Last night I gave my very first social media presentation, along with 2 other people for SCNetwork in London. What an experience! Blogging is great, but talking about it, and engaging with people interested in learning about social media for various reasons is a great experience, and I had a lot of fun doing it. Can’t wait to do it again! A lot of great debate and discussion on the merits (and demerits) of the application of social media.
This is going to make for a long blog post, but if you are interested, read on to find out what I talked about!
What is Social Computing?
It is not a fad, it is a fundamental change in how we communicate and learn. Anyone remember the switch from paper memos to email? This is almost like that, but way more powerful. Before email your network was the guy sitting next to you, and your secretary. Email welcomed the rest of your company to your network, as well as a few people whose email address you had. Social Computing has exponentially increased our networks! You can get connected to people you would never have known. There are many “degrees” of contacts you can make and potentially take advantage of.
Primary uses for Social Computing
There are 3 areas I like to describe: Personal, Social Knowledge Management (Social KM), and Social Media Marketing
Personal – Your family, your friends, sharing pictures, discussions and groups (hobbys, sports, music, arts, etc.) with friend outside of work. This is the easiest way to dive in to the world of social media. Get to know what it is all about. Increase your personal and professional networks. It is an amazing personal learning and development experience.
Social KM – This is my favourite aspect of it. Take your Social Computing tools and knowledge and embrace them at your workplace to better collaborate, empower and enage with your colleagues. Start by using a common intranet platform to commonize the process, documents and tools that your entire company uses (and your employees search high and low for). Then use document management tools to track documents and handle revision control (Who has the master of that document? What is the latest rev? Who approved it?). Add in wiki tools to collaborate on documents, and provide easy to edit web pages for employee contributions ( A “welcome to the company” web page collaboratively written and kept up to date by existing employees? Could it be that simple?). Use Q&A forums to capture questions and answers, around different departments, processes, products, technologies, etc. (How many times have you answered the same question over and over again?). See my Email is where knowledge goes to die blog post. Combine that with tagging and rating features to let users build a folksonomy, categorizing and identifying the content that is useful. How about using blogging and microblogging for employees to communicate with each other? (Blogging is an amazing way for executives to communicate!) And then on top of all that, build employees profile pages that define who you are and your expertise by your contributions (Say goodbye to employee directories and cumbersome matrices that are never up to date!) Now you can aggregate only the information you want, by subscribing to certain tags, knowledge groups, and people. If your colleagues aren’t interesting, then just like on twitter, they are going to be “unfollowed”. A new employee has a question about something? Everything is searchable. Use these tools to find the answer, document and experts in the area relevant to your question.
Social Media Marketing – Using social media tools, a business can smartly and completely market themselves online for next to no cost – period. Lookup the story of Tom’s Shoes. But for every success story there are a thousand failures (I did say smartly). And you have to be genuine. Walmart fake blogged about 2 people RVing across the states staying in Walmart parking lots. They were found out, but its Walmart, so probably not a big impact for them, but a huge impact for a small business that just violated the trust of its followers. The other side of this is marketing yourself for a job, or a recruiter looking for people to hire. What does Google think of you? Have you Googled yourself? Because that is the first thing people do (or should do) when they want to see who you are. Google your company. What are people saying about it? What is your web presence like? One Comcast employee is credited with turning around their customer service reputation, using twitter. Customer Service. Brand Awareness. Loyalty. Thought Leadership. Marketing. To a global internet audience. But you still have to convince them to listen.
Getting Buy In
The best and most successful social media applications are driven from the ground up, not from the top down. Don’t get me wrong, you need executive buy in, but when a couple geeks from Best Buy started up the beginings of blue shirt nation on a PC under their desk, creating a store associate network where emplopyees could share ideas on tech issues, sales techniques and products, the executive team soon noticed. And because they were smart, they wildly endorsed the idea. There is a new generation that has been entering the workforce expecting the use of these tools. Pretty soon companies are not going to have a choice in the matter. For businesses marketing to consumers, that time is already here. Business to business is next. Bottom line is that you can bring these tools into your groups, start pilot projects, and if you are passionate enough about it and have a win (no matter how small), you now have a story to tell. And as soon as it filters up to the top (and I don’t mean middle management), smart executives will recognize your small wins can become bigs wins over a larger scale. I would argue that buy in needs to come from your peers, and that guy down the hall that hoards his knowledge like his job depended on it, and of course your IT guys.
At the end of the day it is one big change management project, and we all know how much people like change. It is the little stories, the small wins, and the campaigners that will increase buy in, and get other people engaged.