The way forward with Social Media – a question of strategy?

Organisations with a high take-up of social media face some interesting strategic decisions in planning the future.

The exponential growth in social media usage raises some interesting questions for organisations in the future around strategy and control. This was one of the main findings to come out of research we have recently completed into social media usage in UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), as reported upon in a Blog by Brian Kelly of UKOLN in UK Web Focus.

The research we carried out looked at the Challenges, Usage and Benefits of Social Media within Higher Education Institutions and was released in February 2010. We had a very good response rate (60 respondents from 44 HEIs across the UK) and top line findings were that:

  • HEI Management are looking for a stronger business case to invest in social media as to date this has been a user driven initiative.
  • No clear strategy exists on ownership and management of social media technologies and usage - is this needed?
  • There is currently limited restriction on usage - but can this continue? 
  • Lack of awareness of the potential benefits of social media is primarily down to generational and cultural issues.

HEIs are not alone in identifying the need to develop a stronger business case for social media as reported in a recent article by Computing - How best to harness Social Networking?

"With companies falling over themselves to provide a solution to a problem they haven't fully identified, how will social media ever progress from being a bit of fun to becoming a serious business tool?"

However, there are other areas where HEIs are taking a dramatically different approach to social media.    One of these areas in the level of restriction placed on usage.  Our research identified that over 90% of HEIs do not restrict social media usage. This is in stark contrast to the 90% of local councils who restrict access, according to a recent report by Socitm(Society of IT Managers) on the use of Web by local authorities.   Brian Kelly also highlighted this major difference in approach when he wrote about The 90% Who can and the 90% Who can't.

"Around 90% of councils restrict access in some way, and Socitm is urging IT bosses to encourage their organisations to open up to its opportunities instead of being cautious."

These findings raise some interesting questions for Local Government, HEIs, and other organisations, on the approach that needs to be taken in managing social media moving forward.  It also raises the need for HEIs to keep track of future developments to maximise benefit.

This could be achieved not only by increased benchmarking and knowledge sharing within the sector, but also by benchmarking and knowledge sharing with other public sector organisations such as local government and in addition the private sector.

You can of course have a look at our Social Media research report and let us know what you think.

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