Were Businesses Ready for Web2.0?

Estimated reading time: 4 mins

My Grandmother might not know it, but Web2.0 has created a social revolution. It has changed the way people interact, network, learn and organize forever more. But were businesses ready for it?

I recently contributed to the ‘Silicon.com CIO Jury ‘ who asked whether organizations were ready for the Facebook generation , and it seems that the general response was ‘No ‘. Security and Productivity were cited as the biggest reasons. Nevertheless, business is beginning to respond to Web2.0. Earlier this year, a study by Awareness, a US social media company, says that approx 54% of large organizations are using  Web2.0 technology, such as blogs and wikis. This number rockets 74% for companies with 500 employees or less. It seems that the risk/benefit of Web2.0 to SMEs stacks up.

To get an expert view on this, I caught up with Organizational Social Media guru Peter Gold to get his answer to this question. Peter runs his Talent Technology Blog which focuses on social media in the workplace, and it’s implications:

Q: ‘Web2.0’, social media and blogging has taken the world by storm over the last 5 years, mostly by consumers – how has Web2.0 affected business as a whole?

It has changed the way brands have to listen to customers; failing to do so ends up with situations such as Dell who were being slated by a key blogger and initially did nothing about it.  Since that time Dell have transformed their service culture (I can vouch for this) and have 40+ Twitter accounts to help them engage with customers, as just one example.

Also, we are just beginning to see ‘social media in the workplace’ which will transform how ‘the company’ engages with its ‘greatest asset’.  Organisations that fail to use social media tools internally will just push any dissent underground which will continue to have an adverse affect on customer service and revenues.

Q: What is your view on the state of Web2.0 in business?

It is early days yet and will take a few years to really proliferate.  For example, we started building an applicant tracking system in 1998, 10 years later 50% or retailers have an ATS, 12% of other sectors use an ATS.  Across 1,000 companies we surveyed in November 2007 the overall result was around 25% of companies surveyed had an ATS (70% use job boards).  10 years to get 25% penetration.  Not too bad but the penetration curve is still getting steeper so in another 10 years I would expect the figure to be in excess of 70%.  Web 2.0 in business will be adopted a lot quicker due to the consumer use of social networks.  It will only take around 5 years to see circa 30% adoption of internal social networks.

Q: How ready do you think organizations, in general, were for Web2.0 when it begun emerge?

As ever they were not ready nor were they going to jump too soon.  Consumers have forced the issue and companies will react accordingly; some quicker than others.  Retailers/consumer goods organisations have a great opportunity to engage customers/consumers and has already seen they are some of the quickest adopters from an external view point.

Q: How has HR and Recruitment been impacted by Web2.0, and how is it an opportunity and threat?

The first steps into web 2.0 for recruiting has been the use of e.g. Facebook and Linkedin to find/attract applicants and create special groups e.g. graduates for T-Mobile.  This has been quickly followed by the use of YouTube to create recruitment videos and blogs are used in a very number of situations to engage applicants.  HR are very slow to adopt social media to help them become more efficient as their first involvement has been to discipline employees who have e.g. posted videos on YouTube.

There are many opportunities to engage people in conversations throughout the application process to enhance the quality and success of hires however, it does leave a ‘warts and all’ scenario which puts HR/Recruiters under pressure to be on the ball and honest.  It will take the majority a while to become confident with web 2.0 for recruiting leaving the agencies to take the early opportunities.

Q: What steps do you suggest organizations now take to prepare for Web2.0 inside their organization?

They should look at key business issues first and decide how they can best address these with social media.  We provide a Social Media Assessment whereby we look at the key business issues, employee profiles, IT readiness, diversity of organisation etc.  This allows us to look at both issues and most appropriate social media tools.  They should also be prepared to roll-out slowly at first but be prepared to change quickly once they have some stats for their project.

Q: What is your vision for the future of WebX.0 both inside and outside organizations?

We see ‘social media in the workplace’ being the most critical strategic people initiative of the decade.  Companies have to integrate Gen Y who will encourage more rebellion amongst the lower ranks who will in turn start to make their voice heard.  Customers in turn are becoming more demanding and using social media tools to share their views with anyone who will listen.  By preparing the organisation internally for this type of communication they are preparing for the future and helping their customers get access to the right people to solve their issues and enhance their experience with the company.  In the same way that 99% or organisations have corporate websites, many of those will become ‘conversational’ over the next 10 years or so and social media tools will be commonplace.  The key point is that customers/consumers will be able to engage directly and get a response rather than send in an e-mail that disappears into the great big black hole called the info@ inbox.

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