A colleague complained to me last week about her company's use of a social media platform behind the firewall. She wanted to know why she would use this platform and wasn't it a distraction to her getting her job done. She also wanted to know why so many people felt compelled to spend so much time on social media. This raised a few concerns and questions for me. I will address these thoughts over the next few weeks.
Why are we compelled to be seen online? My colleague's thought process was that by being available on a social network, it shows that you are at work. Would her peers and management think she was not working if she was not available on the social network? Alternatively, could being available mean that she was "wasting" time on social media?
We live in an online world. In the business world, emails are used to inform and request. Recipients are engaged due to a organizational or functional requirement. Information is shared. Questions are asked. Demands are made. Timelines are set. When emails are sent there is an expectation that they will be answered immediately. Instant messenger services stepped into the corporate world several years ago and enabled employees to quickly reach out to each other.
We want to be part of the conversation, yet we are committed to completing our projects and fulfilling our goals. Enterprise social software provides the forum for quick, trackable, retrievable online conversations. Like general social media, individuals can choose who to follow or "friend". It is possible to be available or not. It is possible to initiate ad hoc conversations to find a quick answer to a challenge. It is possible to gain insight into new products, engage with sales teams (wherever they are), or, find quick fixes to customer concerns.
Enterprise social software (e.g., Yammer, NewsGator, SocialText) is here to stay. It enables collaboration between one or many individuals. These services pose the question "what are you working on?" For increasingly geographically dispersed organizations it provides another channel of communication. It breaks down departmental silos, allows light conversation between teammates not in the same office, enables simple polling on a hot topic. It is often integrated with other corporate applications, like Microsoft Sharepoint, with the intention of enabling conversations specific to existing documents. The benefit is the ability to tag and store the activity streams.
Like email, social media takes some getting used to. Remember we didn't always talk about how full our email boxes were. We used to complain about voicemail! We, as individuals and employees, are responsible for finding the best ways to achieve our goals within our company's given framework. If email is the mode, then so be it. However, an increasing number of corporations are adopting internal social platforms. Employees may share RSS feeds and invite comment on competitor activity, market trends or customer announcements.
It's up to you to set expectations. Only you can decide how quickly you will respond to email or whether you will engage socially. We should not feel compelled to be online - but we are. We don't have to engage - but we often do. We use email to check the availability of others for meetings. Instant messenger services and now enterprise social software allow you do the same, instantaneously. Perhaps we will be more productive. Perhaps we will be distracted by the increasing flow of content. Time will tell - and it will vary by individual. However, like email, we will adapt.
Companies such as LG, HP, Cisco, Deloitte, Ford, Kraft Foods and Weight Watchers have adopted enterprise social media. Has you company adopted an enterprise social software? How are you using it?
What's your perspective?