Making Business Sense of Social Media and Social Networking

Luis Suarez Posted by

Thursday evening, my time, I attended a rather interesting webcast with Sandy Carter, IBM’s Worldwide Sales Vice President, IBM Social Business, Collaboration, and Lotus Sales and Evangelism, along with Jeremiah Owyang, Industry Analyst at Altimeter Group, on the topic of Why Be Social?. It surely was quite an interesting event and, if you would be interested, you can catch up with the tweet stream by checking out the #sbweb hash tag; a copy of the slides both Sandy and Jeremiah used can be downloaded over here as well. Amongst some of the very insightful ideas shared throughout that one hour webcast was a reflection on how little most businesses seem to be spending nowadays (And not just money!) on providing education on making use of all of these social software tools, which I found rather intriguing, because it looks like we are bound to repeat the very same mistakes we did back then when something called email, or Instant Messaging, for that matter! first came about. Remember your email education and email etiquette? … No? Oh dear … Not to worry, I don’t remember it either! In fact, I never had it in the 14 years I have been using corporate email. No wonder then email gets so abused nowadays!

Will Social Software follow the same trend? Will social tools suffer from the same destiny of being abused left and right for tasks that they weren’t meant to be in the first place, just like we have done with email over the last decade or so? Will social networking tools become our next Pandora’s Box, just like email is today for most of us? Well, I surely hope not! I think we have got a unique opportunity that we didn’t have last time around, which is basically spend enough time to educate our knowledge workers into how to make effective use of these emerging collaborative and knowledge sharing tools within the social computing realm. Yes, I do realise how some folks have been claiming that these social tools are so easy to use that no-one would require education about them, and if they do the tools themselves have failed in the premise of keeping things simple and user friendly enough.

Well, not really; education on how social software tools work has got very little to do with technology nor the tools themselves, since you can always go through extensive features reviews, or in-depth overviews of capabilities, online videos, Web sites, screencasts, webcasts, etc. etc. Education on social tools is more aligned towards showing and demonstrating a change of habits; basically, shifting gears into new ways of getting the job done; figuring out new methods of becoming, even more, productive carrying out daily tasks and activities by injecting various 2.0 flavours. You know, sending an email is not the same thing as putting together a blog post. Using “Reply to All” in an email is not the same as having a group concurrently collaborating on a wiki page building up content in a collaborative manner; storing a bookmark your browser is not the same thing as doing it within your favourite social bookmarking tool. And the list goes on and on and on … Gran Canaria - Puerto de Mogan

Effective Social Software education is all about adopting successfully new models of conducting work, where openness, clarity, transparency, publicy, trust, etc. etc. mix together quite nicely with other traditional collaborative and knowledge sharing methods. It’s not about replacing one with the other. It’s all about finding more efficient ways of doing the same job, perhaps spending a whole lot less effort, but with equal, if not, better results. Yes, what I have been coining over here for a long while with that “work smarter, not necessarily harder“.

Thus whenever I bump into such kind of education offerings I just can’t help but take the opportunity to dive right into them, because I have always felt there will be something new to be learned for sure. That was the exact same premise of how my team, the BlueIQ folks, our IBM internal social software adoption program, designed and developed an entire curriculum of 33 education modules, which is what we have piled up for 2011 so far, on how to get the most of social tools for our day to day productivity while carrying out various common tasks and activities; all in all focusing on the outcomes, the business objective and not necessarily on the tools themselves; I may be able to talk a little bit more about our BlueIQ Enablement Program at some stage, but today I wanted to share with you folks another IBM initiative that’s just gotten started a couple of weeks ago and which aims at helping educate fellow IBMers, as well as Business Partners, into using effectively social media tools.

Welcome to Making Business Sense of Social Media and Social Networking! Yes, that is right! This is a new education program, meant for IBMers and IBM’s  Business Partners, but, eventually, open to everyone out there who may want to spend one hour per week, for the next 6 weeks, covering various different aspects of social media. This series of education sessions is sponsored by the IBM PartnerWorld Community; my good friend, and fellow colleague, Chad Laws, along with the always inspiring and very enlightening Paul Gillin, have done a tremendous amount of great work putting together some outstanding materials for over the next few weeks. And best of all … all of the education sessions are free. Yes, FREE as in free! :-D

Like I said, this rather interesting set of courses has already gotten started a couple of weeks back, so out of the series of 6 planned 2 of them are already done and dealt with. There are still 4 more to go! But the good thing is that if you would be interested in catching up with the two sessions that have already been provided, not to worry, there are recordings and presentations already available for download. So to get things going, both Chad and Paul covered Social Media Crash Course for Business Partners (Click here to access the replay of the session) and just a couple of days ago the second course, which is the one that triggered the creation of this blog post altogether.

Gran Canaria - Puerto de MoganThat’s right! Last Wednesday, Paul did a wonderful job covering one of my favourite topics as of late: Twitter for Business and over the course of nearly one hour he covered all of the fundamental aspects of how to explore and take advantage of the huge potential behind microblogging / microsharing by using Twitter to reach out to your customers, fellow business partners or other knowledge workers / thought leaders from the industry and engage in meaningful conversations. A copy of the presentation can be downloaded over here and the best part of this series is that each session gets recorded, both the audio and the video, so you can have a chance, even if you couldn’t make it to the live event, like I missed the first one myself!, to catch up with the replay in a very handy format, a .wmv file, that you can download onto your machine and start playing it at your own convenience.

However, in this case, I was able to make it to the live event itself and I had a blast! I enjoyed it tremendously! I have been using Twitter now for nearly four years and I still learned a trick or two I didn’t know about it while Paul & Chad covered the slides. That was just brilliant! Whether you are new to Twitter and the whole world behind microblogging / microsharing, or whether you are a seasoned power user of Twitter, Twitter for Business is one of those education sessions you can’t miss! Worth while your time, for sure! I am 100% certain!

The recording of this particular one hour event can be downloaded from here and I can certainly recommend it, just as much as sharing with you folks a reminder that, every week, there will be a new session coming up co-presented by both Paul and Chad; so far they have been doing a wonderful job and I am sure it will continue to be like that for the remaining of the series of events; continuing next week already, which will be about one of my favourite topics for over the last 8 years and counting … Of course, I’m talking about Starting and Maintaining a Blog. The link to the slide deck is already available (Click here), but I just can’t wait for Tuesday next week, at 1:00 pm EST, to make it to the live event!

As a reminder, please don’t forget that these sessions are free and open to everyone and that if you would want to help prepare your way on becoming Social Minded, it may well be a good resource to get things going, more than anything else just because sending an email to someone is certainly not the same as engaging in an insightful conversation with your customers and / or business partners… on Twitter, as an example.

You know, after all, it’s all about Getting Social, Do Business, don’t you think?

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About the Author: Luis Suarez has been working in the fields of Knowledge Management, collaboration, communities, and learning for the past seven years, and is heavily involved in social computing and its adoption within the enterprise. Luis shares his insights on important KM issues of today through The Knowledge Management Blog and ELSUA.NET, and is an active participant in the ITtoolbox blogging community.

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