April 2010 Archives

Five counterintuitive rules for building community

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"Communities aren't built through grand visions," says Julian Dobson his a great post about community building. A grand vision is nice 'n all, but it takes action to build a community and there's a skill in knowing which actions are the right ones. Julian runs through a list of five, and I think all of them are applicable to business communities as much as third sector communities. For example:

2. If you want to be a leader, start by serving.
Creating community, by definition, isn't about ego. There's no room for celebrities. Leaders prove their worth by mucking in and helping out. You win respect by being ready to serve. If you're out to make a name for yourself, why should anyone trust you?

If you want to start a brand community or an internal community of interest, think about how you would engage with it and what you could do for others in that community. How would you serve others?

Julian's post is very thought provoking, even more so when you put it in the context of enterprise community building.

A game of email

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Johnny Holland discusses in some considerable detail how it might be possible to add game-like behaviours to email to help people be more effective and achieve Inbox Zero more easily. It's a very interesting post and I'd love someone to go ahead and build an email client that takes these ideas on board. I think it would be fascinating to see how we might remake our relationship to one of the most pervasive communications medium of the modern world.

But Holland doesn't even mention the most important problem: That we send far too much unnecessary email for reasons which are emotional rather than logical. Encouraging people to process their email more effectively is only half the battle. We need to remove as much content as possible from the email system, especially newsletters, notices, FYIs and other forms of occupational spam. We need to empower people not to cover their ass, not to CC their entire department, and not to get sucked into endless and pointless - but very polite - conversations by email.

Until we learn to send less email, learning how to process it is only going to give us a false sense of success and may even encourage us to, well, send more email.

Do you want a community or a following?

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Fabulous blog post from Richard Millington today. Richard asks a very important question of companies who are trying to do community building: Do you want a community or just a really big following? Most businesses, he says, just want (need?) a big following and aren't really suited to having a community.

You only need a community when your audience has a desire to talk to each other and when there is a benefit (to the audience!) from talking to each other. Very, very, few organizations fit this criteria. Perhaps as low as 1 in 10.

If you don't understand what you want or need, you won't have the right strategy to achieve your aims. Read Richard's whole post for more insights.

(Hat tip to Stephanie Booth.)

How many friends can you make in a week?

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The New Scientist reports some research by Susan Jamison-Powell at Sheffield Hallam University which seems to show that prolific bloggers are more popular, regardless of the quality or tone of their posts.

[She] studied the popularity of 75 bloggers on the site Livejournal.com. She looked at the number of friends each blogger had, the number of posts they made, the total number of words written and the overall tone of the posts. She then asked the bloggers to rate how attractive they found each of their peer's blogs.

She found that the more words a blogger posted, the more friends they had and the higher their attractiveness rating. The tone of their posts - whether they contained mostly positive or negative comments - had no effect.

The BPS goes into a little bit more detail, explaining that the Liverjournalers were invited into a new community and then asked to rate their fellow community members after one week. I'm not sure if this falls within the bounds of Bad Science, but it's certainly not an accurate reflection of how communities build in the real world.

My first problem is that you just can't extrapolate from communities on LiveJournal to blogs in general. LiveJournal has always had a different demographic to, say, bloggers using Typepad or Wordpress. LiveJournal has always had a gender bias towards women, for example: currently it has 62.5% female and 37.5% male, the rest unspecified. And the bulk of users are between 18 and 34 (with an impressive spike at 30), historically much younger than demographics for other tools.

Furthermore, LiveJournal is culturally different to many other blogs and blogging platforms and has traditionally been the meeting place for people who felt that other platforms were too open for them or who felt disenfranchised by mainstream tools and wanted to be with their peers. LiveJournal, for many, was where you could be yourself and enjoy the company of people like you, no matter how weird others thought you were.

LiveJournal isn't a typical blogging community and results from studies on LiveJournal can't be applied to other bloggers.

