Earlier today I wrote about the need for companies with a laissez-faire approach to social technologies to develop more structured plans, ones that involve IT enabling business in its use of such technologies while making sure risks are addressed. The real trick is attaining just the right amount of structure, enough to be a help without turning into a hindrance.
My conviction of the need for more structure in social media activities was reinforced by results of a CareerBuilder.com survey released earlier this month. The survey trots out some interesting findings about companies' use of socilal media. Among them:
Maybe it's no big deal, but another stat from CareerBuilder.com bothered me a bit. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they didn't know how many employees were communicating on behalf of their organization through social media. A quarter of them said they had one to three people doing so, 7 percent said four or five folks are involved, and 11 percent said more than six people fill a communications role.
I'm not really troubled by the fact that so many companies can't answer this. It's hard to say due to the wording of the question (as "on behalf of'" does imply folks acting in an official capacity), but I think it may be an honest acknowledgement that employees sometimes communicate about a company on their own time. (That's one of the factors that makes it tough to create a good social media policy.)
Companies like Microsoft find positive benefits far outweigh the bad in being mentioned in lots of unofficial discussions online. When I interviewed Toby Richards, general manager of Community & Online Support at Microsoft, and asked him how many online communities Microsoft had, he didn't know. And, he told me, "it's not a metric I care to track.".
Still, I find the uncertainty over numbers at least a little problematic, given Burson-Marsteller's findings earlier this year that not providing a unifying social media strategy for employees can result in mixed messages and tones and abandoned social media accounts that could be detrimental to a brand.