The BIGGEST Challenge


To social media adoption.

(WORLD) There are several insightful lists regarding the challenges and hurdles relating to social media adoption for different types of organisations and companies (a couple of examples : 10 Common Objections, 50 Small Hurdles, 5 Biggest Challenges, and 5 Challenges).

Juicy and salient stuff.

From our experience of working cross sector with schools, youth services, charities, marketeers, advertisers, retailers, theatres, music venues, consortium groups etc. (you get the idea)—here’s our list on the BIGGEST challenge to social media being used:


People set corporate priorities.

People create the policies and strategies.

People allocate training budgets.

People shape the infrastructure.

People start companies / organisations.

People adopt social media, not companies / organisations.

This is our first principle of understanding how to create change using social media.

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12 thoughts on “The BIGGEST Challenge”

  1. A good list. Certainly the only thing a one-item list could boil down to.

    It’s worth noting that you could probably turn around most of your statements and still have true statements:

    ‘Corporate priorities influence people’s activities’
    ‘Training budgets and choices allocate people’s time’
    ‘Infrastructures shape people’s activities’
    ‘Organisations choose which people to work with’

    Of course, in each case you can say statements of the form ‘People in organisations choose which people to work with’ – but it’s not as clear cut. People shape organisations and structures, as structures and organisations shape people.

    So the argument to make (which I think is empirically true of some, but not all, organisations) is that investing in people, their skills and experience is the best place to start if you want to create change.

  2. Couldn’t agree more. It’s easy to get a website built, but it’s always the people who use it that make the difference between a successful web project and an unsuccessful one. Well said.

  3. Surely it’s analogous to the difference between outputs and outcomes, that the significant cultural change (and of course the toughest)is the valuable, vital and impactful measure, rather than what you push out there in terms of units, sessions, tick box tick box.

    That’s why measuring outcomes is so difficult to achieve robustly…because the change may be ephemeral or latent, assumed or resisted, etc etc…longitudinal studies, control groups, robust research, blah blah

    And that’s why you can’t really turn each of DK’s statements round…because it all starts and ends with people.

    Although my toaster really does seem to have mind of its own.

  4. Matt,

    The statement: “it all starts and ends with people” is a useful one to make sure we don’t voyage off to only measuring, or trying to act upon structures or outputs.

    However, a theory of change needs to tell us about what goes on the middle. How is it, for example, that people who are innately creative, passionate and driven by wanting to see positive change, end up fearful of and avoiding change?

    If you want reduce your analysis to only include ‘people’ you end up either having to say the problem is the person described above, or is directly some other person holding them back. But people exist within systems, structures, communities etc. which affect them to.

    So – I’m not trying to say anything ‘starts with structures’. An analysis of the world that starts with structures is a pretty inhuman one. We do have to start and end our action and analysis with listening to and working with people – but we also need to be aware of the bits in the middle – the feedback-loops, processes and bits of institutions that impact an awful lot on what people end up doing.

  5. I’ll give you a solid example: I worked for a quango for seven unhappy years. They were exemplary in terms of producing overarching strategies, 360 degree policies, politically astute priorities, regular consultations, year-round training, allowances for CPD, family friendly breaks, reviews, checks and balances.

    Yet they created an oil tanker of a culture, where creativity and aspiration became suppressed, change deathly slow and innovation reactive and superficial.

    The staff changed. Too much. Management did not. It’s the people.

    That’s why social media is such a threat to some. It democratises, it flattens hierachies, it can empower instantly, or create a movement gradually. Wisdom of crowds. It’s the people.

  6. Tim, our comments crossed over so my 2nd was not a response to your reply. I agree, I tried to ‘improve from the inside’, but heck, you need to ascend too high in too many public sector orgs before you can make a real difference. And the good ones get out. Crying shame.

  7. And, btw, I really don’t agree that

    “that people who are innately creative, passionate and driven by wanting to see positive change, end up fearful of and avoiding change?”

    If they end up fearful and avoiding, they are *no longer* the innately creative and progressive individuas they *were*….believe me, I know.

  8. @Tom – many thanks.

    @Matt – good solid examples of which I relate to from my past history in the corporate levels of a local authority. And, read check out the toasters manual…

    @Tim – appreciate your comments as ever. The stuff you talk about – measurements and structures plus the “bits in the middle” – all people created/driven/influenced etc. Of course you need to understand/explore the structures and impacts but when it comes to change (remember, using social media), we’ve found the most effective way to get over those inherent challenges/hurdles is to focus on the people. Always, the people.

    (I think you come back to agreeing with our original principal on all three comments anyway.)

  9. You mean ‘business is personal’.

    As in ‘Smokey-night-club-situation intimate, rather than sport auditorium superficial.’

  10. @DK I’m not sure your original principle is one that can command agreement or disagreement in any meaningful way.

    It’s either a self-evident truth: “All things of importance to people, and all social behaviours, involve people” (of course!), or a prescription about the way to create change, in which case it’s not clear whether you are saying: “Always focus your efforts in individuals”, or “Ignore the social structures people are within, just focus on them and the other bits will take care of themselves” (and most of the time I would say the correctness or not of such statements depends on the context…).

    If you can fill out what you mean by ‘focus on the people’ by telling (or showing) a story of how that plays out – perhaps I can understand more what you mean. But right now I’m finding it hard to understand the substance to what you are saying with ‘Always the people…’

  11. Thanks for the comment again Tim – not looking to ‘command’ any response, just communicating our approach from experience.

    Please reread the original post as I’m struggling to explain it any simpler than I have.

    If you feel you need any more discussion on this don’t hesitate to contact me – you’ve got my mobile number and me as a friend on skype.

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