But furthermore, after only a week of getting to know someone, you have very little information to go on. Those who talk most will almost certainly get higher rankings than those who are quiet simply because they stand out and can easily be remembered. If you are trying to get to know 75 people in just seven days - and you have to ask if that is even possible - you're going to rank the noisier ones higher just because they are the people you've had most exposure to. If you've had very little conversation with someone you are bound to rank them near the bottom simply because they are still strangers and humans tend to be stranger-averse.

How would this study have turned out if they had got to know each other over the course of a month? Or six months? Or a year? You know, real human friendship timescales. And how does the nature of the community change how people react to each other? The study doesn't say what the raison d'être of the community was, and whether these people were gathered around an issue they cared deeply about or were just mooching around online, killing time.

The lesson that this study appears to be teaching is that bloggers should write more, and not worry about quality. Frankly, I call bullshit on the whole thing. The way that we form relationships through blogging is a complex and nuanced process, just like the way that we form friendships offline. We get to know people over time. We decide whether we agree with their points of view, whether we like the way they present themselves, how they interact with others and we build a picture of them that is either attractive or not.

That this study should get headlines in The Telegraph and BusinessWeek shows how poorly social media is still being covered by the mainstream press and how little understanding or critical thinking they do.

We do need a lot more research into the use of social media and particularly its use in the UK. Studies like Jamison-Powell's, however, do not advance the debate in any useful way.

Enterprise 2.0 Beta

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Via Anthony Mayfield, I discovered this video from KS12:

Anthony pulls two ideas out of the video: How our need to assign and take the credit for ideas can mess things up; and how sometimes information should just fade from view as it gets older, rather than being always perfectly preserved.

I pulled out another: That releasing software in beta is an important statement about the underlying attitudes towards innovation and development, and sets the scene psychologically for change and progression. In the Web 2.0 community, the 'release early, release often' ethos is well known and frequently used. Start-ups release the most basic version of their software, gather user feedback, watch for emergent behaviour and then develop the next release accordingly. Users are primed by the word 'beta' to expect problems - so they are less upset when they occur - and also to expect change. The process doesn't always go smoothly, but it is a cost-effective way of developing software and web services quickly.

Enterprise really needs to embrace the idea of beta, not just in software development but in their project planning too. The idea that everything has to be perfect at launch, that launch is an end instead of a beginning, and that addressing bugs and flaws after launch is somehow a sign of weakness is an anachronism. I can't count the number of projects where all the effort has gone into a final deadline and the results of all our hard work withered on the vine because no one thought about what to do with the work we had produced.

This is especially true of social software and social media projects where the tools are evolving faster than even the professionals can keep up. Social media projects of whatever stripe should be be seen as an ongoing process of change as the tools, ideas and culture all slowly mature. It's much more like cheese that ripens slowly than a souffle that flops if not consumed immediately.

LinkedIn gets a little bit more social

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LinkedIn is one of those tools that I almost always showcase in my social media workshops and which often makes an appearance in the strategies I write. It's a tool that, used cleverly, can go well beyond simply allowing people to build a professional network and can help businesses form relationships too. Launched in 2003, LinkedIn has always had a bit of an old-school feel to it, which is not in itself a bad thing, but it's good to see them now providing more sophisticated functionality around sharing news items. This video explains all:

(Via Adam Tinworth)

Euan Semple: Being Human

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Euan Semple always provides food for thought and his contribution so the Social Business Edge conference is no exception.

Being Human at Social Business Edge from Euan Semple on Vimeo.

And the discussion in this related post from earlier in the month is also well worth a look.

"Don't moderate comments" message from High Court

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According to Out-Law, Alex Hilton, who runs Labourhome.org, has failed to get a libel case brought against him by Johanna Kaschke over a post written about her by contributor John Gray thrown out by the High Court. Hilton argued that he had no control over Gray's post and that he should enjoy the same 'safe harbour' protection afforded to companies like ISPs or search engines who are not responsible for the content that flows over their networks.

But the High Court ruled that, because Hilton did sometimes exercise editorial control over parts of his site, that his case needed to be heard by a court to fully examine the issue.

Mr Justice Stadlen said that even to fix the spelling in a post could cost the host the protection of Regulation 19 [safe harbour].

