Social Media in the enterprise – best practice #1

Posted: August 22nd, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Archive, Business, Social Media, Systematic Viewpoints | View Comments

One of the first issues that comes up in the business community when discussing social computing behind the firewall is control. It’s a valid issue – companies can and are held liable for the actions, words and postings of individuals. The expressed concern is that given unfettered ability to post to a blog, wiki, discussion thread or more traditional intranet page, employees will behave badly at worst or incorrectly at best. Most often this point of view comes from the communications disciplines, who sometimes hold a conceptual model of the intranet as analogous to the newsletter or house publication, which of course is the domain of the Editor.

Publication models are still valid, but they’re no longer primary and are rapidly being replaced by transactional and collaborative models that place the value proposition more directly in the hands of the knowledge worker. It’s good to remind our communications colleagues that we’re not publishing when we send emails, we’re using technology to collaborate and share knowledge. It’s easy to see from there that what some social media represents is moving those activities out of the inbox and into the browser. Organizations with sufficient size and maturity have existing communication policies that should adequately cover the forms of communications afforded by social computing.

Sometime in that last century, the intranet I managed featured a threaded discussion forum which was greatly underutilized. An interesting ‘feature’ was that we relied on the honor system for registrations. We required an email address to use the forums and presumed that folks would identify themselves honestly. A group of employees in a service center proved us wrong. These employees were not given email as a policy so to use the forums they simply made up names or even used their personal email addresses (in retrospect, a Bad Idea). At first the group dynamic was light and friendly although they used it conversations about everything except work. Within a few weeks the crowd got larger and the conversations veered towards the street corner. We rang an alarm and pulled the service. Within a few weeks we had tightened governance and included an address verification process which drove anonymity out of the system.

Best practice #1: Trust, but verify. People behave better when they know the rules and are identifiable.


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