E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

10 Reasons NOT to Ban Social Media In Organisations – The Meme

Gran Canaria - In the SpringA couple of days back, I am sure you would still remember how I put together a tongue-in-cheek (Coming from my Hippie 2.0 side) blog post where I shared a couple of thoughts on the Top 10 Reasons to Ban Social Media in the Organisations that Jane Hart shared over at her blog coming from a YouTube video put together by Ron Desi with that same title. Well, it now looks like we have got ourselves a new, rather interesting, meme going on. And this time around I’m biting it. Why not? Hope you, too! Here is why…

It all started with that blog post from Jane, then my good friends, both Harold Jarche and Jack Vinson picked it up and created that meme as a result of putting together a couple of rather insightful and worth while reading articles: Ten reasons by Harold and Ten Reasons by Jack, respectively. From there onwards a couple of folks have been following up already and Jane herself put together a follow up entry where she describes the rules of the meme (She is also doing a marvelous piece of work combining all of those insights on this particular link, so watch it grow over time!):

"Create a counter to each of the reasons. Maybe the conversation shouldn’t even be about these "reasons to ban" but should come up "reasons to use" social media""

So, here I am, wanting to chime in on this meme and try to answer each and everyone of those 10 reasons why social media should NOT be banned in organisations. Here is a quick recap of them all, so you can quickly put them in context:

  1. Social media is a fad.
  2. It’s about controlling the message.
  3. Employees will goof off.
  4. Social Media is a time waster.
  5. Social media has no business purpose.
  6. Employees can’t be trusted.
  7. Don’t cave into the demands of the millennials.
  8. Your teams already share knowledge effectively.
  9. You’ll get viruses.
  10. Your competition isn’t using it, so why should you?

And here you have got my contribution to each and everyone of them starting in the same order they have been covered elsewhere already, hoping not to repeat myself too much and perhaps succeed in adding my two cents into the on-going conversations, wishing that other folks would jump in as well. So, let’s go and do it! Let’s start!

10. Social media is a fad: Yes, yes, I know. I have been hearing and reading about this one since early 2000, when I was first exposed to social software tools (Community wikis, in this case), and fast forward 10 years later (Yes, 10 years later!) we are still talking about it. If that’s a fad then I wish there would be plenty more of them, I am afraid. Social Software has been with us since 1997 and growing stronger than ever, to the point where plenty of people are spending more time in social networking activities displacing even something so pervasive as email is. Yes, indeed, we would have to start saying that email, too, is a fad, don’t you think?! (It’s been there for over 40 years already!)

9. It’s about controlling the message: This is an interesting one, for sure! Jane talks about it as a myth. Actually, I would go one step further. Control has always been, and still is, an illusion. Controlling your knowledge workers and their actions is an impossible task to do for anyone, more than anything else, because those knowledge workers are the first ones who know exactly how to put a stop to that control if it jeopardises their own identity and personal privacy: they would leave the company. As simple as that. Oh, and the same thing happens with security, for that matter.

8. Employees will goof off: Of course! We have been doing that for centuries and we will continue to do that for many more to come! It’s part of our human nature when we lack the motivation and involvement to remain engaged with what we do. When businesses have managed to wear off our passion for our jobs and instead treat us as resources, not even human, that’s what you can expect. It’s a fair game.

Like I said, we are going to continue to goof off for many decades to come, but, to be honest with you, if we would want to do that we wouldn’t need to make use of social networking sites in the first place. We have got other means of doing it much more successfully: email, personal phone calls, the water cooler breaks, extended breakfast & lunch breaks, late arrivals at work, and a long etc. etc.

If you don’t want your employees to goof off, treat them with respect, trust them, empower them to co-share that responsibility of running a business, treasure and nurture their professionalism, because, after all, haven’t you hired a bunch of professionals to do the job in the first place? If not, don’t blame the employees; you may need to look into the HR hiring process altogether from scratch …

7. Social media is a time waster: Of course! Have you noticed how, every so often, we have got these wonderful studies that claim millions of dollars have been wasted by all of that time we seem to spend on social networking sites? How those social interactions help us decrease our productivity substantially? Well, how about if we tackle the issues where we would need to: how are business keeping their employees networked, connected, motivated and engaged to do their jobs so that they don’t bump into time wasters?

Most importantly, when are we going to have studies done on the huge amount of money and time lost when knowledge workers can’t get their job done because they can’t find that expert or that piece of information while they are still trapped inside their teams and organisational silos when they know and realise that within a matter of minutes, using social networks, they would be able to find them successfully?

6. Social Media has no business purpose: Of course, not! That’s why social media doesn’t humanise your enterprise, does it? Or is it quite the opposite? How about flattening the organisation, breaking down silos, helping knowledge workers find both content and experts much easier, facilitating serendipitous knowledge discoveries, bringing further up clarity, visibility and openness in both how people collaborate and share their knowledge? How about being one of the major drivers in helping build trust levels by tapping into the crucial realm of social capital, which we all know is eventually what drives business nowadays (When was the last time you purchased a product without trusting the vendor? If you have, I think you should question that one first, I’m afraid)? Yes, indeed, social media has no business purpose, or does it?