"Mr Hilton stated in terms that where a blog is promoted by him he may check the piece for spelling and grammar and make corrections. That in my view arguably goes beyond mere storage of information," he wrote.

This should concern anyone who runs a blog or other site where users can add content, especially if they moderate contributions, even if just to fix the spelling or filter for spam.

Struan Robertson, a technology lawyer with Pinsent Masons, who publish OUT-LAW.COM, said:

"Even an attempt to filter for profanities or comment spam, if done manually, involves a risk for the publisher. If you want to be sure that you're not liable for what your users say, the judge is basically saying you need to ignore user contributions completely until you get a complaint."

"That's not a new principle," said Robertson, "but it's a warning to site owners about how to interpret it. Some owners may think they have less responsibility for user comments than they really do, and they may wrongly assume that a post-moderation policy is completely safe."

The impact of this ruling on high-volume comment sites and short-term high-volume projects such as a user-lead mash-up advertising campaign, could be huge. It may be that, once this case is heard fully, such sites would have to decide between full moderation and the huge financial costs that incurs, or no moderation at all and the cost in reputation that comes from leaving spam and offensive comments up until someone complains about them. Hm, which do we fancy? Scylla or Charybdis?

Designing for real world social networks

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Paul Adams has a great post on how our social networks are comprised of a vast variety of people, but we mainly restrict our interactions to people we already know. Yet most social tools fail to treat these groups - our intimates and our acquaintances - differently. Paul then splits our relationships out into three types:

  • Strong ties: People we care deeply about.
  • Weak ties: People we are loosely connected to, like friends of friends.
  • Temporary ties: People we don't know, and interact with temporarily.

and goes on to examine what these groups mean for social interaction design. These insights are just as relevant to business social networks as personal ones, yet I'd wager most people designing internal tools aren't thinking in this much detail about the types of networks they are designing for.

Anyway, this is a really interesting post and well worth reading.

(Via Joshua Porter.)

Will Eyjafjallajökull force business change?

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There can't be anyone left who's not aware of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in Iceland. Activity started on 20 March with a 'curtain of fire' fissure eruption at Fimmvörðuháls, which sits in between two glaciers, then entered a second phase on 14h April with what's known as a phreatomagmatic eruption actually under the Eyjafjallajökull ice cap. A phreatomagmatic eruption is one where magma reacts explosively with a water source, be it ground water, snow or ice, resulting in a plume of ash and steam.

I've been following the eruption closely since 20th March, mainly because my degree was in geology and volcanoes have always fascinated me. I love a good Hawai'i style eruption! When it was just a fissure eruption at Fimmvörðuháls it was basically a neat little tourist attraction, but things are much more serious now. This new phreatomagmatic eruption is a different kettle of North Atlantic cod, primarily because of the airspace closures that the ash cloud is causing.


Disrupted air travel is not just affecting tourists who are stuck abroad or whose holiday has been cancelled, it's also affecting business travel and, much more importantly, airfreight movements. Airspace closure of a day or so is one thing, but it has been six days and that is going to cause some significant problems not just for the airlines who are currently haemorrhaging cash, but for any business relying on goods transported by air, whether as part of a just-in-time supply chain or not. We may soon start to notice this as perishables like fruit and veg become restricted to locally-available and in-season produce.

It seems unlikely to me that this current eruption is going to cease any time soon. It is, of course, impossible to predict with any certainty what is going to happen, but historically Eyjafjallajökull has shown itself capable of prolonged (two year) eruptions and we need to accept that we might just be at the beginning of such a period of volcanicity.

If that's the case, then the main factor we need to keep an eye on is the weather. At the moment, the winds are bringing the ash right towards Europe, with Norway and the UK bearing the brunt of it. If the weather changes and a southerly starts to push the ash plume up towards polar regions, for example, then hopefully that'll clear the air and we'll be able to start flying. However, I think we should at the very least start to prepare for a future in which air travel is unreliable and where we suffer ongoing sporadic airspace closures. Even if the weather changes enough that we can start to fly again mid-week, there's no guarantee that we're not going to see more bans in future.

