Social media's leadership challenges

Monday - 11/1/2010, 1:35pm EDT

What's the single most important driver of success? According to a study by Quy Huy and Andrew Shipilov of business school INSEAD, it's leadership -- "specifically leaders who can build communities both inside and outside their companies."

The researchers wrote in the Harvard Business Review blog that when leaders lack social media skills, a mistake organizations make is to outsource community creation.

When community development is outsourced, the organization doesn't learn, Huy and Shipilov wrote. Social media may speed up communications and flatten hierarchies, but people in the organization are still communicating as they always have, the researchers pointed out.

"As a result, the company is often very different from the face it portrays online, which almost always gets discovered," according to the blog.

One solution is to bring in new leaders who understand social media. Organizations can also assign social media responsibilities to middle managers who understand the organization's issues.

However, use of collaboration tools does not always translate into a competitive advantage, the researchers found in their study. Huy and Shipilov are now studying why that's the case and how organizations can use social media to their advantage.

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