Dig into any article on social media and you’re bound to hear about how blogs are a great way to reach your audience, or how having a catchy product video on YouTube is a great way to invite more people to your website. If “social media” were an actor, it would be typecast as a tool for PR and marketing. But these tools aren’t locked into set roles, no more so than a computer means you’re an administrative assistant. Here are some thoughts for how social media tools work throughout an organization, and not just as fodder for the blog.
Organic Information Capture
Tools like a blog work well for capturing and storing unstructured information and ideas within an organization, as reported by Rachel Happe, a Research Manager of IDC’s Digital Business Economy group. Instead of formal reports or other documentation styles, a blog can be a perfect way to keep the guts and ongoing information of a project without the overhead or formality of other document styles.
Communication platforms like Twitter, implemented internally, make for fast water-cooler conversations, as well as quick status updates between groups without much effort.
So, operations could use social media tools without a lot of overhead to them, inside the firewall for security purposes, and in ways that augment the knowledge capture of a project.
Receiving information as a new hire can be daunting. Why not a few video and audio podcasts recorded and kept up to date by the HR team to improve the absorption rate of information? HR could also create training videos for low cost, featuring real world examples by actual employees, instead of canned materials. Other variations include using a multi-media service like Utterz to manage group audio or video announcements. They can even use wikis to store and edit and re-arrange information such that employees can find information easily, and help themselves.
When email overload is a guarantee, other ways of dashboarding critical information becomes important. By using blogs and rich media with RSS, teams could subscribe to media pertinent to specific projects. If an in-house system had a feature similar to Google Reader’s Shared Items functionality, senior management could receive only posts/information that needed informational escalation, meaning that “information arbitrage,” as Rachel Happe put it, would become an important feature of using social media inside an organization.
Information in Multiple Formats
In my time building servers in data centers, we frequently had paper checklists to go through to make sure we’d toggled everything the right way to get a set of servers up and running. It would be hard, working with a sheaf of papers in one hand and typing with the other, all the while having to switch back and forth between reading the paper and a screen. Imagine how easy it would have been to record the entire process on an audio file, and then listen to that while working at the computer terminal. Instant value.
The value of social media is that media, such as text, audio, video, and images can be portable, can be annotated by other contributors, has the ability to be re-used and repurposed in other ways, and can be grouped and organized in more than one way. With all these dimensions in mind, information can move inside and outside the system very rapidly, and in ways that humans can search it and derive value.
Where This Is Going?
More and more organizations are investigating social media strategies. They’re seeking ways to better activate and energize their customer base. Further, they are looking to understand how these tools they read about ceaselessly can benefit their bottom line. Stopping at the PR department is a terrible disservice to all the ways social media tools can improve a business’s operations. With just a little creative consideration, these tools have the chance to really energize the next wave of business innovation.
Chris Brogan is a social media expert, focusing on how businesses and individuals can use tools like blogging and podcasting to build relationships of value. He blogs at ChrisBrogan.com.