(anti-disclosure: although I have been blogging about a lot of Forrester research lately, I have no financial relationship with them. The company I work for is a subscriber, so I get access to their research…maybe if I get them enough traffic, they’ll give us a discount ;-))
I posted earlier about some Forrester research on Second Life. On my recent plane ride, I got a chance to catch up on my PDF backlog of reports and read this
. <rant>Forrester really need to get blogging if they want to be part of the conversation. If there had been a 200 word summary of this report on a Forrester blog that was in my feed reader, I would have read it months ago, instead of when I got time </rant>.
The good part of the report is that it is based on real data from a pool of 40 or so respondents at real enterprise companies. The data analysis is quite good as well, with no signs of stretching correlation into causation. There is one thing I found quite disturbing in the results though. Disturbing, but unfortunately not suprising:
almost all of the firms currently running Social Computing technologies — 12 of 14 — are using a combination of internal and external resources. In fact, few firms dedicate much staff to running their efforts: Half of these firms employ fewer than two full-time employees (FTEs) dedicated to planning, deploying, and maintaining the use of Social Computing on their site.
As a reasonably active blogger, I guess I have become somewhat of a purist when it comes to participation and expertise. If you are going participate in a social media sphere for a company you should have genuine and not paid for passion for what that company does. Working for a big company, I completely understand the logic that goes into the decision to outsource the ‘getting your feet wet’ stage of social media. But I think it’s a strategy that will produce nothing but failure.
It will fail for the companies using the bloggers for hire because they won’t get the results they are looking for. Unless they are very good (and there are very few good bloggers out there much less good bloggers for hire) the ‘regular people’ that come at first to see what they have to say will quickly realize them as fakes and disengage.
Case in point: the Mazda Facebook group. I joined as soon as it came out as I was really interested in the concepts they were experimenting with (gathering direct input from customers…a little step in the direction of social production), but quickly lost interest as the Mazda reps in the group clearly weren’t in the engineering group and I learned after a time that they didn’t work for Mazda. They said the right things, but couldn’t engage in a conversation. They didn’t have the domain depth to take a position, respond to a question, add to a thread. In other words they couldn’t do anything that social media is actually good at.
In the end this will become a self fulfilling prophecy: companies will think it’s interesting, but risky so let’s outsource it. It will start with a bang, but then the ‘traffic’ will start to slow (that’s a whole ‘nother post on bad social media metrics) and lo and behold the grand experiment will be declared a failure and big companies will move on to the next fad method to try to dig themselves out of the non-differentiable whole they find themselves in.
Maybe this is the way it has to be. Maybe ‘companies’ can never really get social media because their is nothing social about them. Maybe the bloggers for hire are actually a subversive move on corporate social media – they’re trying to make the efforts fail as a way to keep them out of the social media sphere. Then again, maybe there is a way to make it work: let your people free. Take your 5 most passionate product developers, engineers, and heck, even customers and give them a voice. Have rules (no confidential information) but let them call it as they see it and speak in their own voice. If you can do this, your forays into social media will be both cheaper and have real positive results.