitter, for instance), can allow them to envision how to better use it for their own devices (be they pure or evil!).


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