Following on from my last post – “The CIO And Social Media: Social Police?” – you might have guessed I’m a big proponent of Social Computing to drive organizational transformation and increase profits.

The thing is, I wonder how many CIOs see themselves as social evangelists.  You’re a CIO…

  • Are you on Twitter?
  • Do you have a full profile on LinkedIn?
  • How about Facebook?
  • Do you understand how your marketing organization is leveraging social media?
  • Do you have a role as social advocate in the organization?

I believe one important role of the CIO is to help peers in the business to better understand just how transformational social media can be to helping increase growth and/or drive productivity to improve the bottom line.

I encourage CIOs to support trials; facilitate experimentation and provide the IT services support to the business units willing to tap into Social. Partner up with the CMO and get going – don’t wait for the business case (heresy I hear you say) – but that would be like asking for the business case for email or for the phone; you could probably do it but why bother – this is table stakes in 2010. When was the last business case you saw for buying a PC?

The fact is, until you get in the game you really won’t understand the potential.  The closest thing in recent times would be the evolution of corporate websites – in the early days some companies saw the power of the Internet and embraced it – some even changed business models using it (Amazon, eBay), while others couldn’t see the business benefit and waited till having a website was no longer an option.

I’m not advocating you ignore basic principles such as aligning the goals of the project to positive business outcomes and measuring results  – that’s essential for success – but the fact is any benefit numbers you and your business partners come up with in terms of a business case are more than likely a wild guess at best – you need to get some experience first.

While you are at it, you might want to find out what your organization is already doing – the chances are there at least a few covert social media projects underway already without IT’s involvement.

If you still have doubts on this I have two suggestions for you:
1. Read Groundswell to see real case studies on how companies are winning with social media – it’s a great book and a really easy to read, packed full of examples
2. If you don’t have time to read a book, take a look at Josh Bernoff’s recent blog post on the winners of this year’s Groundswell awards

In Josh’s post you will see concrete examples of what companies are doing with social media and real, tangible business benefits such as how NASCAR reduced it’s research costs by 80%; how Lion Brand Yarn showed people using it’s social media site were 41% more likely to buy yarn at the website; how FICO dramatically decreased it’s support costs and increased revenue; how UPS attracted 345,000 job applications at 75% lower cost than traditional newspaper advertising; how MetricStream created a portal with 500,000 users that generates 30% of the company’s sales leads.

Am I being deliberately controversial? Maybe. I’d like to hear your opinion, especially from CIOs.

I’m writing a research report on the role of the CIO in Social Computing, so if you are a CIO and have examples of how you have helped your organization embrace social computing please post your comments on this blog & join the research group on LinkedIn.

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