5. Employees can’t be trusted: Oh dear, if your employees can’t be trusted, why is is then that you have hired them in the first place? That’s like you trust that robber with your house keys to take care of the house while you go on vacation for three weeks!! Really? You don’t trust your employees? Whether you like it or not, they are your brand, and I do seriously think you should probably take much better care of your brand than no trusting it altogether, don’t you think?

In fact, trusting your employees and treating them with respect, care and appreciation will help you take your business into a new ground, one where they will become trustworthy enough to engage in conversations with your customers to keep them happy and engaged. Now, how is that for a bad thing? Is it? Trust them. They are your bloodstream, the DNA of your business, whether you like it or not, so you might as well treat them with respect and treasure their passion and commitment, because otherwise when you may need that blood transfusion to survive you may not longer have a donor…

4. Don’t cave into the demands from the millennials: Of course! Why should you? After all the vast majority of your workforce are all baby boomers, who will be working still for another 20 to 25 years to come, right? Oh, wait, that’s not that accurate anymore, I am afraid, is it? Baby boomers are already retiring, and in two to three years it would be those younger generations the ones that will outnumber, by far, those older generations. But, it gets even more interesting, still …

Those older generations are starting to retire and leave the workplace, and all of the huge amount of knowledge they have accumulated over the course of decades is going away with them. Who are they going to transfer it to, before they go? What tools are they going to use? Email? Instant Messaging? The phone? Oh dear, that doesn’t sound like an interesting outlook into take into account in the next few months, does it? Whether we like it or not, the younger generational working style relying more and more on social tools is here to stay, so the sooner we adopt it and embrace it, the better. The much more amount of critical knowledge we would be capable of not just preserving, but also reusing and augmenting further. Why would you want to reinvent the wheel from scratch once again? Haven’t we all done that far too many times already? If you don’t cave into those demands, I think very soon it would be yourself the one looking out for a new job out there, one where your next boss may be one of those young millennials working for a company that decided to adapt and change to that new and refreshing working style… Up to you. Really.

3. Your teams already knowledge effectively: A wise man once said "E-mail is where knowledge goes to die", so if you think that your knowledge workers have been sharing their knowledge efficiently through email, I guess you would need to think about it, once again. It’s not happening. Yes, I realise you may have all of that wonderful explicit knowledge captured in knowledge sharing repositories and that you may have a rather solid content management repository strategy, but did you know that only accounts for about 5% of the total amount of knowledge and information generated by your workforce? Indeed, that small fraction.

It’s not such a bad thing to complement such wonderful CMS strategies with the adoption of social software tools where tacit knowledge could flourish in a rather rich environment and get combined with all of that Intellectual Capital your business has been capturing for decades. Why neglect the fact that most of the work done today gets carried out through those informal tacit knowledge exchanges where individuals are more in control of their work and knowledge flows giving them an opportunity to manage, much better than anyone did in the recent past, their own personal knowledge? Why neglect the best of both worlds when they complement each other so nicely? Remember, right now, right as we speak, you are already missing out on 95% of all of the knowledge "available" out there.

2. You’ll get viruses: Errr, no, thanks! I’m a Mac, I work with my iPhone, my iPod Touch and my iPad, sitting right next to my MacBook Pro. Viruses? No, not for this knowledge worker, I am afraid. But even if I were on a Windows platform, I trust the links and information / knowledge shared by my social networks and know exactly what to click and what not. That’s why nurturing them has taken so much effort and energy over the course of the years. They are my social collaborative filter and they feed me with the best content available out there, and no viruses at all. Remember trust? I trust them to help me find the right information, just as much as they trust me to do my bit of sharing and feed them back with what they need. No stinking viruses over here. Thanks very much!

1. Your competition isn’t using it, so why should you?: Oh, dear, think again, please; if you are worried about what your competition is doing, or not doing, you are asking the wrong question. It’s not what your competition is doing, but more why are your customers already talking to your competition using all of these social tools and engaging on meaningful and trustworthy conversations? You should be asking yourself why are they talking about your competitors’ products and not your own? You should be asking yourself why are they becoming the brand of your competitors’ products so strongly that other customers and business partners are starting to pay attention to them and listening to them?

That’s the set of questions you should be asking about. Whether we like it or not, we are at a point in time where social networking tools are just so pervasive that there isn’t any business out there which may not have been toying with the idea of improving the way they work, collaborate and share their knowledge with customers, as well as internally, using these social tools. You should not be an exception. You can’t afford it at this point in time. If you have, you have already missed out a huge opportunity.

Social media, or social computing / networking, whatever term you may want to use at this point in time, although there are some slight differences, depending on the emphasis you would want to give them, are no longer a fad; they are here to stay. They are the ones that are changing business, and how we do work, at a rather fast and rampant path, just like they did with our society changing us all for good; and it is no longer a matter of whether we would want to jump into the bandwagon or not. It’s a matter that if we don’t, we can count the years before we become extinct, as a company, because we wouldn’t be capable of sustaining such labour based businesses in the knowledge economy of the 21st century.

Oh, in case you may not have realised it just yet, the train has already left! Hope you managed to jump in …

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