What does this have to do with social media? Well, if I were a CIO right now, I'd be looking at making sure that everyone in the company has access to video conferencing software such as iChat or Skype, particularly those who usually travel a lot. I'd also be looking at encouraging clients, partners and customers to ensure that they too have these tools installed. I would also provide everyone in my company with IM, would install one of the better wiki platforms and start encouraging people to ramp down their business travel and use social media and video calls instead.

Now, admittedly if I was a CIO I'd be doing that anyway. When people have a choice they tend to choice the status quo over change, but necessity is the mother of invention adoption. Continued sporadic air travel bans will take choice away, so it is in business' best interests to prepare now for what could be a long period of unreliable travel.

Business travel - such as for meetings, conferences, training - is something we've taken for granted. But we haven't always done business that way and there's no reason why we have to rely on face-to-face meetings now. Social media can step in to fill the gap, providing a better solution than conference calls alone. I wonder if Eyjafjallajökull is going to force the wider adoption of social tools as air travel once again becomes rare.

How does the Digital Economy Act affect your business?

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As a social media consultant and an occasional digital rights activist, I paid a lot of attention to the Digital Economy Bill as it was frogmarched through Parliament. Like many, I was disgusted by the ill-informed nature of the debate about key problems with the bill and frustrated at how the politicians seemed to have been entirely captured by the music industry lobbyists, particularly the BPI.

The Bill is now an Act and whilst there are many aspects which are appalling, such as the threats to disconnect accused copyright infringers without any recourse to a proper hearing, I am very concerned about the chilling effect that this legislation is going to have in industry. Not just the internet industry, but all industries that use the internet. If you have a marketing campaign that solicits contributions from your community, if your business model includes any kind of aggregation, if you provide a wifi connection free of charge to visitors or guests, you could be affected by the Act.

Indeed, I've already noticed the chilling effect on my own thoughts about social media. What would I advise a client to do to ensure they are as safe as they can be of the unintended consequences of this bill? Is that even possible? What role will encryption now play in day-to-day interactions with the internet? Should I be advising clients against using third party tools that could potentially get taken down because they might possibly be used by others for infringing acts?

I'd very much like to hear your thoughts about how you think the Digital Economy Act might affect your business. Please do leave a comment.

Journalism's loss might be an opportunity for other sectors

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It's no secret that media companies are shedding jobs left, right and centre and it's unlikely that those jobs will ever be replaced, even once the recession is over. Conservative estimates say that the number of journalists employed by the industry will decrease by 40% - 50% compared to before the crash. Less conservative estimates put that figure at 80%. Journalism schools, on the other hand, are producing more graduates than ever before. So what is going to happen to all these journalists?

The obvious path would be for them to go into PR and certainly many ex-journalists do. But this is an amazing opportunity for businesses in every sector, as Adam Tinworth and David Meerman Scott point out. David says:

[M]any organizations -- corporations, nonprofits, government agencies, and educational institutions -- finally understand the value of what I call "brand journalism," creating interesting information online that serves to educate and inform consumers. People in companies now realize web marketing success comes from creating content-rich web sites, videos, podcasts, photos, charts, ebooks, white papers and other valuable content.

However, many of the companies I speak with are trying to figure out who will create the content that they need for their online initiatives. Marketers, executives, and entrepreneurs say things like: "David, I need help. If I knew how to create great content, I'd already be doing it."

At every speech I deliver I say to corporations one of the best ways to create great Web content is to actually hire a journalist, either full- or part-time, to create it. Journalists, both print and broadcast, are great at understanding an audience and creating content that buyers want to consume--it's the bread and butter of their skill set.

The rise of social media as a community engagement tool - and blogging in particular as a tool for companies to get their own, unedited story out - means that there is an increasing need for talented storytellers and communicators. Writing full time is not as easy as it looks and the skills that journalists bring to the table are valuable and hard to acquire.

