Tweak Your Biz » Technology » Social Media: It’s about People not Tools

Social Media: It’s about People not Tools

In my first Bloggertone post – Social Media inside the Corporation – I introduced the story of how a personal interest in what we then referred to as Web 2.0, had grown into a key business initiative inside the organisation where I work, which we now call SNBC (Social Networking & Business Collaboration).  It has been an exciting journey over the last two plus years, with many twists and turns as we have adapted to the various challenges of trying to increase usage of Social Media for internal communication and collaboration.

So what has been our biggest learning during this period?  Without a doubt it has been that Social Media is not about a set of tools, it is about the people who use them.

In our early attempts at trying to get internal teams to adopt social media, it quickly became apparent that you could not pick any random tool, implement it, and hope that it would prove successful within a particular team.

There were countless examples of individuals or teams who started a Blog or a Wiki, or a Social Networking Community, which started with great bravado, but after a few weeks or months, ran out of steam.  The individual or team did not go through the process of thinking through exactly why they needed to use the tool in the first place and more importantly if the tool they selected was the right one.

Quite often we found teams that had implemented a Blog when they should have used a Wiki, or setup a Social Networking Community, when a Blog might have been more relevant.  They simply had not addressed their communication and collaboration challenges first.

One of the first steps we took when we setup the SNBC team, was to adopt a methodology that would help us to overcome the aforementioned challenges.  The methodology that we followed was the POST methodology from the book Groundswell – see below.

This process tells us that before we even get to decide the technology, we first need to consider the People, Objectives and Strategy.  In the last 12 to 18 months we have closely followed this methodology, in our dealings with various individuals and teams.  Overall it has led to a much more successful adoption of Social Media.

To get more insight into our approach it’s worth having a look at the following slide-share presentation that my boss just put together over on his blog StopThinkSocial.

So what challenges do you face in trying to implement Social Media in your organisation?  Do you follow any methodology?  If so what is it?
The views expressed on this post are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Oracle.

The Author:

I live in Kilkenny, Ireland, and I'm married with one daughter. I was born in Derry, and came to Kilkenny via Manchester, England, and Dublin. My passion is all things Social Media, and for the last 2 years I have been working as a Social Media Evangelist for Oracle, where I have worked for the last 8 years. This role entails, promoting the use of Social Media internally for improved communication and collaboration. My other interests include sports, especially football (soccer), reading, video games, movies/tv, music and walking.

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  • Anonymous


    Thanks a million for the kind words and glad you enjoyed the posts in 2009. Have a great Xmas and New Year 🙂


  • Nice one Frank. Thanks for sharing!
    I always think that some of the main challenges organisatons face in adopting social media is that they don’t want to think deeply about the outcome and spend a bit more time researching. Then I read :”They simply had not addressed their communication and collaboration challenges first.” and totally matched my thought.

  • Anonymous

    Nice post Frank and I love the slide show.

    I guess SM is like anything in life in that a bit of thought can save you us time. Having said this, mistakes still provide important learning opportunities 🙂

    I had not come across the POST methodology before so thanks for sharing it.

    I have to say that I do put some thought into what I am doing with regards to SM as it can be a time consuming exercise. There has been much trial and error testing along the way to get to a thought process that somewhat resembles what you have shared with us.


  • I’m new to POST too. I would have guessed that objectives should be addressed before the p for people (so that you maybe adapt them to the ecosystem). However, I see that maybe the POST sequence ensures you don’t bang your head against the wall. What do you guys think about objectives coming after people?

  • Loved your post, certainly food for thought. I think one of the things that many companies have a problem with is letting the general public see their “personal” side when they are working because they wear different hats and work is work and play is play. To a degree some companies see social media in general as play.

  • Anonymous


    Your acronym, POST, is such a great tool! A great many business owners are either leery of social media or starstruck by it. This can hamper anyone thinking through the what, why, and how of any business action. Anything that helps people think clearly about what they are doing and, most importantly, why they are doing it will facilitate fewer mistakes and better results.

  • HI Frank. Maybe you can do your next post on Oracle’s Social Networking Policies which underpin its social media marketing activities. How do you protect the company’s reputation from its staff? With the best will in the world, people can sometimes say something that can be damaging to a corporation or product. And, did you have policies in place / clear guidelines before you encouraged staff to participate in social networking?

  • Anonymous

    Frank, Super POST!!

    I loved the slide show. Like any offline activity that a company uses to promote themself, the key is to find and engage with your target market. Many of us (my self included to an extent) jump into SM like a headless chicken and forget the “P”.

  • Great post Frank! I agree & have heard many people in the know predict that 2010 is the year when we finally start to realise this. Now I can add you to that list 🙂

  • This is great Frank. It is so important to plan the outcome you want and then choose the tools. And yes it is about people, and if there is no participation, the tools fail to deliver and we blame the tool.

    Thanks for sharing and I look forward to more posts from you!

  • Hi Frank,
    Consultants love simplicity, and POST delivers an excellent way in which to explain the total approach needed for achieving success with SM and in a simple 4 step process. Well done. Agree totally that all social media is about the people and I have always enjoined clients in making sure that whatever task they undertake, they need to use the right tool for the job at hand and the outcome they want to see on completion.

  • Anonymous

    It’s true. The tools make it all too confusing. If you concentrate on relationships, you’ll pay the dividends.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Una,

    Thanks for the feedback. I will certainly mark down Social Media policy as one of my upcoming posts. I’ve been thinking about this recently, especially from the perspective of actual getting people to read and understand the policy.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the feedback Fred. Time is a big issue. Everyone wants a silver bullet that will give them instant results. But as with most things in life you’ve got invest in preparation time. “Fail to Prepare, and Prepare to Fail”

  • Anonymous

    thanks for the feedback Paul. Kudos for the slide show goes to my boss, who you can find as @davidchris on Twitter, or over on @stopthinksocial.

