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Social Media inside the firewall

Social Media inside the firewall

We often talk about the social media mindset. It should be clear to anyone by now that what we’ve been going through in the past few years has been a cultural and behavioural shift rather than a technological one. All the various tools we’ve been working with are tools that ultimately enable us to share and communicate with the world, be it the world wide web, our local community, our network of friends, or our workplace. And that’s exactly where we’re going to focus our attention in this and further posts on the potential of Social Media “inside the firewall”.

Social Media can – and should – be used internally as a mechanism for improving business performance. The internal use of social media goes under many names: social businessenterprise 2.0corporate social networking being some of the most popular, and they all include in their definitions different nuances of meaning. It’s basically a way of working that embeds the principles of Social Media revolution: many-to-many communication, collaboration, co-brainstorming, transparency, trust, participation, inclusiveness, co-creation, flattening of hierarchies. After all intranets were born before the internet, and they can easily work in the same way, by providing a platform for conversation, knowledge sharing and creation, content management, crowdsourcing, co-innovation, and so on. And as it’s happening with externally-facing Social Media, it’s not only about reduced emails, but it can have a much more holistic impact, going from improved – and self-organising – organizational structure, reward and recognition mechanisms, workforce motivation and morale, and so on.

As part of our ongoing research activity on yet another interesting aspect of Social Media, we came across an ever-growing number of platforms that are being used as private/internal social networks. We produced the tag cloud you can see below, generated by collating the texts of the descriptions of a number of these platforms (data gathered – among the rest – from the latest Gartner‘s Magic Quadrant for Social Software for the Workplace, and Forrester‘s Wave for Enterprise Social Platforms). Not surprisingly, all the platforms share a clear focus on social, and they often mention words like communities, collaboration, networking, creation, expertise, knowledge, learning, conversation, information.


Analysing their descriptions and functionalities, customer reports,       opinion pieces, users blog  posts we started noticing some common themes and models they seem to be converging around, as well as the advantages and  drawbacks according to the current users. In the same vein, last Tuesday we were invited to London  to an event organized by one of the fastest-growing internal social networks, Yammer, which we’ve been using during Social Media Week Glasgow to collaborate and share information, experiences and insights with other city partners. The event was hosted by Yammer founder and CEO, David Sacks, and enriched with the experiences of Yammer users Peter Kemper of Shell; Laurie Hibbs of Lexis Nexis and Suzanne Masters of ACCA. We will be sharing with you more on the above and further insights on the subject   in future posts.


A Cafe for Conversation and Social Knowledge

I was asked some months ago to assist a masters student in some research they were undertaking into the role of conversation in knowledge exchange. The intention was to look at the challenges and barriers to communication and what techniques and approaches can help overcome them especially in an organisational environment. Last week I got to see the paper she produced and it makes for a fascinating read.

It’s a fascinating topic and we have touched upon the importance of talking and conversation in the nurturing of social knowledge in this blog before. It is particularly interesting when you consider the aspect of generating high touch conversational aspects of social media and how the various tools that currently underpin the social media mindset have both strengths and weaknesses in that process.

The research was particularly interested in how one particular technique can be used to strengthen communication and knowledge activities, and if it had particular benefits through specifically acknowledging and mitigating some of the barriers that can often strangle good conversation.

That technique is known as a Knowledge Café – a deceptively simple but remarkably effective tool developed by David Gurteen. Both Daniela and I have known David for a number of years and have used the technique in the past, and have attended Dave’s training sessions where he can effectively describe the subtle elements that when applied and understood make the approach so successful.

I would like to take the idea and move it into something that is enhanced for application via social media platforms, with specific advice on how to make the best of this in an online mode, but that will have to wait till after Social Media Week.

However if you have never investigated this technique but would like to know more I would heartily recommend that you check David’s extensive website out at and get along to one of David’s regular training sessions. The next one  is on Tuesday 13 September, at the RSA in central London. So plenty of time to get to that and back to Glasgow for Social Media Week.

It’s fascinating how traditional cafes work though and I just want to say a big thanks to Martin Jack – or Jacky to his friends – for making Business Banter such a success. We love it and you deserved the back slaps you got on its first birthday on Friday. Well done mate!

Social Knowledge – the new paradigm

Social Knowledge – the new paradigm

At twintangibles we believe that Social Media has quite profound implications for the way we do business, and we have already mentioned that we think that its impact and application stretches way beyond the common mantra of marketing. One application that we have mentioned in passing is the concept of Social Knowledge. What do we mean by that?

Knowledge Management (KM) is a much maligned and much misunderstood concept that has, to a large extent, foundered on the common misconception that it is an extension of information management. There are many reasons for this but one of the contributing factors was undoubtedly that the fashion for KM coincided with advent of the Web. The web held a great deal of promise for early KM advocates because at the heart of the KM proposition was a recognition of the vast resource embodied in communities and the desire to liberate and generate value from that. One of the most compelling attributes of the web is its democratising power by lowering barriers to entry and bypassing traditional gatekeepers and it seemed to be the natural bedfellow of KM. However it’s other great strength is its capacity to generate and aggregate data which does have a connection to information and it was this strand that was effectively conflated into KM and very much to its detriment. The connection between the web, information and KM became something of an unholy trinity and the more nebulous, elusive but most valuable principle KM as a liberator and change agent and the web as a potential engine for that was essentially forgotten.

What the web lacked however, and perhaps meant it would never have ultimately delivered as the engine for KM was the conversational and timeliness that Social Media brings. This is the product of a combination technical development and the ubiquity of the architecture and access points and methods, and a changed sensibility of engagement and participation. So Social Media is an engine for conversations, emergent themes and process, rapidly changing evolutionary models and movements.

As such it is also the true platform for liberating that early and mislaid KM potential. But to differentiate it from that somewhat damaged KM model we refer to it as Social Knowledge.

What we mean by this is the use of Social Media technologies and sensibilities to unlock the potential of communities for value. In a business context this can be operationalised as many things, innovation, crowd sourcing, deep insight and any number of other activities and interventions.

This can mean that we have to question some of our long held concepts of business as usual to considering business as unusual. It can challenge our traditional notions of what constitutes the organisation, intellectual property rights, management structures and trust tagging. That challenging is at the same time full of promise and the opportunity to unlock new ideas and hidden potential and value.

We don’t claim to have all of the answers, to be frank no one has. But we have experience and insight in this area and we recognise and embrace the opportunities that it offers. We can help you to both understand and engage with these opportunities, so if you want to know how Social Knowledge could transform your organisation get in touch.


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