One of the main inhibitors with regards to a successful adoption of social software within the enterprise that I keep bumping into from fellow knowledge workers and, specially, their managers!, is that perception that social networking, you know, “things” like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like are just for fun. Social spaces where you goof off at work and get away with it, because they are all hyped and everything, and everyone needs to be there. No business value. No value add at all. They have never been meant as serious (social) applications people can use to do business with their customers and business partners. Well, if there is anything the recent tragic events happening in Japan have proved, with both the earthquake and the follow-up tsunami and over the last couple of days the nuclear threat, is that realistic fact, now more than ever!, that Social Networking can be serious. *Very* serious. It can help an entire country and its government react quicker and much more effectively and transparently, reach out faster where it really needs to, have a purpose to re-establish the normal as soon as possible and help a local event with global impact go global itself by allowing millions of people from from all over the place be kept in the know and start gathering forces around trying to help those in need. Can you imagine the last few days without the speed of light response from the Social Web in such an unprecedented tragedy?
No, I couldn’t either! In fact, last Friday I didn’t feel like I had too much energy to go ahead and put together the daily blog entry I usually do over here in this blog. I felt like I had lost my blogging mojo for the day, since I was just too much worried trying to find out whether my fellow IBM colleagues and other friends in Japan were doing all right or whether something terrible happened to them. My first natural instinct was not that one of picking up the phone and call them, or check out in the (TV) news whether I could find some local phone numbers I could call from afar, or fire up an email to them hoping they would respond back and confirm they were doing ok, or check Google, or whatever other search engine, in order to try to find out more. No, my first initial instinct was to go on Twitter, where we follow each other on a regular basis, and check my timeline. I was just starting my day when the disaster happened and usually that routine of catching up with previous tweets just became ever so much more important and critical than anything else.
I couldn’t do any work or focus on any other thing other than trying to confirm, through Twitter, they were all doing just fine. I guess I never expected to see 140 characters or less having such a significant importance trying to get the news on a local event with global proportions. Lucky enough, as I kept going through that timeline I could confirm how most of them, through Mentions and DMs, were doing just fine. Shocked, shaken and whatever else, as one could imagine, but they were all doing just fine. Goodness, what a sign of relief went through my spine, after I could locate the last one of my Japanese friends (And a bunch of non-Japanese friends living there as well) and and they were all ok. Time to move on. Time to check the rest of the timeline and see how everyone else was doing; my fellow colleague, Luis Benitez, shared this priceless tweet in his timeline:
Phew! Another good sign of relief! IBM-J seems to be doing just fine, considering the circumstances, and recovering as well as they could possibly do, considering what have just happened, and is still happening… I guess this is something that we are all bound to get exposed to more and more; in a rather distributed, virtual and dispersed global world (IBM, as an example, has got a presence in 170 countries), where local catastrophes with a global impact seem to have increased, or, at least, our own perception of them, we are bound to experience how social networking tools can surely make a difference on how we are kept in the know, but also how we can help in a rather direct manner and get involved. Ray Wang put it quite nicely as well with this tweet he shared on Friday:
And while I am putting together this blog post on this topic, now that things are starting to sink in to a certain degree, I just couldn’t help remembering another entry I wrote in October 2007 and which I think is today, March 2011, more relevant than ever before: “Twitter and the Power of Micro-Blogging in Emergencies“. Back then I was referencing a short YouTube video clip that my good friend David Stephenson put together under the title “Use Twitter to let family know you’re ok in disaster” where he highlights exactly what a bunch of us did on Friday, and haven’t stopped doing over the course of the last couple of days, reaching out to our relatives and friends in Japan to find out how they were doing and whether we could help further. It’s interesting to see how something that was broadcasted over four years ago is making the rounds again today with more relevancy than ever before!
Now, a lot has been written all over the place out there over the last few days. The links I have been sharing over here, in this post, are just a small fraction of the millions of mentions and writings published on these tragic events that have been happening in Japan over the weekend; and Japan’s recent and dramatic events are not the only ones happening lately, by far! It’s probably impossible to link to them all and perhaps we shouldn’t. We should go out there and find the relevant information for each and everyone of us or, even better, let the information find you, as Stowe Boyd would probably say; let your social networks feed you with what you need so that you can make smarter decisions, that matter, not just to you, but those who you are connected with. That, folks, is the real value of social networking. At least, for me. Forget about the business for a minute. In such tragic and catastrophic events like what Japan has gone through in the last few days connecting and reaching out through your social networks in a matter of a seconds, nearly at the speed of light, across the world, to find out not only what’s going on, but what you can do to help out is just so much more important and relevant today with our own use of social networks. It’ll be basically a matter of survival for us all, without a doubt: engaging, transparent and nimble, right where it matters.
We will keep talking about social networking for business another day. For today, I am sticking around with #prayforjapan…