We gravitate to social media for many reasons. Social media fulfills ancient drives for social connection that modern society has not managed to fulfill for thousands of years, until now; it enables immediate, real-time participation, which many of us value and seek out; and it gives us selectivity with regard to our need to be informed.
Social media use can work against the enterprise. If every employee is on Facebook every day ranting about Congress or commenting on cat pictures, productivity goes to hell. On the other hand, if social media is available and encourages employee participation, bolstering the value of opinion and contribution, everybody wins: Employees are more fulfilled, and business decisions and growth processes receive more (and better) input.
SEE: Social Media and Web Usage Policy (Tech Pro Research)
Social media is making its way into the enterprise at a rapid pace. Deploying these useful applications well requires exceptional skills. An effective social strategist should be able to:
- gather the most varied input from the largest number of people;
- become familiar with the enterprise metadata taxonomy;
- influence the enterprise taxonomy's evolution as necessary;
- deploy content of universal interest, or employ moderators who do; and
- understand and exploit global search.
The wisdom of the crowd
It is traditional wisdom that wisdom flows from the top down. But anyone who watches Mad Men knows this isn't true, and science backs it up: The wisdom of the crowd — a famous experiment involving randomized public input — confirmed it.
A study was done of the ability of individuals to estimate the contents of a large jar filled with marbles. Hundreds of individual estimates were gathered. The take-home result: the average of everyone's estimate was more accurate in the end than any individual estimate. Therefore, together we are able to do more than any individual can do, no matter how high their rank. The strategist deploying social media in the enterprise, then, must first have a knack for gathering the most varied input from the largest number of people.
A huge component of social media deployment in the enterprise is metadata taxonomy — a system for tagging content in such a way that it is universally accessible, and not just for the groups with the greatest interest. The social media strategist must facilitate maximum distribution of content through ease of access, and that means this person needs to become familiar with the enterprise metadata taxonomy.
Changing the experiment
But learning how metadata is being used is only part of the strategist's task. It's possible that nobody in the enterprise has undertaken that familiarity before on a global level, placing the strategist in a unique position.
In the early days of space travel, the Mercury astronauts were thought of as test subjects, not pilots. Being pilots, of course, they didn't settle for that; absorbing every detail of their spacecraft and mission, they set about altering both. The social media strategist, absorbing every detail of the enterprise taxonomy, is in a similar position, and influences its evolution as necessary.
Bringing down silos
The need to de-silo the enterprise, in order to increase responsiveness and redistribute internal resources, is no longer up for a debate. But doing so includes getting dialogs happening across organizational boundaries.
A number of social media platforms facilitate this trend — SharePoint 2013 in particular offers community sites that can service users across separate farms, but more is required. The successful social media strategist must design community sites that engage silo'd users in enterprise-wide issues, which means deploying content of universal interest, or employing moderators who do.
Where is everybody?
The social media strategist must understand and exploit global search, designing and implementing a search strategy and mechanisms that deliver maximum access to content to the greatest number of users.
This has been a serious shortfall of enterprise content management systems until fairly recently. The issue has been gathering all of the needed sources under a single search mechanism that can surface everything needed by a user in a single operation. Since this usually includes unconventional sources (like Exchange servers) that host email and other types of documentation not previously included, the necessary expertise of the social media strategist has been upped.
The role of social media in the enterprise will only expand, as virtually all members of any enterprise are growing in their personal information-processing expertise as a result of its existence. Leveraging that expertise in the enterprise, and training specialists to optimize it, is a wise move.
- Implement an internal social media channel: Add this to your IT to-do list today
- 10 tips for getting your employees on board with social
- The new frontier of enterprise social networks
- How to be a social media team of one: 7 tips
- Six SharePoint experts divulge the secrets of enterprise social success
- 10 social media voices to follow on Twitter
Scott Robinson is a 20-year IT veteran with extensive experience in business intelligence and systems integration. An enterprise architect with a background in social psychology, he frequently consults and lectures on analytics, business intelligence and social informatics, primarily in the health care and HR industries.