The ‘P’ word

 
 
Since embarking on this mission of discovery into enterprise social software one thing that has irked me, is the term given to individuals who find use for social software being referred to as ‘users’.

I think I am becoming a bit too opinionated here perhaps, but I would prefer to consider the more constructive and endearing term ‘participants’ and ‘participation’ to be more appropriate nouns for use when referring to these wonderful people who contribute and consume information through social software.

In my opinion the most key of all tenants for the success of a social software implementation is ‘participation’ therefore it is more appropriate to ensure ‘users’ also know their place as ‘participants’ in this space.

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My research and some 20 years in the information technology scene has taught me that more often than not focus is usually given to the feature-set of the software and rarely consideration is given towards what will motivate employees to use it. In regards to social software I predict that failure to consider ‘participation’ will disappoint any expectation you may have for your implementation to become a roaring success overnight. If your ‘participants’ (or users if your goal is other than social software) are not considered in your approach and their experience with your product is not warm and fuzzy right from the outset then their perception is indelibly effected and gaining back their trust and enthusiasm for your service is usually very difficult and costly. Another failure I have seen occur time and time again is rushing something into production prematurely to serve an arbitrary deadline. My advice is do it once and do it right, even if that means sacrificing a bit of face. Sometimes the success or failure of a product or service relies so much on employee uptake and first impressions DO matter if your goal is to foster participation and win their attention.

In terms of social software one theme I have found is that many companies do find it much of a struggle to encourage employees to participate. Therefore obtaining ‘participation’ from your employees is a strategic concern that will deserve just as much consideration and analysis as you undertook when you identified the need to implement it in the first place.

Some things I have found which would pay you to consider for encouraging ‘participation’ based upon my own experience and research are:

  • the social objects with which those individuals will want to operate upon
  • the sociodynamic aspects of regulation and doing things in a different manner
  • the psychological aspects which may enable or hinder a person willing to participate

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Social Objects

These are the objects which encourage people to participate and perform social activities such as sharing documents, opinions, research data, product ideas, competitor research. The extent to which a participant will consider contributing and consuming this information depends upon the value that the participant receives from the consumption and / or contribution of such objects. Be aware that not all participants are equal, the social objects will vary for different categories of participant. You should identify who your audience is and consider how your software will provide social objects for their particular needs.

Shey Smith identifies 3 levels of participation in FriendFeed.

participation

Sociodynamic Considerations

The sociodynamic aspects to consider are the people themselves and how adaptive they are to change. How to turn the laggards into enthused adopters of this new fangled technology? The answer may be in creating awareness, training and promoting the benefits of such technologies. Sadly some people just get stuck in their ways of “doing the same old thing” and “following the same old pattern” that the introduction of a new way of doing things can be quite intimidating for them and a different approach may be needed to assist with the transition for these folk.

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Psychology

Some psychology plays a part in a participants willingness to put themselves on the line and contribute to the greater good. Some aspects to consider are:

  • Culture – will employees feel comfortable expressing freely their thoughts and opinions or would many employees fear exposing themselves to the scrutiny of others in the group. If so how would you change this.
  • Reward – will employees be more willing to contribute for rewards other than the social objects discussed. It is a consideration for getting the project off the ground by encouraging contribution and initiating conversation by offering some physical reward but how about on-going rewards. Perhaps some monthly ‘top contributor’ or ‘most viewed article’ of the month award could be considered.

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So, that’s my very own 2c worth on what I hope was inspirational or thought provoking in some way. I would love to hear your own thoughts or experiences with regards to how firms can further encourage participation from employees from the Enterprise 2.0 angle.

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So what is the role of social software within the business?

Such a simple, innocent little question isn’t it?

I have pondered if there is there an equally innocent and succinct answer to this question? In my opinion I do not believe there is such a simple and elegant answer.

“But why? I just want you to tell me the answer!”, you say. I shall explain.

There are many reasons why businesses will want to implement social media in the organisation and depending on what the business wishes to achieve with social media will determine for them what role it will play.

“Well, we know it’s out there and there is a huge audience of literally billions of users on the internet who are ready and willing to listen to us – so surely we just jump on the band-wagon and get on with it!”, you might possibly ask.

The Social Media Bandwagon

The Social Media Bandwagon

Well actually you are quite correct and if exploring social media as a marketing channel to get your word out onto the information highways of the Internet is your aim then here are some interesting statistics from a 2010 Neilsen study performed in New Zealand.

  • 44% of NZ Twitter users have ‘followed’ companies or brands via Twitter
  • 42% of all NZ’ers are interacting with companies or brands via social networking sites
  • 73% of all NZ’ers have read other consumers product opinions online. Of the remaining 27%, two thirds of those planned to do so.