Businesses who want to really bump up their social media presence should seriously consider hiring dedicated writers in addition to any evangelist program. Of course, you still have to take care that you're hiring someone with the right sort of social media nouse (or at least, the right attitude and a willingness to learn about social media), which is not something all journalists have. But nevertheless, there's a huge pool of talent searching for work right now and businesses would be daft to ignore it.

Leopards don't change their spots

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Angela Connor points out that, just because you've built a lovely new community doesn't mean that people will change their habits and visit yours over their existing networks:

Your new community, no matter how great will not change habits. What I mean by this is you will not be able to stop potential members from posting on Facebook or twitter or their favorite Ning community. If you are assuming that your new community will become the new gathering place for those belonging to the niche, I think you will be disappointed.

Whatever your community is, whether it's a brand community or an internal social network, people will only create a new habit around your offering if it consistently gives them something really valuable. Communities take an awful long time to build. Like everything else in social media, there's just no 'quick win'.

Collecting behaviours

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Christian Crumlish write a too-brief post on tags as collecting behaviour and says:

Tagging and other forms of collecting are also an example of social design patterns that mimic game dynamics. Collecting objects is a core "easy fun" activity in many games, and similarly these extremely lightweight social interactions around gathering or tagging objects enable a form of self-interested behavior that creates aggregate value and potentially richer forms of engagement.

Tagging is one of those incredibly flexible ideas that can be implemented in a multitude of ways and contexts. What innovative uses of tagging and collecting behavoiurs in enterprise are you witnessing?

Why I'm a fan of small talk in business

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Derek Sivers reminds us that on the other end of our keyboard there lies a real person, someone who has real feelings, who will have real reactions to what we say.

When we yell at our car or coffee machine, it's fine because they're just mechanical appliances.

So when we yell at a website or company, using our computer or phone appliance, we forget it's not an appliance, but a person that's affected.

It's dehumanizing to have thousands of people passing through our computer screens, so we do things we'd never do if they were sitting next to us.

He's right. I've recently had an experience with someone suffering a total empathy failure, who didn't seem able to put himself in my shoes and ask himself, "So, how would I feel about this situation?" It wasn't very pleasant. This chap seemed to have entirely forgotten that their was another human being, with real feelings, who was being directly affected by his poor behaviour.

But I think we can do something about the dehumanising aspect of device-mediated interactions, and that something is to use more social media, particularly the tools that encourage small talk and phatic communication. In 2004, David Weinberger said in his JOHO newsletter:

[...] Art expresses something big in something small. (If it expresses something small in something big, you leave during the intermission.) Likewise, in small talk, we express ourselves in the details of what we talk about, the words we use, the ones we don't, how far we lean forward, how tentatively or aggressively we probe for shared ground. Because all of this is implicitly presented, it tends to give a more accurate picture of who we are and what we care about than big, explicit conversations.

[...] I'm more of a constructivist than an archaeologist when it comes to social relationships. My aim isn't to expose my buried self to you. It's to build a conversation and then a relationship that eventually is so deep that we can't disentangle the roots. For that, we need lots and lots of ambiguity.

He is still spot on. I responded to him in a post on Headshift's blog, where I was writing at the time, and said:

What are the best aspects of conferences? The bits inbetween the panels and Q&A sessions where we get to chat with our peers. What is the best bit of the working day? Those watercooler conversations or lunch down the pub. Why do smokers have an advantage in the workplace? Because they take regular smoke breaks where they get the opportunities to chat and exchange scraps of information that become important later on.

Small talk is part of the 'social grooming' that is required to create and maintain social bonds. Through small talk, people reveal contextual information that they couldn't otherwise share, particularly in a business setting. It's around the coffee machine that you're most likely to find out that your colleague was up all night with their sick child, which is why they looked like they were nodding off in a meeting. This extra nugget of information allows you to sympathise with them instead of getting annoyed - the context turns a negative reaction into a positive one, and helps keep the team working together instead of fostering mistrust and other destructive emotions.

Yet small talk is often despised, particularly in a work environment where one 'should' be concentrating on the task in hand, not chatting. But without small talk, without those bonds and the trust that they engender, teams fragment and become inefficient. The strong work ethic that has become prevalent since the industrial revolution has lessened tolerance for the social grooming activities upon which a sense of community depends, yet some companies spend a lot of money on team-building exercises which are really nothing more than formalised (and therefore often ineffective) opportunities for small talk.

