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Herding the social media cats: Is your IT organization ready?

by Dave Hannon

January 7, 2011

Dave Hannon

If you had to guess how many of the Fortune 500 companies created Twitter accounts last year, what would you guess? another guess?

According to a fascinating study on corporate social media use from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, a whopping 298 of the Fortune 500 (60%) maintain corporate Twitter accounts. That’s almost double the amount that had Twitter accounts last year (35%). And 280 (or 56%) have Facebook accounts. Blogs, it seems, are so 2005 (he said awkwardly typing into the blog posting tool) that only 116 of the Fortune 500 (23%) still maintain public-facing corporate blogs in 2010. Twitter users wouldn’t be surprised to find that specialty retail companies gravitate to Twitter the most, while companies in the “computer software, peripherals, office equipment” category leverage blogs the most.

I could go on for paragraphs about these trends, but taken as a whole, this data “clearly demonstrates the growing importance of social media in the business world,” say the U Mass researchers. “These large and leading companies drive the American economy and to a large extent the world economy. It will be interesting to watch as they expand their adoption of social media tools and connect with their constituents in dramatically new ways.”

Yes, it will be interesting for us in the media and probably the suits down in your sales and marketing department to watch these va rious social media efforts branching out in countless different directions. But for you, the IT professional or ERP strategist, these trends likely bring more ulcers than giddiness. How does our social media strategy mesh with our ERP or enterprise IT strategy? How do we integrate solutions this year that we didn’t know about last year? How many Twitter accounts and Facebook pages are there across our global enterprise and who’s managing them?

Yes, one of the biggest challenges for IT organizations may be to find a way to herd the social media cats running wild throughout the enterprise, and provide the data that will determine which of these efforts are bringing the ROI and which are just, well, another drop in the online kitty litter box, if you will.

CRM software developers like SAP are doing their part, working furiously to incorporate social media tracking functionality into their products in the hopes of making CRM the feline-corralling solution you seek. But they’ve got their work cut out for them given the pace of change and growth in social media. Right now, as I type, there's a 19-year-old kid in a dorm room creating something that will likely have to be integrated into your IT landscape in the next two years.

And you know better than me, the folks down the hall in your marketing department – you know the ones with the funky glasses – they don’t want to wait for the ERP system to catch up to their wildly creative use of the latest social gadget, right? So maybe this is as much an internal organizational issue as it is a technology integration issue. How much does IT need to know and when?

I apologize for posing more questions than answers, here. As always, I welcome your thoughts, comments and feedback in the hopes of better understanding where you’re at in these areas. The more cats in t his social media herd, the better! (I promise, that’s the last cat-related metaphor for a long time).

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