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

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Social Networking Gets Serious – #prayforjapan

Gran Canaria - Almond Trees Blooming Around Soria's DamOne 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:


@lbenitez on #earthquake


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:


@rwang on social networks and natural disasters

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

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  1. I don’t think LinkedIn has no value. I have had many customers and partners connect with me through LinkedIn with valuable questions to their business.

    Outside of that, yes, these tools are being used as a mass tool for many things today. They are changing the world.

    1. Hi Bob! Thanks a lot for dropping by and for the great feedback! Appreciated how you have validated the business use of LinkedIn to reach out and stay in touch with your customers and business partners and how something so compelling as networking can be taken into the next level. Your story surely confirms the need to have an external presence, and a relevant one, for certain!

      Yes, social networks are changing the world and it’s good to have reminders like this one that keep telling us why and how we should pay attention and, somehow, glad we are; slowly, but steadily…

      Thanks again!

  2. Hi Luis – great post! Couldn’t agree more (throw on top of this how Twitter and FB played – and continue to play – a major role in the Middle East upheavals!

    FYI – I was made aware that in addition to the communication and updates being fed through Twitter and FB, a LOT of information was being shared by the domestic Twitter-like site, Mixi (http://mixi.jp/).

    I wish – and have been complaining on a few sites – that Mixi should go global in their operations and connectivity given that the Japanese population is very globally dispersed, and that this tragic disaster has amplified the necessity to have the communication lines be global.

    1. Hi Matt! Wonderful comments and very inspiring contribution! Indeed, it’s interesting to see the kind of positive role that social networking tools are playing on a global scale for global events with a significant impact on our local communities. Quite an (r)evolution!

      Interesting commentary as well about Mixi not going global and try to reach out to the millions of Japanese citizens who are scattered around the world and whom I am sure would have found it tremendously helpful to tap into that social networking tool to connect and reach out with their local families and relatives, in Japan. Perhaps this tragic set of events could help open up the doors for that global expansion… What do you think?

      Again, thanks much for the feedback! 🙂

  3. Hi, Luis,
    you perfectly outlined how Social Media was serving you personally in the crisis situation; and that there are times, when business is second. However one can add the business aspect as well (no contradiction): Social Media has done (at least in Ericsson – comparably large to IBM that the ties go beyond the personal) a great business job in communication and as such also in crisis management. In the future no serious Business Continuity Plan (including of course health and safety) should neglect the use of Social Media.

    1. Hi Gerald! Many thanks for dropping by and for the kind comments! Greatly appreciated! I think you are spot on with that last comment regarding the Business Continuity Plan neglecting the use of Social Media. That’s definitely something no business should afford not touching base on it!

      In fact, one of our executives, Sandy Carter, has been advocating all along to “Design for Reputation AND Risk Management” and when looking into these global events and the potential impact within the corporate world, it’s surely becoming much more accurate than ever before.

      I wonder what 2.0 skeptics will be saying now, in 2011, about social media being a fad and everything… Time for a re-think, don’t you think? 🙂

      Thanks again for the feedback comments!

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