By Marc Solomon posted 03-15-2012 14:09


Psst ... hey ... yeah you.

You social engineers getting certified in Business Facebook applications!

Remember what-you-see-is-what-you-get? Probably not unless reinventing yourself for a living is measured in decades. For you digital natives I'm describing how dinosaurs like me once crawled out of our darkened caves of DOS. Back in the late eighties the notion that our interfaces would actually reflect our dot matrix print-outs was an epiphany (that's where our documents were all headed back then, right?)

The great thing about it was you knew where you stood. The outcome on your screen was reproducible. Park that file on a floppy and your friend with the 10 MEG hard drive could see it too. It was the infancy of a new kind of printing press. What we didn't know about the paperless void that awaited us is the security that the paper gave us. We knew how many copies we'd run off, where they'd been circulated, and roughly the profile of the folks who had your layouts, graphics, and arguments in their hands. It wasn't world-wide or moving or making sounds but it was a level of control and transparency that packed the staying power of a flowering Polaroid.

Flash forward to the dawn of "the" Facebook circa 2005:

The moment we decode our thoughts the only thing standing between our expressiveness and the cryogenics archives is the indifference of our colossal and anonymous communities. Until keyboards come equipped with ears for tuning into keystrokes of genius, we'll be banished to "the new dark." Together alone. Old messages. New bottles. Voiceless discoveries wondering whether the people in our social orbits can share in our experience. Quick answer: 'course not! In social media what you see is what you interpret. These are not static inventories of text any more than our connections are a recessive flock of lurkers or even receptive band of onlookers.

Message from 2020 to 2005: There is no audience. If you're looking for distinctions, think engagement levels -- not content consumers.

Okay, back to the here and now.

It's in this cacophony of muffled experiences and tentative expectations that the social media curtain was raised within the confines of large services firms. From one extreme of tight-fisted control, we have leapt to the opposite extreme of unrehearsed community-building. No script. No change management roadmap baked into the recipe for success or even defining what success means.

One critical success factor? WYSIWYG 2.0 gets my knod. If those tentative steps off the social business platform are any indication the number one confronting our reluctant late-comers is not about brushing up on the latest apps and features but preening and probing in that new hall of mirrors:

What can you see that I don't?
What can I conduct in private and then invite a select group of team members at my discretion?  

These are not just passing hesitations for a bashful user base. These are no just executive-level insecurities surfacing as personal vanities. These questions push ahead of any potential opportunity gains or the most basic community-building efforts. Is my avatar out of focus? Are the views I share in my blog out of step with firm policies? Honestly, they can miss the next update cycle if I'm not clear on my WYSIWYG bearings:

"Basically, who can see what? Otherwise I can't tell the noise from the knowledge. Otherwise how do I figure out what's worth investing a part of my work day towards understanding?

There is no single recipe for baking change management into the cultural traditions of a large services organization. But if the adoption of SharePoint 2010 as the de facto enterprise content platform is any indication, then governance is the single biggest ingredient. Of course nothing has forced the issue of who-sees-what out of the maintenance closet  more than SharePoint governance. Chiefly: the deliberations around how corporate policies play out around what gets dragged into or dropped from enterprise interfaces.

If we want to deal with the inevitable as a force for good I would transition what we've learned from our SharePoint deployments. These lessons underscore three overriding factors in the bottom-up adoption of social business media:

1) COMING AND GOING: Connections

Big, impersonal enterprises are famous for counting "who you know" as the way to unblock bottlenecks and transcend their own bureaucracies. Large organizations can be clumsy around the question of how you come to know them. Did you work your way up through the ranks together? Did you stop along the way to sample the broader organization and how smart leaders piece together solutions falling outside the standard portfolio? Did you punch the most direct ticket to partnership, staying closer to the rails and to the exclusion of colleagues with complementary skills and often interdependent needs and resources? The ability of social media savvy managers to self-select their working communities is the most sweeping panoramic view into organizational needs and assets since the invention of the org chart -- and a trifle less static -- no?  

2) EXIT: Internal Hierarchies

Remember George W. Bush and the megaphone at Ground Zero. Allies and critics agree. It symbolized the high water mark of his two administrations. My point here? Nothing promotes teamwork better than a big shot tossing off his suit jacket and joining in a bucket brigade. In the case of social business that means pitching in to answer a question or address a concern voiced in an activity stream. In WYSIWYG 2.0 the whole stigma around who should "be seen" with whom  doesn't disappear completely. But a CXO in search of a gut check can now wade into the weeds from the privacy of his corner office or from the primacy of his bully pulpit.

3) ENTER: Market Realities

See the pecking order exiting by the rear door? It's taking another time-honored game not worthy of winning along with it. It's called fixating on internal customers to the exclusion of focusing on actual clients. When the market speaks, it's more eloquent than the most thoughtful governance or the most resolute leadership. It's the clarifying resolution of a win or a sale or a revenue bounce.

Even those porous borders between our work identities and our social media selves can attest to that. After all, if a prospective buyer is looking for guidance on our products and services, who is she going to listen to -- our CEO in the press release or the irate customers sounding off on Twitter? The marketplace has spoken. And it's not waiting for our keyboards to grow ears.

What you see is not necessarily what you get. And what you hear is not necessarily what was said. Unless you hosted what was posted on your social business platform.

#usability #useradoption #governance #socialmedia #leadership #SharePoint #GUI #ScanningandCapture #culture #SocialBusiness