We have seen more evolution in communication in the past 10 years than in the prior 400 years of civilization combined.
Wikipedia 2001. MySpace 2002. LinkedIn 2003.
Delicious 2003. Facebook 2004. Flickr 2004.
YouTube 2005. Twitter 2006. Slideshare 2006. Skype 2006. Ustream 2007. Quora 2010. Google+ 2011.

We can now collaborate and educate online both publicly and privately. We can share text, audio, and video in near real time and with limited technical training. We can follow people, topics, or questions with few if any limitations. And we can curate knowledge and best practices with nearly unlimited technological bandwidth.

But we overwhelmed (and underpaid) professionals do have limited bandwidth. We cannot always collaborate, educate, share, follow, and curate on top of our countless other professional and personal obligations.

So how do we keep our heads above water in this ever-expanding pool of technical solutions? Fortunately the folks at McKinsey & Company have provided us some useful data to help—see the latest issue of McKinsey Quarterly. The 5th annual survey of more than 4,200 executives—including those who work in healthcare organizations—explores the trends and benefits associated with integrating social technologies into business processes.

There are three things you can take away from this research:
1. Organizations fall within a wide range of degrees
of integration when it comes to embracing social technologies:
* 72 percent of respondents are deploying at least one technology.
* 50 percent of respondents use social networking: 23 percent are microblogging, 41 percent are blogging, and 38 percent are video sharing.
* There are more organizations using social technology to interact with customers, partners, suppliers, and external experts, than there are organizations that use the technology solely internally.

2. You should have some degree of confidence that social technologies provide real professional benefits:
* Internal wikis and social networks help project leaders identify employees who had the most appropriate skills for specific tasks.
* Employees who integrate social technologies into their daily work self-reported improved operating margins.
* The number of employees using social technologies was correlated with year-over-year improvement in market share and operating margin.

3. Even though these benefits persist over time,
organizations still struggle to keep their momentum with social technologies:
* About 50 percent of the enterprises failed to maintain the benefits they had gained from their social technology use over time.
* The more the number of employees declined in their integration of social technologies, the more likely the company was to also backslide.
* The data seems to indicate that it’s easier to let go of social technology-related gains than it is to become a more networked enterprise.

What we can take away from all this is that social technologies should be considered only for problems that your organization is actively trying to solve—don’t go searching for reasons to use new technologies—and that you must apply the right solution for that problem.

In what I think may be a defining infographic, McKinsey plotted the different technologies against different business needs in what they call their “heat map of use.” My suggestion is that you download and share this figure with colleagues and leadership. Then plot a course for a targeted pilot program and set up metrics you can easily measure. If you need help, reach out to your personal networks for advice—or send me a note.

Brian S. McGowan, PhD, has dedicated the past 12 years
to medical education as a faculty member, mentor,
accredited provider, and commercial supporter. The
opinions expressed are McGowan’s and do not represent the views of past, current, or future employers. Contact him via Twitter: @BrianSMcGowan.

You May Also Want to Read:

Introducing SocialQI

Results of Research on How Physicians Use Social Media

Social Media: From Adopting to Using