Insights and opinions on Information Technology from George Tomko, a veteran CIO turned renegade consultant.


Social Media Management – or Muddle?

As the title suggests, perhaps what we now term as “social media”, is perceived differently by the people that use it, plan it, deal with it, or design it. In fact, the “it” is precisely what defies pinpoint accuracy. And the saying goes, if you cannot measure (or define it), you cannot manage it. Social media management is, thus, an epic challenge.

Is this a problem? Should it matter whether I am a user of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, MySpace, SMS, AIM, or a chat client?

Back in the “day”, it used to be said that the great thing about standards — the specifications that were supposed to define a predictable, certain evironment — was that there were so many to choose from. So, why should it be any different today, with respect to social media applications? Indeed, there are many to choose from.

From a user perspective, it fulfills a need, whether that means entertainment, or some business purpose. Since there is a learning curve, plus an investment of time and energy to build a community of users, there is a tendency for users to spend their time in a subset of all currently available applications.

For example, I tend to be Twitter and LinkedIn focused and post updates in one or the other. Sometimes, I will use the methods that each provides to enable me to “cross-post” from one platform to the other. I could do the same across the other platforms, more or less, including text.

So, what we have is a patchwork quilt of communication partners that are sequestered within their primary application platform (Facebook, Twitter, etc.). We used to call these types of segregations “islands”, whether they were discrete databases, ERPs, private networks, clouds, etc.

Very easy, then, to say that social media is social muddle. Users may not care so much, at least in the aggregate. But, what if it is your business to develop the strategy, message(s) and tactics to utilize social media to promote products, provide customer service, handle business transactions, or any other commercial activity?

You have your work cut out for you. The toolsets are evolving and many are in Beta. User experience is still device and platform dependent (mobile vs. PC, for example). Security is a big concern. Legal cases are pending with uncertain outcomes. A new dot-com bubble seems to have formed, as over-hyped start-ups try to come up with the next Facebook.

While innovation is great, some parts of our world need to be maintained in some kind of order. We call this tug-of-war between  technology driven innovation and the status quo as “disruptive technology”. This disruption has even challenged the organizational framework and balance of power. Where the CIO was king of the hill, new “C”-level executives have emerged: the “CMO” and the “CISO”.

So, social media is reallly a muddle. Big deal. So what? Organizations, specifically IT, have faced disruption and muddle in every year of their existence. The social muddle is just one of many. Add cloud, “big data”, gamification, virtualization, mobilization, and BYOD. Also, security issues overhang each one of these technologies and their implementations.

What to do? It depends. One thing’s for sure. We will definitely have to muddle our way through.