So yes, if that is your aim then the role of social software within your business might be among the following:

  • to generate hype about existing or planned products
  • to facilitate communication with our consumers
  • to personify the voice of our company
  • to be transparent
  • to build a climate of trust with people
Social Media Marketing

Social Media Marketing

This is not always as clear-cut as the aim of social software for the individual business can be very different. So we must examine your purpose for you choosing social media in the first place, to answer this question.

There are a number of reasons, some I have given above however there are numerous others such as:

  1. Facilitating conversations between people within the business (synergy)
  2. Capturing tacit knowledge
  3. Being able to share experiences and perspective and have a deeper level of engagement with customers

The list goes on. The approach to discovering the role social software can play in your business might take you on a journey such as the example I give below however I recommend you should always start by examining “purpose” first and foremost.

  1. Purpose, as explained above in a round-about way is the foundation upon which you will build your social networking strategy, rather than just jumping in boots-first.
  2. Decide who your target audience is
  3. Assess the benefits and risks
  4. Define your approach – you may firstly wish to only act passively with your community at first by listening to what is being said about you. Then you may wish to incrementally become more active by answering questions, posting links and correcting inaccuracies through to becoming (once you are established and comfortable) fully engaged in the community by introducing discussions, posting regularly and responding to questions.
  5. Do not forget to form some goals and objectives – measure your successes

I believe that the biggest misconception is that setting up a Twitter or Facebook account is a “quick win” and that you will have succeeded in the social media space and all of your dreams will come true overnight by doing so.

In actual fact, it takes time to build up a community of followers and to commit to social media in your business is to be in for the long-haul by committing resources to keeping your posts interesting and frequent.

There are many more considerations to give when implementing social software which I will blog in the coming few months, but I hope the information I have given above is enough for you to digest when considering what the role of software is within your business.

Choose your own path

Choose your own path

Is the new Enterprise really exposing itself?

 

 
Okay I was reading our course text last week and I have to put in my 2c worth against the concept of “Transparency in the Enterprise”.

The text by Cook, p9 exhibits the belief by “Social Media Purists” that there should be no secrets any more and ultimately anyone who tries to keep secrets will ultimatley be exposed by the power of their media.

Others do not buy into that belief it says, because that ideology simply doesn’t reflect the real world because some companies have to keep secrets to maintain a competitive advantage or because law enforces it.

It goes on to say that every employee is a spokesperson and that the porous membrane around the internal conversations happening in the corporation is being punctured by employees and customers alike making conversations in their respective domains.

I pondered what risk this exposes to the business. Like, to what extent could damage be caused by allowing employees to be spokespeople without some form of governance against negative press?

My view is that in today’s connected world freedom of the press belongs to almost everyone. Case in point, if someone has a great meal somewhere and writes a review on it, then that also means some 1 billion people have the potential to be able to read about it and form their own opinion about that restaurant, right? The same thing occurs for positive press, respectively. So we can conclude that this kind of activity has a significant potential to effect reputation. Take for example this situation.

If employees are engaging in these same conversations that are happening within the same markets on the ‘edges’ of the Internet then the proposition illustrated by Cook does theoretically make for the possibility for today’s Enterprise to be completely open and transparent.

If this is true then there is no stopping these conversations from within the company from  pouring into the open world in full view for all and sundry to see. So how transparent does this make the enterprise where in today’s connected Web 2.0 world employers are just as connected to their employees?

I posted a question on my Facebook to see what would happen and the results were pretty much what I expected.

I asked, “Would you be a customer of your present (or former) place of employment. If so why, or why not?”

To put some context around what I was asking I wrote, “If your present or former place of employment were a restaurant for example, would you trust that the cooking of your steak dinner was executed professionally and with care to your exact requirements or would you have some concerns that it could have been dropped on the floor a few times before it got to your table?”

Even though I know some of my friends work for, or have worked for some rather corrupt firms I had no negative press in response. I expected this because Facebook is the perfect multiplicity where everyone is connected to everyone in some way, even if it is true – in terms of negative press which comes within the organisation also reflects poorly on the employee.

Of course my self-employed friends responded, saying they loved their job and had the greatest bosses in the world which wasn’t expected but I should have seen that one coming!

I will leave that thought with you but I believe the rather romantic notion of a ‘transparent’ Enterprise based on nothing more than a few glasses of wine and a bit of fun on Facebook is opaque at best.

So what do we have here then?

Greetings and welcome to my blog, this is my first post and I hope it constitutes at the very least as a start towards an assignment which I am currently sentenced to produce for a paper I am studying at Massey.

Check it out.

So welcome, I do hope you follow my blog and enjoy your stay here and more importantly I do trust that you will be sure to find something of interest here to excite and entertain as this blog matures.

Have a great weekend people and we will hear more from each other soon!

Jason