Rachel Happe from IDC gave a great presentation as part of a panel about social networks inside the enterprise. There were a few points that re-lit fires in my perspective on how social networks deliver value. What follows is my thoughts as riffs on some of what Rachel came out with at her presentation yesterday. This all stems from her words, but with some of my flourish.
Social Networks Capture Unstructured Information Well
There’s a huge difference in the effort to compose a Word document versus Twittering something of importance to a project or a shared experience. Blogs and social bookmarking are ways we can collect all kinds of pointers to things that matter to us, and yet, we don’t have to form them into something polished and produced. They can just be ways to post and store data, with tagging and metadata to enhance the searchability, discoverability, and shareability of the info.
Think about how many variations on this there are. Project plans and meeting notes are often too fat and stuffed with data to be “flexible” and “free flowing” enough to be useful. Our email inboxes are full. Sometimes, it doesn’t take a full email to get something done. There are SO MANY situations where a social network’s communications functions, when aggregated as part of the “informational whole,” have more value than a more formal tool like a document or email.
Social Networks Provide a Trust Filter
When implemented right, or by closing the loop tighter on your network, a social network can help you better sort data and information by helping you surface the information that matters. A great example of this in action is Robert Scoble’s Link Blog. Robert does a lot of blog reading and finds information that I find useful, saving me the effort of scouring those specific blogs. I do something similar with my reading list, and in two ways: sometimes, I re-share something Robert shared, to add a network effect. Other times, I share things he might not follow to alert others to what’s got my attention.
If you trust Robert’s taste in information and subscribe to his Link Blog, then you’re doing this. Another level of doing this is through things like the Blog Friends application on Facebook, which allows you to see what’s of interest to the people you’ve friended on Facebook. Similar premises in both cases, and another way that social networks (according to Rachel Happe from IDC) deliver value.
Social Networks Improve Information Speed
The speed of trusted, relevant information matters, said Rachel in her presentation. Twitter shows us this all the time. Guy Kawasaki implemented the Twitter News Network because he realized that information rushing through Twitter is faster in lots of cases than more official places for information. A month or two ago, the San Diego fires in California were another case of networks (Twitter again) being faster than news sources in being helpful. I’ve heard (I think Doc Searls mentioned it on The Gang) that newspaper companies threw up Blogger.com blogs to report, because it was faster/easier/more useful than their existing content management systems, when speed was of the essence.
When NEWS strikes over the last several months, I tend to get it from social networks long before I find a traditional information source. The same thing is true of how social networks can (and do) improve velocity inside organizations who choose to implement them. Communications methods in such a network allow for asynchronous, one-to-many transactions that keep things flowing at a better speed, and permit faster reaction to the information at hand.
What YOU Might Do With This Information
Which social networks are you using regularly? HOW are you using them? With this in mind, does it make you think differently about how you use the networks for information sharing?
There are opportunities to build and fine-tune information sharing networks that would improve velocity, filter by trust, and capture organic unstructured information in an easy-to-use method. Think about how this might work for you as an individual consumer of data, as a producer of information, and as someone in a network of people who share information.
Thanks to Rachel Happe for a VERY inspiring presentation.
(And if you’re lurking and reading, join MY network by subscribing for free to receive this information rapidly in an easy-to-consume and share format.) : )
Photo credit, Steve Webel