Friday, November 4, 2011

Social is the new KM

People are getting Social Media, Social Networking, Learning and Knowledge Management (KM) mixed up thanks to a few misleading blog posts by two of my former colleagues at Gartner. Or are they? If you read the responses at HBR, you will see that people are calling them on it. To be fair, Jeff Mann does get it and his blog is also counter what was being said (see his blog).

First, on taxonomy, here is how I explain social terminology to clients. 

Social Media is generally viewed as the public consumer grade sites, microblogs, forums etc. where discussions or chats take place (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Linked-in, Youtube, Second Life). Using Social Media to market your products and support your customers is a good use of these mediums. 

Using Social Media to talk about your work is a bad idea, mainly because so many people are listening, including bad people that want to steal the intellectual property of the firm you work for. In fact, one of the research notes my firm recently published is titled, "Facebook is not a friend of your Enterprise". 

Social Networks, particularly Enterprise Social Networks are private communities, which when implemented properly with identity and access control, are safe places for people to share information, connect with people and accelerate the pace of knowledge dissemination at a company. Many enterprises are still formulating their social networking plans. They have deployed customer communities to build brand loyalty but often the internal social network is still a few steps behind.

On Knowledge Management, when Social Networking (an internal or external community) is done right, with certified profiles of people (what they are trained or certified on), and with the ability to collaborate with others informally, lots of great things start to happen. First, people in remote geographies connect with others, they solve problems and influence each other by the content and comments they share. Often there is an acceleration factor that kicks in, because the pace of interaction is faster and wider.

From a learning perspective, tying formal learning to informal activities, related content and discussions, is now referred to as Social Learning. It is real and it does work. There usually is an ecosystem manager that facilitates the correlation of formal training with some of the informal content, but at the end of the day, the Social Network, as it gets used more and more, becomes the Knowledge Network. People can search it and find what they need.

Since I've actually overseen the development of Social Networking platforms and also deployed Social Networks, I recently conducted a short poll of some Sales Execs who had been using one of the Communities for over a year. My simple question to them was this: "what do you use to find the information you need to do your job now?" Their answer was "we just search the network (community) and we find what we need". 

So, in reality, as an Enterprise Social Network gets used more, it will evolve into a Knowledge Network. People find what they need to do their jobs or they can ask someone in the community who can point them in the right direction. It is self-curated and self-sustaining, with a little help from the community manager and IT.

Hopefully, this has helped to clarify things. Social Networking and Social Learning are the new KM. We are covering Knowledge as one of our key topics in our Workplace Service at Aragon Research.

(Note: Jim Lundy is the Founder and CEO of Aragon Research.  He founded and led the Social Software and Collaboration team at Gartner and oversaw the Corporate Learning coverage for ten years).

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