Let me start this right off by saying I am not an expert on social media. I barely exist on Facebook, I do not as yet have a Twitter account, I blog but only to a very small and intended audience.
And this is partially the point--I don't have to be. In today's operating environment, we can't be everything, know everything, do everything. We are continually being broken down into, or fragmented into two very broad categories--specialists and generalists. It will be of interest at some point that I draw many of my functional uses of those two terms from my many years in the home building industry--but this is for posts further down the road.
I am in the generalist category, a synthesizer of specialists, you might say.
Now, while there are many ways to effectively use social media for both personal and business use, in this post we want to look at it as part of a broad strategy of integrating it as part of a three pillars approach as an organizational operating system.
To start, if we are running an organization, we are thinking of it as a living system. A living system can be guided, but not controlled. As a living system, it consists of web of sub-systems. Very broadly, those are going to be employees, your supply webs or networks (supply chains is so last century!), your customers and/or constituents, if publicly owned, your shareholders and/or stakeholders, if publicly owned, the media and social media including analysts. Every organization will be slightly or very different, but you get the idea.
First thing we need to understand is these are already networked in ways that can't be mapped or understood. They are also networked in ways that can be mapped and somewhat understood. (Valdis Krebs for example, provides a service and software for social network analysis)
All these sub-systems are made up of individual actors, each with varying motives. Each individual actor now has the means to connect and communicate with any of the other actors. This also needs to be understood.
To be clear, all these sub-systems that are part of the web that is your organization are networked in ways that can and cannot be mapped and understood.
This is important to realize. It's also part of why if we're running an organization we have to change our perceptions of control. We can guide, we can lead, we can not control.
If the sub-systems are connected in formal and informal ways, they exchange information and knowledge. This is both good and bad. You need to understand this. You also need to understand that it is unlikely that you know whether it's good or bad.
Ignore this dynamic at the peril of you and your organization. This dynamic exists whether you like it or not.
In the world that is now, this is both the good news and bad news. It's probably salient to point out now that in today's world it's best if you can hold those opposing points of view in your mind at once. This is part of systems thinking.
The dynamics that are the internet and the social media it enables are working both for and against your organization as we speak (so to speak). By now, I hope you realize you are not controlling that dynamic.
This said, it's not unlikely that your organization does have some kind of social media strategy. You may even have a social media guru of some sort in your employ. It's likely you have some kind of social media branding strategy.
What I want to do is develop a deeper understanding for you and your organization that there is much more to be gained via the internet and social media.
That is what we'll dig into in the next post (which, in blog style, will appear before this post. )