Is Social Media the Next ISDN?

“The stench of vaporware hung heavily in the air.”

This past year the Telco’s unceremoniously laid the Integrated Services Data Network (ISDN) to rest after more than 25 years of failed promises and lackluster performance. Will social media for business suffer a similar fate in the not too distant future?

Social Media

The comments above will no doubt raise a few eyebrows from my friends in the social media community, but it is a question worth considering further.

ISDN held much of the same promise as social media when it was first introduced in 1988. It was hailed as an “end all, be all for networks”, providing simultaneous digital transmission of voice, video, data and other network services over the public switched telephone network. However, ISDN never lived up to the hype for numerous companies who attempted to capitalize on the perceived ROI benefits of deploying a single network architecture to address their diverse communications needs.

ISDN services proved to be expensive, difficult to implement and maintain. Eventually, other managed IP-based network services including Virtual Private Networks (VPN) and Voice-over-IP (VoIP) entered the market and ISDN became an afterthought. Telecom industry analysts faulted the service providers and their vendors for over-selling ISDN’s benefits, and for not being true to its objectives and capabilities.

Do you see any similarities here with the perception of social media today?

Like many of you, I come across at least 1-2 new articles each week regarding the ROI or lack thereof associated with social media. Many companies that have made initial investments in social media are asking, “Where’s the beef?” However, it is hard to address the ROI benefits of social media until you’ve done your homework, so it does not end up being “Golden Vaporware” much like ISDN.

To capitalize on the benefits of social media, you must first define it in the context of your business. Is it a technology, application, enabler, media, or a channel?

  1. Technology? What are the technology components needed to drive your social media deployment plans – i.e. hardware, software, Web 3.0 services, etc.?
  2. Application? What communication or business problem does social media solve and how should it be applied to improve business results?
  3. Enabler? How can social media enable you and your employees to be more productive, operate more efficiently and cost effectively, and improve business performance?
  4. Media? How can social media help you to “get the word out”, build brand awareness, interact with various communities of interest, drive more quality leads, etc.?
  5. Channel? Can social media allow you to tap into new markets, reduce time-to-market, forge new partnerships, and control sales and marketing costs?

Next, determine what business problem(s) it solves. Consult with a social media expert who has a proven track record of success to help you answer these and other questions, establish clear-cut goals and plans, and set realistic ROI targets to measure and track results.

Social media can be all of the above and more, this is what makes it so appealing to businesses of all sizes. However, before you start writing checks for new social media initiatives, do your research upfront. Above all, keep things in perspective and don’t allow all the industry hype to cloud your judgment. Social media is at the forefront of business today, but it’s not the end-all, be-all some people make it out to be.

Be sure that you have a clear perspective of what social media is and what business problem(s) it solves before you move forward, so it does not become the next ISDN.

Enjoy the journey!



COPYRIGHT © 2014 John Carroll