So in the last few posts we have looked at (primarily) externally facing social media tools that businesses can use. Now I would like to explore internal social media platforms, that is software that is behind the corporate firewall. As we journey through these internal applications I will relate them back to the 4Cs that Niall Cook describes in his book ‘Enterprise 2.0‘ – Communication, Connection, Cooperation and Collaboration. Before we begin though, I came across an interesting pyramid description of social media and Enterprise 2.0 in a book called ‘The Executives Guide to Enterprise Social Media Strategy“:
Social networking: Humans sharing knowledge with other humans outside of their immediate pair-bond families
Social computing: Systems of hardware, software and firmware that enable social networking in a digital environment
Social media: Platforms specifically designed to make social computing available to anyone with a device capable of connecting to the Internet
Enterprise 2.0: A term coined by Andrew McAfee, a professor at the Harvard School of Business, to describe the impact of social networking, social computing, and social media on business organisations
For me this really highlights how the underlying process of humans communicating is still there in the digital age, only now it is done over the medium of the Internet.
In this post we will focus on the category of ‘Communication’. On Cooks technology framework communication software sits in the lower left quadrant – low interaction and low formality. Platforms such as social presence, blogs, Instant Messaging (IM), virtual worlds and discussion forums all sit here. So what value can these different software platforms add? There are as many answers as there are organisations. For some social presence or the ability to see if your colleagues are free or busy will add no value at all, for others it will be a game-changer. Same applies to blogs, to IM, to forums and virtual worlds.
In a previous post I commented on Virtual Worlds and their application in business so I will not re-hash it here. In my opinion, the key platforms are blogs and discussion forums for the majority of organisations and can offer the biggest bang for your buck. Social presence and IM is useful if you operate in a business with multiple offices and/or across time zones as it can be a real time-saver (who hasn’t played phone tag with a colleague!)
Lets start by looking at blogs. Simply put, a blog is, well this. It is an online log of thoughts, ideas and suggestions. You are reading my blog because (hopefully) you are interested in what I have to say and have the opportunity to comment on it. In an enterprise setting it means I can communicate with those that are interested, and those that aren’t interested are not spammed. It also allows two-way conversations to take place based on the message/s being sent. To give a real-world example the company I work for has a fortnightly internal email newsletter that is sent to around 900 staff. It is created by one person (the Communications Manager) and has brief articles about things that have been happening in the business. Starting last week there is now a CEO’s report section where he gives a top-level view of what he has been up to over the past couple of weeks. This is all good stuff but I wonder if more value can be added by allowing two-way communication about some of the points he raised. If it were a blog posting instead of a static email message then staff would at least have an opportunity to contribute directly and interact on another level with both him and other colleagues.
Forums are similar to blogs insofar as they actively promote users to comment on and discuss the topic at hand. It creates a virtual water cooler if you like, a place where people can do what people to best, communicate. The key difference being on a forum a single point of view or discussion topic is raised by anyone and the ensuing dialog is generally about that alone. This from Wikipedia – A discussion forum is hierarchical or tree-like in structure: a forum can contain a number of subforums, each of which may have several topics. Within a forum’s topic, each new discussion started is called a thread, and can be replied to by as many people as so wish.
So which is the better tool in the Enterprise? The answer is which ever suits your needs best. Probably both maybe? Has anyone had first-hand experience in a business environment with either or both and would like to share those experiences? Drop me a note below, love to hear your experiences. And as always, if you like this post, please take a quick moment to share it with your network.