The demise of the communal teabreak in offices has probably done more harm that good. The habit in many offices is that people work through their breaks, including lunch, and the idea of taking a short break mid-morning and mid-afternoon is very much frowned upon. People also have a tendency not to take breaks communally anymore except for the odd lunch or drinks after work. These trends decrease the opportunity for face-to-face small talk in the workplace.

Instead, people use email, instant messaging programme or external blogs or bulletin boards in order to get their fix of chitchat. The social requirement for small talk hasn't gone away, it's just moved online.

At the Social Tools for Enterprise Symposium, Euan Semple talked about his experiences implementing social software internally at the BBC. He found that a significant fraction of posts on the bulletin boards were not overtly to do with work, but either passing on experiences gained outside of work or the sort of small talk that glues communities together. But, as Euan says, "People get to trust each other through small talk, and I actively defend it against those who say it is not work related."

It's as true now as it was then.

Bookmarking your Twitter links in Delicious

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When it comes to sharing links, I will confess that I tend to do so on Twitter these days, rather than Delicious. But Packrati.us now lets me do both at once. By hooking up my Twitter account to my Delicious account, I can now send a link to Twitter and have it automatically saved to Delicious. Settings let me control which links are saved, so I can specify a hashtag which will tell Packrati.us which of my links to save. Packrati.us can also convert other hashtags to tags for the bookmark saved or exclude Tweets with specified hashtags. Further settings allow relatively fine-grained control of what gets saved and how.

I've long since felt that Delicious is being a bit left behind. Although it's a really useful tool that I recommend to many of my clients, it lacks the vibrant ecosystem that, say, Twitter enjoys. I'm not going to say that the development of Packrati.us will single-handedly change all that, but it is nice to see someone thinking about how Delicious can be worked into their day-to-day social media life.

Find yourself giving advice?

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The BPS blog provides us with an overview of research which seems to show that people prefer information, not just opinion, when they are receiving advice. Obviously one mustn't over-generalise, but this does seem to say that we should be careful when we find ourselves giving advice:

Individuals who are advising decision-makers should at the very least be careful to provide information along with their recommendations.

Blogging in particular encourages us to share our opinions and to explore ideas. Sometimes this teeters over into advice-giving, so if we want to truly be helpful we need to remember that information is the key!

Event: Radical Real-Time

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The Radical Real-Time annual virtual unconference is scheduled for June 5 this year, with the theme of "Making the Most of Collaborative Worlds: Physical, Virtual and Blended Collaboration".

This Radical Real-time unconference will take place in different virtual platforms that offer possibilities to meet both asynchronously and synchronously. The synchronous part of our conference will be an array of meetings during four hours on June 5, 2010 starting at 2.00PM GMT. You are already participating in the asynchronous part of the conference by being on this Ning site. Right now, we are collaboratively putting together the conference program.

For more info, check out their Q&A page.

Blogging is a journey, not a destination

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Seth Godin emphasises something that I think it's very, very easy to forget: Blogging is not just about the finished blog post, but the process of thinking things through and having a conversation around ideas.

It doesn't matter what context we are blogging in: business or personal, inside the firewall or publicly, anonymously or as oursevles. We are all writing ourselves into existence, and the important thing to remember is that this is a journey, not a destination.

Useless artificial divisions

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I'm increasingly of the belief that trying to split social media into 'internal' and 'external' uses is a totally pointless waste of time. Equally I hear people talking about B2B and B2C social media case studies as if they are somehow different, but they really aren't. These are shallow, superficial divisions that have no basis in reality.

Social media is about people forming relationships with each other. The tools they use are irrelevant. The context is irrelevant. This is about people, whether they are colleagues, customers, clients or vendors. It's not the what, it's the who.

