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Gartner: six core principles to tap the power of social media

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Many business and IT leaders tasked with executing on social-media-based efforts do not place enough emphasis on the “social” aspect of community participation, according to Gartner, Inc. Although numerous organizations have achieved social media success, failure rates are very high because leaders and managers rely too heavily on social technology functionality and often miss the critical design concerns.

“Far too many social media endeavors are failing because the managers leading the efforts lack knowledge of the fundamental principles of mass collaboration,” says Anthony Bradley, group vice president at Gartner. “Business and IT leaders must understand the basic nature of mass collaboration and how to deliver on its unique value. Like never before, millions of people can simultaneously create content, share experiences, build relationships, and engage in other forms of productive work and meaningful activities.”

Bradley says that business and IT leaders shouldn’t assume that the social technologies automatically come with the needed mass collaboration built in. Mass collaboration must be designed and delivered as part of the social solution, and no social technology is great enough to save efforts that ignore or omit the fundamental principles of mass collaboration.

“When these efforts are omitted, people don’t view the social media environment as a place for them to meaningfully collaborate, and so adoption never really takes hold,” Bradley says. “Initial interest wanes quickly as community members realize that collaborating in the environment is too difficult. Participation lacks focus, and critical mass never materializes around a common cause.”

Gartner has identified six core design principles that distinguish social media from other approaches to communication and collaboration, and form the foundation for its unique mass-collaboration value proposition. Business leaders should apply these principles to shift away from a “provide and pray” approach to a “motivate and engage” strategy. The principles include:

1. Participation: Getting communities to work for you.

Gartner recommends that business leadership set active participation as a priority design goal, with everything else revolving around getting the community to contribute valuable content.

2. Collective: People must swarm to the effort.

Gartner advises organizations to pursue a specific and well-defined purpose that is easily identifiable and meaningful to the target audience. It’s important to capitalize on physical world events, as well as online events, as part of a “tipping point plan” to rally people and catalyze a community.

3. Transparency: The community validates and organizes content.

Gartner recommends empowering the community with a robust capability to view, use and provide feedback on the contributions of others, with functionality such as thumbs up and thumbs down, tagging, voting, star ratings and social commentary. Employing transparency with social status and “gamification” mechanisms, such as leader boards, virtual currencies and badges, also helps to create incentives and recognize valuable contributions.

4. Independence: Provides the “mass” in mass collaboration.

Independence delivers anytime, anyplace and any-member collaboration, which means any participant can contribute completely independent of any other. To aid independence, Gartner advises organizations to consider the potential scale of the social media solution, and examine the design for anything that may impede anytime, anyplace and any-member collaboration.

5. Persistence: Contributions must endure for scaled value.

Organizations should make it easy for participants to capture content using evolving technologies, such as contextual information capture, to help collect more interaction content. They should examine how much persistence is desired, how much of the contribution to capture, how to manage it and how long to maintain it, whilst identifying content that is critical to the purpose of the social media effort.

6. Emergence: Communities self-direct for greater productivity.

The behaviors in mass collaboration cannot be modeled, designed, optimized or controlled like those in traditional systems. Gartner advises organizations to focus on the ends and not the means, by providing the community with the time and flexibility to find its own way of achieving results. An organization should observe social media behaviors, examine how productivity actually manifests itself through community interactions, then guide the community or make other organizational behavior adjustments to accommodate new ways of working.

Additional information is available in the report: “Master Six Core Principles to Tap the Massive Power of Social Media,” available on Gartner’s Website.

 

 

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