Second of Three Practices for Integrating Social Media Into Your Organization

How can companies tap their employees’ existing social-networking savvy to succeed with knowledge sharing and collaboration? How can companies avoid possible security and privacy pitfalls and work inefficiencies, and still prepare for integrating whatever the next wave of technology brings?

Three practices can guide plugged-in managers and employees to make decisions that support collaboration and knowledge sharing while being realistic about what can and can’t flow across an organization’s network. The second, and most important, practice is to take the knowledge gained during reflection and research (the first practice) and then mix a combination of technology tools, organizational process, and available skills that supports the company’s knowledge sharing and collaboration goals. (This series is a continuation of the thinking from my recent Wall Street Journal article, Tapping Into Social Media Smarts.)

Mixing is a formal process that should look like a win-win negotiation across leaders and individual contributors. The issues of the negotiation are things like which technology, how much training and of what kind, what are the incentives for participation – and how roadblocks to participation will be removed? The specific technologies may need to change. Many organizations block or discourage employees from accessing sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter via the company network. Security, privacy, bandwidth, terms of service, and goofing-off are all real concerns with consumer-focused technologies. However, blocking or discouraging these particular sites doesn’t mean that an organization can’t support the social networking activities the employees are demanding.

Socialtext, Altus vSearch, Jive, Moxie, Yammer, and Salesforce Chatter are just some of the built-for-business tools that support social media and networking in ways that allow companies be compliant with security, privacy, etc. Use the methods of consumer social media, if not the tools. Organizational process may also need to change from what employees use at home. Companies where employees already have strong social networking skills will need less technology training, but they may need to be helped to see security and strategic boundaries around using the power of their skills.

Consider early adopter customer services representatives who voluntarily used Twitter to respond to customer needs or set up a YouTube video to share product information. These reps were working without company guidelines. Some did well (Comcast customer service representative Frank Eliason) and some did not (an employee posted a picture of a training session using sample financial data, not thinking how even sample data might reflect on the company). Work with early adopters throughout the “negotiation” to select tools and build policies and process to guide those who follow. The problem-solving methods of negotiation are ideal for finding the right mix of tool and process.

Mixing is the second practice of the plugged-in manager. (Facebook page for forthcoming book.) I’ve given a few examples here, but what have you seen? How have you practiced mixing in your own organization? What have you seen happen if this practice is skipped?

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