Creating these social media silos of marketing and internal communications and B2B and B2C just seem to me to be doing the very thing that social media is often used to combat: putting up walls between different groups of people who are doing very similar things and who could do with talking to each other once in a while. Frankly, I think a lot of the really focused social media types, who zoom in on one tiny application of social tools, could do with getting out a bit more. And the people who focus on using social media for marketing, rejecting the idea that they might actually gain something from using the tools between themselves, are idiots.

We don't need social media to turn into just another branch of marketing, or just another thing done by internal comms teams, or something that customer-facing companies do but B2B companies don't. Start thinking like that and we'll end up with the very sort of blinkered stupidity we're already struggling to combat. Letting social media become what we're trying to replace would be, to put it mildly, dumb.

Instead, why don't we just accept that social media is rather like a hammer: you can use a hammer to build a garden shed or the Taj Mahal, but at the end of the day you're still using it to hit a nail. Social media can be used to build a garden shed or the Taj Mahal, but at the end of the day you're still using it to build relationships with people. I'd rather see businesses set up a separate Social Media Department populated by people steeped in social media culture who then helped everyone else in the company, regardless of who they are or where they sit, get the best out of social tools than see it eaten up by marketeers or managers who want to turn it into something safe, comfortable, familiar and vapid.

Let's face it, most companies need to be shaken up a bit. Internal business cultures often suck, based on command-and-control and he-who-shouts-loudest-wins. A lot of marketing is just brainless drivel based on an out-of-date assumption that we're all passive consumers just waiting to absorb your 'message'. Social media can humanise all aspects of business, empowering any and all individuals touched by the company, whether employees or customers or just idle bystanders. But not if we let ourselves get caught up in these artificial divisions, cutting ourselves off from the wide variety of ideas that could so easily inspire our thinking.

I know this blog is called The Social Enterprise, but it is in fact this name which has lead me to writing this post. I sometimes worry that what I'm writing isn't 'enterprisey' enough, but I'm not even sure that 'enterprise' has a meaning relevant in the context of social media. Does it matter if you're a multinational or an SME when you're trying to improve collaboration? No. What matters is that you understand how collaboration works, how people function, how social tools fit into that landscape. The underlying concepts and constructs are the same in both contexts. How people work is the same in all contexts.

I suspect that this splintering of social media comes less from intrinsic differences and more from the way that existing powermongers re-interpret social media through their own lenses, attempting to remake it in their own image so that they can control - i.e. defang and declaw - and own the change, whilst not really caring whether the change is genuine or meaningful. Social media therefore becomes a tool in the constant game of empire-building, either as a prize to be squabbled over or a stick to beat others with.

So I'm calling time on these pointless divisions. It's all about social media and people. Fin.

The Tyranny of the Explicit

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Johnnie Moore has a great podcast episode talking with Viv McWaters and Roland Harwood on how an undue focus on metrics can get in the way of real thought and understanding. I see this frequently myself, too, when people want to focus on 'return on investment' or 'success metrics' for social media at the cost of understanding the intangible results, which are actually more important than the measurable ones. There are some great nuggets, so well worth listening to. I particularly liked Johnnie's discussion of how learning has become codified in unrealistic ways and how that relates to best practice documents that don't get practised.

The lure of the partial post

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Friend and colleague Stephanie Booth writes about the blogazine, which I've covered here already, and the frustration she feels when faced with blogs that only post excerpts to their front page (and, I'd add, RSS feeds). I want to pick up on the point about partial posts and want to say in no uncertain terms:

Partial posts or excerpts are bad practice.

They are bad practice for media outlets, but they are especially bad practice for business blogs. As Steph says, partial posts put a barrier between your content and your readers and although it's a low barrier, just a click high, it's still a barrier. Trying to artificially inflate page views by forcing people to click through from the front page, or from RSS, is nothing more than an attempt to fake greater popularity. It doesn't mean that you actually have more readers, just that they have to click twice. Like Steph, I seriously doubt that it makes any difference to SEO, and if you're willing to sacrifice user experience for a potentially tiny bump in your search engine ranking, what does that say about how you treat your customers?

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from April 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

March 2010 is the previous archive.

May 2010 is the next archive.

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