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Social media after its growth spurt

Dr. Nora Ganim Barnes from UMass Dartmouth recently presented findings from her study on the adoption of social media in the Inc. 500 companies at the Gilbane Boston conference. I had the pleasure of listening to her fascinating presentation, and would like to share some of her observations here.

This is the second of her studies of the Inc. 500’s adoption of social media. Over the past year, she has found, amazingly, the rate of adoption and understanding of social media is extremely rapid.

Her research "proves conclusively that social media has penetrated parts of the business world at a tremendous speed." Incredibly, "familiarity" with and the usage of social technologies has nearly doubled in that time frame.

Those respondents who stated that social media was "very important to their business/marketing strategy" jumped from just over 25 percent to 44 percent within the past 12 months.

These incredible statistics are a great validating point for solution providers like Inmagic. They confirm the trends we have been seeing within our own customer community, with companies becoming more aware of and using social technologies to facilitate collaboration, knowledge retention, and improvements in personal productivity.

What’s important to remember, however, is that while awareness and adoption of social tools within companies is rapidly increasing, it is their continued usage over the coming years that will be the most crucial metric to examine.

Social technologies only realize their full potential when people are given a context, that is, a reason for using them and connecting with their community. Project teams, shared problems, and shared processes cause communities to grow.

Often this growth is fueled by content around which they are collaborating or connecting -- such as documents, images, videos, spreadsheets, reports, etc. The content is the key element of this context. Without it, social tools will not fulfill their impressive potential within organizations.

We have seen many cases where social media technologies were implemented within organizations so that social networks could be created. The goal was to allow the workforce to collaborate more easily, and, ultimately, allow it to be more productive and innovative.

However, many of these initiatives have failed because communities failed to flourish. Why? Because, in the absence of a direct, tangible reason to use them (i.e., what's in it for me, how will this help me do my job better/faster?), they didn't gain a foothold.

These initiatives are most successful when workers are given a reason, a context for creating a social network. This is the essence of a social knowledge network.

It is thanks to industry minds such as Dr. Ganim Barnes that we all can gain a deeper understanding of the impact of new technologies. With it, we can be even more innovative in how we bring these technologies to our customer communities.

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