With business adoption rates already well above 70 percent, it seems clear that social media has well and truly become a must-have business capability.

However, many CIOs still seem to be struggling to turn what is primarily a consumer-focused tool into an enterprise-wide value generator for the business.

Understanding the risks
In truth, embedding social media into the business has in most cases led to a number of notable challenges for technology leaders.

According to a recent study by KPMG International, more than 40 percent of organisations that allow employee access to social media have seen dramatic rises in the consumption of bandwidth as a result.

Almost half have experienced increased exposure to malware.

But while these challenges should likely have been anticipated by the IT function, many organisations still seem to have been caught unprepared for the sudden shift that results from the increased use of social media within the workplace.

Turning social into business value
However, the bigger and more complex challenge now facing CIOs is how to create a technology environment that enables the business to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by social media. In this, there are no simple solutions.

At the root of the problem is that social media provides value in different ways across the various business functions.

Marketing is looking for an ability to rapidly deploy campaigns and immediately evaluate their results using analytical tracking capabilities.

Related:

Customer service teams need real-time surveillance of multiple social media channels in order to respond to individual and aggregate complaints.

Business development is looking to gather and analyse customer preferences and demands in order to develop new products and services.

And, atop all of these requirements are the board and risk management professionals who want to ensure that the risks involved in social media are being mitigated and managed.

Putting IT in control
As a result, there is significant pressure on the technology function to play a centralising role in the social media strategy to support the development and deployment of solutions that deliver value and reduce risk across the business. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.

In our experience, there are four key areas that CIOs must prioritise in order to meet the demands of the business.

1 Understand your clients’ needs:
To gain real value from social media in the workplace, CIOs must develop a clear understanding of the needs of the business and then work to identify, develop and deploy solutions that meet those demands.

In most cases, this will require significant integration into the current IT environment to enable the business to overlay the data and functionality of social media into their regular business processes.

2 Model the ROI to focus on value generation:
Outside of marketing, many business functions struggle to articulate the top and bottom line value of social media.