When we look at corporate frameworks and how we use collaboration and
innovation across corporate boundaries, including collaborating with
other companies to get a product out to market we are looking at social
networking. We just have a fancy new label for it, but in the longer
run, what we saw as collaborative teaming and frameworks in 1999 is
social media in 2009.
If you go back and read Walter Powell (Link to abstract), and you read books on how Julia Wondolleck and Steven Yaffee were talking about Making Collaboration Work (Google Books)
from the 1990’s you are reading how social media can be used to make
teams more effective and more collaborative. The body of literature
goes back well into the 1970’s on teams, teamwork, innovation and
collaboration. Social Media is Collaboration on steroids where you have
thousands of participants rather than a handful of team members working
in a cube farm.
This is one of the key points that I think many companies miss when
it comes to understanding social media. Rather than managing a small
team, the company is managing thousands of responses back (if they are
lucky, many social media campaigns tend to fail by not getting any
response back, or responses that are junk responses and add no value)
and looking through the junk to find the really good responses. One of
the reasons why Private Beta’s are so hard to get into is that the
companies that do these are looking for quality feedback on the
product, and they want members who work in the private beta to return
value for a preview of the technology. Social media is no different, we
are looking for the quality of response back, not necessarily the
proletariat who offers one line comments like you see all over YouTube.
If you are going to measure social media, and you are finding it
hard to do so, go back to how you measure the effectiveness of teams,
look at the individual contributions of all the members of the group
including the outside social media resources. Not everyone is going to
contribute to the team in a meaningful way, but using standard tools to
measure effectiveness of teams and collaboration will not hurt. We are
so wrapped around efficiency and measuring everything in a company that
we seem to have lost the human element in how we manage our companies.
Social media is one huge human element that like most humans is messy,
prone to fits of temper, and often imprecise.
For too long, companies around the world have acted as
though they function in a vacuum, without influence on or interest in
the problems around them. To tackle such issues, some would argue,
would draw attention away from return on investment (ROI), profit
margin, and other traditional measures of a company’s economic health.
In their research, Camillus and Bidanda have found evidence suggesting
that, in reality, a company’s future is inextricably tied to that of
its multiple stakeholders. “One of the things we want to do,” Bidanda
says, “is share with industry [that] putting the person back into the
equation makes a huge difference.” Source: Pitt.edu
Social media, with all its snake oil sales people (we should have
learned about vendors and consultants by now), and all the attempts to
measure and meter interaction that are failing badly in the corporate
environment should be a warning sign that something’s just cannot be
measured by traditional processes. When we try to do this we end up devaluing social networking and social media
because in many ways this is a human process, and intangible as to the
value it adds in relationship to the effort that is expended. With over
½ of companies in the USA blocking social networking,
we are losing an important interaction with people who actually consume
the product. This leaves a void to be filled where demagogy and angry
people will fill that void.
You cannot control the message, you cannot control the medium, but
you can participate and interact with the audience. This is where the
collaboration and teamwork roles fit in; your customers have many
things to say, good, bad and ugly. It is time to measure the human
element; much like Comcast with Comcast Cares
has gone a long way in working the human element of social media and
business. We know how to do this, the problem is, many people just are
not capable of going there.