An article in the HBR, “Why no one uses the corporate social network” written by Charlene li, the founder at Altimeter group, really raised questions. The research report had good data on the information relating to the use of social software within organizations.
Thoughts began to gather, as I begin to ask myself, where are we heading on the usage of social media for collaboration and professional networking? Even though there has been a steady increase in the number of social media users on the consumer social media side over the years, the usage of corporate social network has not taken off much.
Off late, there has been big draw towards the usage of corporate social networks in big multinational organizations as well as smaller companies. Corporate social networks are also called as “Enterprise social network” or “Social collaboration” software among industry circles. Examples include, Yammer and IBM connections.
Social media collaboration on the other hand, looks at social interaction and sharing of information among members, using social media to facilitate collaboration. Such collaboration stems from a shared understanding and helps members to accomplish common goals together.
Social media collaboration as a software system is geared more towards professional networking, consumer social media, business and solving problems at work rather than as an in-house system used within the corporate world by its employees.
Often, there is contention on the usage of the word ‘collaboration’ being tied with the social software used internally within the organizations. Just the word “Social” software would be a better fit. But then, the decision makers in organizations view it differently.
The word ‘Collaboration’ goes well with the results driven environment of the corporate world. Stakeholders need to see the benefits of: how the work gets done, ROI and profitability. Decision makers feel the word “Collaboration” delivers and it is much closer to realizing the above benefits.
What is social media collaboration?
Social media collaboration is the sharing of information socially, where members collaborate and form a group with a shared understanding to get work done. The collaboration happens through a consumer social media platform.
The underlying social network which is embedded within the social media platform, governs the behavior, structure and connections among members for acceptance and for further interaction.
With that in mind, social media collaboration as a software system not only uses a consumer social media platform but also provides and facilitates collaboration through a shared understanding to get work done.
Factors in favor of social media collaboration:
A sense of togetherness and community: Professionals outside the corporate network, when they interact socially and share, it builds a sense of togetherness. Like minds attract other like minds. It has been proven that, people who have the same cognitive ability share and interact with each other better than otherwise.
There is full freedom to be part of the community. Working professionals can build their own brand as a professional. Their expertise and knowledge can be used and shared to a wider community of people than being just restricted within the organization.
Finding solutions for problems: Finding solutions for hard to solve problems, can now be facilitated through social media collaboration. This was earlier restricted only within the organization with limited talent.
Owing to the availability of expertise and talent in the wider community, professionals can tap into this, to solve their problems.
In-fact, insight happens through collaboration. Successive iteration of ideas through collaboration of like minds can lead to innovation. Collaborative innovation can happen within private groups within the community. This can be precursor, which can lead to a startup growth environment.
No fear of management control: Collaboration on shared understanding can happen outside the organizations without the fear of repercussions. One of the most important part, which helps and makes social media collaboration successful is the sharing of the context to information.
Sharing of context to information is not well received within a command and control, hierarchical set up within an organization.
Tacit knowledge sharing can be done without the fear of losing their position or job within the organization. By doing so, they can build trust and gain further resources for their own development. Sharing of tacit knowledge requires an environment to be built on trust and freedom.
Encourages diversity: Social media collaboration encourages diversity. The collaboration and social interaction, just does not happen within the organization but taps into the enormous diverse resources on the planet.
Expertise and wisdom is available all around us. It is only through diverse experiences and expertise we will be able to solve most of the pertinent problems quickly.
Leaving behind: what I would like to say
Online collaboration can happen everywhere all around us. It need not be just within the four walls of the organization.
What it requires, is a little bit of passion and courage to question the status quo and make a change for the better. There is online professional networking, no doubt, but what gets missed is the collaboration.
Social media collaboration can provide those answers. True diversity comes only when we open up and listen to others feedback and ideas as well. We need to foster that kind of environment and social media collaboration as a concept and as a social software can take us there.