    I agree with you about mistakes. My Dad always said to me when I was young, that the person who never makes a mistake doesn’t learn much. However I think we should differentiate between honest mistakes, and those that can be easily overcome with some preparation.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comment. The way I see it, People come first as they are going to be the people who will use the solution. The important thing however is that you should never start with the Technology.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Mairéad, thanks for the comment. I think gradually the view of Social Media as play, is slowly but surely changing, although I think that there are still some companies that have not yet seen the light. I agree that many companies are reluctant with letting the public see their personal side. I’ve heard about numerous companies that are reluctant to let employees blog or Twitter as “real people”, rather asking them to hide behind a corporate profile. I’m currently reading “Twitterville” by Shel Israel and he devotes the entirety of chapter 8 (Seeing the Wizard) to this topic – from a Twitter perspective.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for your comment Elli. POST is really useful. The reason we like it so much in our team is because it gives us so much structure. I’m also a big fan of the What, Where, Why, When, How approach that you mention. Anything that gets people to think first.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comment Greg. I agree target market is everything. That’s why we ask people to think who they are communicating and collaborating with before deciding what tools to use.

  • Anonymous

    glad to be on the list Niall.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comment Sreya. Yes People are vital. So many Social Media efforts start with great enthusiasm, but because the community is not cultivated, there is no interaction. Interaction is the oxygen of the community, and without, the community dies.

  • Brian Prenderville

    really interesting article Frank and sounds like a great Methodology – I’ve just added Groundswell to my list of purchases – cheers for the recommendation.

  • Frank, Great post. The key to social media is consistency and sustained effort. I think too many organizations expect immediate results and when that doesn’t happen they give up…


    Ryan H.,

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comment Daniel. yes I agree about the simplicity of POST. We see ourselves as internal consultants trying to make sure that Social Media is adopted correctly. POST is very helpful in this regards.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comment Derbhile. I’ve heard that phrase “its all too confusing” so many times from colleagues.

  • Anonymous

    thanks for the comment Brian. It’s a great book. Enjoy.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comments Ryan. Expectations of immediate results is definitely an issue that we’ve come across and something we continue to face challenges on. Too many individuals set up a Social Media Tool e.g. a Blog and expect immediate results, without proper cultivation of the community. They are then surprised when they’ve had no comments or feedback in their posts.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks everyone for your comments and Tweets. Much appreciated. Please let me know what topics you’d like me to blog about in the future. I hope to get another post out later this week.

  • Frank,
    I love this post. This is what I’ve been preaching for quite some time having built our social media program from the ground up. There are a lot of mixed messages out there in how companies should approach social media but I think you’ve laid a strong foundation for people to follow. I included your post in my recent blog post – Social Media: People vs. Technology. It’s not the tools…it’s the people who are ultimately responsible for driving and managing the engagement and conversation (the entire relationship management cycle). Many companies just relegating the role to some Gen Y person because they’re using social media. The impact to business when using social media properly can be tremendous. Thanks for sharing.

    Cindy Kim
    The Marketing Journalist Blog:
    Co-founder of Linked WOW 3.0 Group:

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comment Cindy, and for the link in your Blog Post. I’ll go over and have a read now. It’s interesting as people always want to pick the technology first and try to fit their processes and people into it. just yesterday I had a conversation with someone who wanted to know what the best Social Media Tools were for her team, who spent most of their time on the road, and used their smart phones more than their laptops. This person was trying to get to a solution, before even talking to us about what kind of content was being communicated and collaborated on.

  • Thanks Mairead. I know it’s a real chore to get accounts in order – hate doing my own – but I hope this post helps make life a bit easier for some. I had a carpenter friend once and his idea of getting his accounts ready for the accountant was to get a box and empty his van out of all paperwork into the box

  • One of the biggest mistakes I made (or things I would change) was not getting an Accountant sooner.nnIt freed me up to do other things and he found ways to claw back over payments 🙂

  • Thanks for the comment Ivan. We do train for many years to know the trade and I always think it’s best to delegate to someone else what they are good at and then you can concentrate on your expertise.

  • I remember watching someone in credit control while on work experience and then getting a similar type job in a much smaller company a few months later. I got their debtor days down from 180 days to 40, mostly becasue I followed the type of advise you outlined above. I would also get the financial controller to go and let the company know that he was on his way to collect the promised cheque (or somethimes bank draft). Someone that important was rarely refused. Great practical advise Sian, staying calm and polite makes a HUGE difference.

  • Roisin Bell

    In my experience entrepreneurs are almost always great sales people. However many SBOs just ‘end up’ doing what they do (rather than being driven to it by their own entrepreneurial ambitions) and so they probably don’t have these inherent sales skills. Sales may always be an uphill struggle for this group. This post will be useful for them as a simple set of foundation rules to follow.

  • I wholeheartedly agree with this article Adam! I’ve never heard the word “ambassador” used before in reference to a small business owner, yet this is the absolute best word to use! Thank you! When I think about it, I am always representing my company 24/7 and that’s what an ambassador does indeed. This is valuable information that any small business owner should take a moment and reflect on (even if it stings a bit). ;)n nMuch kindness,n nElena

  • As a new business owner, it is always good to get good information. We do wear many hats at many different times, but need to remember we are our business!

  • Lunlaa Planet Company is a Social Media Company which has launched an easy restaurant guide & locator  for people of Thailand.

  • Thanks for the post I think you can call:
    Social Media: It’s about People and nice Tools