• Monday, July 22, 2024
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Harnessing the power of social media to accelerate large-scale change


Social media, while widely understood by the common man, is a concept whose substance and value are yet to be explored in depth. A mention of social media conjures the likes of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and other social networking sites widely considered as little more than fluffy, youth-focused attractions.

However, that is just a tip of the iceberg as to the potential of its capacity! These networking sites are saddling up to be the ride on which the world converges.

In the 1500s, an English philosopher came to the stark realisation, “Information is power.” Fast forward to the 21st Century, and “Real-Time information is now quite simply a fact of life! Since the rise of the internet in the early 1990s, the world’s networked population has grown from the low millions to the low billions. Over the same period, social media has become indispensable to all spheres and age groups of society for basic communication and entertainment; economic and social institutions for advertising and information sharing; governmental and non-governmental organisations for campaigns and funding; and businesses for online marketing and advertising, etc.

Quite notable is the 2008 presidential campaign in the USA, where President Obama utilised podcasting, Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube as tools to reach millions of people in one fell swoop. His website page, which could also create blogs, hosted over 2 million accounts to organise their local communities. It is estimated that more than 200,000 events were organised through the website; 400,000 articles were written in blogs; 400,000 videos that supported Obama were posted into YouTube via the official website; 35,000 volunteer groups were created; $30 million were spent by 70,000 people for their own fund raising webpages and in the final four days of the 2008 campaign, 3 millions phone calls were made through the web-site’s internet virtual phone.

Also noteworthy is Occupy Nigeria – the 2012 nation-wide strike action embarked on by Nigerians in response to the fuel subsidy removal by the Federal Government. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter were used as information sharing platforms to organise protests, yoking over 20,000 protesters across the nation, and the world in one joint force (Wikipedia).

Social media, in simple terms, can be defined as the means of interactions among people via the internet in which they create, share and exchange information/ideas in virtual communities and networks. It employs technology tools that enable people to communicate easily such as text (blogs, Twitter), audio (podcasts), videos (YouTube) and other multimedia networking/communication tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Yammer, Pinterest, Twitter, etc. It is different from traditional media in many aspects such as its easy accessibility and usability; its constant flow and frequency of information; its instant and far-reach; and most especially, its flexibility in application. This is the most wonderful feature of social media, as businesses and the society at large, with some tailoring, can employ its services to achieve major strides in their change initiatives.

In this new era of virtual reign, social media is a genuine game changer for businesses. For instance, social media has proven to be an important addition to a traditional change management programme, one that can dramatically increase the acceptance of change and advance an organisation more predictably toward its business goals..

The first step is to develop a social media strategy. Having a goal with a set target in mind will drive long-term thinking; providing a range of avenues where social media technologies can be utilised to shape and dispense information effectively. There are at least six ways in which, when properly planned and implemented, these technologies can support more rapid and controlled management of large-scale change. These include:

Building a collaborative culture

Acceptance of change can be accelerated across the organisation through the real-time sharing of experiences – both the successes and the temporary setbacks. People with common interests or related roles can form communities to learn from and support one another. Corporate social media initiatives can include an executive blog and a Q&A blog hosted on the intranet, as well as a public presence on Facebook and Twitter. The collaboration and networking platforms will empower employees, customers and partners to be active participants in the conversations. Leadership will be availed the opportunity to hear from staff directly, without having messages filtered through intermediate management levels. These social media programs can contribute significantly to elimination of redundant reporting processes and drive positive culture shifts.

Establishing more effective two-way communication

Social media tools are easy to monitor and participation is even easier, making then extremely effective communication tools. From blogs to online discussions, anyone can readily see where any misunderstandings or “pain points” exist across the organisation and take steps to address them.

By establishing corporate networks on secure and enterprise-strength social network platforms, co-workers can easily communicate and share information with one another and receive instant feedback to facilitate a smooth transition to the new way of working.

Creating more engaging learning experiences

Social media applications can be extremely effective ways to delivering personalised learning experiences related to a change initiative, not just general broadcasts of information. There are a variety of ways to encourage effective workforce enablement, including video-casts with short learning segments delivered before a new enterprise system goes live; live web meetings and tele-presence solutions that bring together dispersed teams for a common learning experience; user-generated content platforms such as YouTube, which allow staff members to provide short video or audio training segments relevant to the change program, etc.

Sharing current practices through a knowledge network

“Learning” refers to more than just formal offerings designed and delivered by a central group to a target set of people. Also critical are the knowledge networks that can be formed quickly using applications such as Twitter, Yammer and Facebook. These networks can help employees get information about processes or technologies, share innovative practices and receive answers in timely ways. Establishing a dynamic communication tool for employees to locate each other; discuss business content; and draw on expertise will significantly contribute to knowledge sharing and collaboration by employees regardless of time and space.

Improving employee involvement and engagement

One of the critical success factors for managing change programmes is engaging employees in the change – adequately engaging them to cultivate an ownership culture in the initiative and tap into their energy to resolve issues and advance the business.

Social media and collaboration solutions allow information to flow in multiple directions rather than just from the top down. For example, using wikis and microblogs – applications for sharing short bursts of information in Twitter-like fashion – organisations can “crowd-source” ideas and involve employees more directly in the change programme. Organisations can build greater internal loyalty by actively soliciting continuous feedback on issues related to the change.

The concept known as crowd-sourcing is fascinating in its simplicity and ingenuity. It is a tool to tap into a wealth of ideas stored in the various minds of an organisational workforce. Who else is better suited to provide ideas on how to meet their demands but the customers themselves? This will not only save time and cost in trial-and-error initiatives to engage employees, it will also breed a sense of belonging, ownership and trust in the company and its new direction.

Assessing progress more regularly and effectively

Organisations sometimes have difficulty measuring progress on a large-scale change programme, but social media applications can help by providing near real-time feedback about how well a programme is going. Through nearly instantaneous survey-based feedback, which can supplement more comprehensive measurement exercises; and conducting facilitated online feedback sessions, leadership can accurately deduce the rate of acceptance/internalisation of change and can develop interventions to address issues accordingly.

In conclusion, carefully managed social media and collaboration tools provide a powerful platform that can help enterprises successfully manage large-scale change. Indeed, many companies and businesses need to recognise the potential of social media tools as new communication channels not only to manage the human elements of a change initiative but also create opportunities to extend their market reach.


Ajibola is an analyst with Accenture Nigeria


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