Culture, the Great Influencer on Corporate Social Media Adoption

I’ve helped dozens of companies define their social media strategy based on research. Often, we conduct custom research efforts to evaluate first if their customers are using these tools (technographics) then we often talk with many stakeholders to find out their thoughts on social media.

Sadly, in some cases, brands that had active customer bases using social technologies were not ready to participate themselves due to culture. Whether is paralysis, legal, or a cultural influence from management, or even location (I did a tour in Japan to find out how social media is growing there).

One example that comes to mind is a financial company I worked with, they are one of the ones that have an incredible amount of money –and a lot at risk as their customers were on the verge of self-connecting to each other without their account teams involved. Despite the clear business need to ‘fish where the fish were’ we advised them not to participate as their internal culture was not ready, there were too many roadblocks.

Recently, after a presentation I gave at the Ominture Summit last week, I was able to meet the marketing manager at Apple who’s responsible for social media. While I’ll respect the privacy of our conversation, I know the impacts of culture on deployment.

What about big companies? Yes, they are a unique beast, and typically organize in what I call the ‘Tire’, where adoption happens at the edges of the company. Let’s lean on IBM’s Adam Christensen who presented this slideshare of how big blue was able to filter social computing throughout the company.

What other companies really live and breathe social computing throughout their DNA? Facebook, Google, Microsoft, SUN, and of course any social media vendor.

Love to hear your thoughts on these questions that many struggle with:

1) Does culture impact adoption of social technologies within a corporation?
2) Even if customers are using social technologies, and the culture is not ready, how will you convince the powers that be?
3) How do you change a top down culture to a bottom up?