SMR International’s Spot-On Seminars continued on Friday, November 6 with the topic “Learning & Connecting: 3 Tips for Using Social Media Networking” an online conversation with Dale Stanley, Cindy Hill, and Guy St. Clair.
Dale facilitated the discussion, beginning with an overview of SMR’s Spot-On Seminars, conversations designed to provide colleagues the opportunity to communicate, share, and converse on topics most germane and relevant to information and knowledge professionals. He set the context for the discussion with a few questions:
- Why all the buzz about social networking?
- How do managers with responsibility for strategic knowledge management and service delivery handle the “tools vs. toys” controversy?
- How can knowledge services professionals enhance the learning and collaboration experiences of their colleagues using social networking tools?
Guy spoke about the concept of knowledge services, and how knowledge services contributes to the effectiveness and success of the larger organization. In merging information management, knowledge management, and strategic learning, knowledge services enables strengthened knowledge asset management and accelerated innovation and takes advantage of the knowledge development/knowledge sharing (KD/KS) process. Not surprisingly, social media networking is ideal for connecting people as they seek to share what they’ve learned and/or developed.
Cindy referred to the five techniques for using social media identified by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff in Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies (listening, talking, energizing, supporting, and embracing – discussed in a previous post). Building on Cindy’s comments, Guy offered the first tip for the seminar. As Guy describes it, the biggest challenge in learning and connecting with social media networking is to recognize that different media are required by different populations, with learning styles, generational interests and differences, and value-driven purpose all coming into play as people think about learning what they need to know. So Guy’s suggestion is that in attempting to set up a framework for learning and connecting, the strategic knowledge professional must – returning to Li and Bernoff – listen carefully to what each of these different populations requires.
Cindy’s tip for learning and connecting suggested three practical steps for moving social networking media forward in the workplace:
- engage with people in the ways they’re already engaging
- explore through manageable pilot experiments
- provide multimedia experiences
For each of these, information and knowledge services professionals can look around and identify examples at hand, as when colleagues engage successfully in web-based conference calls (with the current
meeting presenting an immediate example), using total learning products, or holding meetings or learning sessions in virtual worlds.
Dale’s tip had to do with how we implement the use of social networking media, and he too had a three-part approach: partnering, planning, and publicizing. He pointed out that when implementing social networking tools, new relationships occur, particularly in terms of subject matter experts and librarians coming together with IT specialists to achieve a goal. Dale recommends considering such a relationship a “partnership,” moving beyond the provider/consumer model.
As for planning, the knowledge professional’s primary responsibility is to clarify outcomes and deliverables, It’s very easy to be swayed by the “coolness” of a new tool, but everybody involved – the knowledge professional, the planning team, the partners, and the audience – all have to see the effort in terms of the desired effect. Publicizing – including training and rollout – is too often left as an afterthought and not given serious attention until too late in the life of the project. Dale pointed out how it is only natural to think of social media applications as intuitive and easy to use, expected to just spread virally throughout the organization. In fact, making such assumptions can be a mistake, and the best way to ensure sufficient uptake by users is to address the existing – and the desired – knowledge sharing culture of the organization and seek ways to take advantage of and/or change the culture so that social media networking can become part of the culture.
Participants in the seminar continued the discussion, with comments posted in the chat as well as shared verbally. Cindy commented that the session itself is a good example of how social media networking can be used, with several thoughts and responses shared at the same time. Attendees discussed how some research is beginning to show that social media is being embraced by much wider populations than previously thought, with the idea that social tools are the domain of younger generations now being disproved to some extent (the average age of Twitter users is much older than most people expect). The group also discussed the idea of pilots, with consideration being given to perhaps selecting different pilot programs for different populations.
Another comment from the group had to do with the seemingly large number of social networking tools available, and how people in different workplace settings choose what to work with and what to leave alone. Once participant lamented the fact that there are not more aggregation tools for all the different media available, and expressed the concern of many managers that too many tools and applications might impede workflow rather than improve it. Finally, it was agreed that there is no “final” choosing point with respect to social tools. Social media networking and the tools we use are continually evolving, and at some point we just have to make a choice – “put a stake in the ground,” as one attendee put it.
Slides used in the Spot-On Seminar are at SMRShare.
The next SMR is tentatively scheduled for Friday, December 11, 2009 at 4:00 PM ET. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the mailing list, or check for a meeting notice on LinkedIn at the SMR International Spot-On Seminar Discussion Group and on Twitter (check #SMRSpotOn).