SCL Event: Using social media

Last night I was fortunate to be invited to attend an SCL organised event called "Use of social media for collaborating and sharing knowledge internally". The speaker (Euan Semple) was someone I've followed on Twitter for a while and who last year published a book called "Organisations don't tweet, people do" set out his stall by saying he had issues with a number of terms used in today's society.

The first term he took umbrance with was "Social media". Euan described how people had been using the intranet for ages before "Social media" tools had come along. The fact that they're called social media tool doesn't help or hinder their use in fact if you asked most people using Facebook whether they thought they were using a social media tool they might raise an eyebrow or too. The second term Euan had an issue with was "Knowledge management" and some other "knowledge" terms like "Knowledge harvesting" and "Knowledge extraction" Euan likened these terms to individuals having their brains sucked out as they left an organisation.

What Knowledge harvested might look like
Euan then went on to describe the work he had done at the BBC, where he was employed at Head of Knowledge Management. Of most interest to attendees was his description of how he rolled out a very simple bulletin board to BBC staff. He described how he invited people who he know were interested in technology and had use something similar outside of the firewall to contribute to the bulletin board. In this way the bulletin board grew organically, with those individuals who were using it encouraging other individuals to use it, but without the hard sell that can discourage people. Euan then described how the bulletin board had gone a long way in helping create a feeling of a "OneBBC" Another project Euan undertook at the BBC was the creation of wiki spaces. Initially these were used to create guidelines for using and publishing content to external blogs.

Before Euan described some of the tools he currently uses, he talked a little bit about building trusted networks and us all having responsibility when it comes to sharing content. I think this is especially important when using a tool like Twitter where it's very easy to retweet content. It's important to realise that we all have a volume control, we decide whether we're going to retweet or forward something, but it can be easy to forget this, especially when you're "in the moment"

Euan then described some of the tools he is currently using. Interesting he indicated that blogging remained the tool he prefers to use, despite the death of blogging having been predicted for the last 5 years. His reasons were pretty clear, blogging belongs to an individual, it allows people to think in public and for him 3 or 4 paragraphs is optimal, compare to 140 characters in Twitter. Euan then described how he currently uses Twitter and how in particular he manages his followers so he has a core group of 100 individuals whose tweets he regularly reviews as they are they hunters and gatherers and always find good stuff. Euan also gave an example of how he used Twitter recently to fix a problem with an new piece of software he was using. Whilst the help manuals and online site were useless, Twitter provided an answer in a few minutes.

At this point the tables has an opportunity to discuss some of the things Euan had talked about. On my table we talked a lot about blogging and the opportunities and some of the risk it offers law firms. I think there are a lot of opportunities for fee-earners and law firms to exploit blogging. Certainly one of the benefits is that it humanises law firms and provides individuals with a way to "chat" with fee-earners. The group also talked a little bit about LinkedIn and how it can be used by fee-earners.

Following this discussion Euan looked at three companies that had used social media tools to encourage knowledge sharing internally. They were NYK who had created wiki spaces to discuss a flu pandemic policy and as a place for individuals to add suggestions instead of a suggestion box. Next up was BUPA who uses freely available tools on the web to share knowledge. This was primarily because they had a very fragmented IT Department. Finally Euan described how the CEO at Nokia used blogging to communicate with his colleagues.

Euan finished his presentation with a few slides pointing out where you can go wrong with social media tools. One of the most relevant of these is that as someone using social media tools you have to be able to walk the talk and use the tools to be able to manage them. Euan also described how it was important to let people talk rubbish, if it mean they used the tools that had been provided for them. The last three points Euan made I'm sure will have struck a chord with many people, they were to:

  • Avoid being too trendy when it comes to social media. Just because there is a new tool on the block doesn't mean you have to use it
  • Having platforms where you can talk about issues and risks actually makes an organisation more secure
  • & finally you need to be in the long game, seeing real benefits from social media takes a long time and certainly cant be achieved overnight

This was a really interesting seminar and I got a lot from it, which I hope to use when it comes to how my organisation uses social media.

[Photo credit - Social media from Flickr]

[Photo credit - Brains from Flickr]