I’d like to stress the importance of a communicator’s understanding and participation in what’s going on outside the corporate firewalls as a vital aspect to succeeding internally with Sharepoint’s panoply of social media tools. Beyond the configuration and intranet governance issues that must go in to a proper Sharepoint deployment, let’s not forget that something organic has grown up around us — something we can’t control anymore; namely, two- way conversations and dialoguing on the likes of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn at the kind of engagement levels that we as communicators would kill to have inside our organizations.

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I believe our required reading on this topic, if any, lay out there — in understanding the premises of social media I think we uncover why these social media channels are so popular. Not the “Sharepoint for Dummies” isn’t a stimulating read, but are you still a dummy after you’ve read it…always wondered about that 😉

Social media is useful to me because there’s a lot of smart people out there from whom I can learn; in fact, I’m sure I could learn something for every one of you. That’s one of the premises of social media.

Organizations that wrestle with the premises of social media may not fully buy-in to the value of consensus and inclusive (in our case, employee) feedback —  let’s face it, not all of us grew up trusting the wisdom of crowds and the value of consensus; certainly Boomers were taught to question this very thing. Yet I don’t think many of us would argue the value of employee feedback as the basis for informed senior leader decision-making, would we?

Social media is a golden opportunity for communicators to deliver a consensus-driven decision-making model: Sharepoint provides the tools
to help senior leaders lead with transparency in the style of Mr. Obama (his prescient use of social media in the last election), and I believe this is the real value to organizations. The ability to deliver data from internal social media that reflects a consensus among employees is something tangible communicators can bring to the table. Senior leaders need a pulse check from their front-line and they need it more frequently than an annual employee engagement survey. This presents an opportunity for communicators using Sharepoint with social media.

Our social media communication strategy must deliver leadership transparency. One can’t expect to change a corporate culture from risk-averse to transparent by setting up a few blogs for senior leaders or the CEO, or simply encouraging employees to populate their My Site employee profile with personal information in the hope that this will somehow mushroom into a Facebook-like usability craze among employees.

Communicators can deliver value to the enterprise with Sharepoint’s RSS feed capability, for example, which kicks out an e-mail to notify you of blog updates — a blog in which you specifically expressed interest and to which you willingly subscribed to receive updates. That’s a bit different than the top-down cascaded corporate messaging pattern of old — this is targeted messaging and a reduction in unwanted e-mail. Every blog also invites opportunities for two-way communication on posts, leading to a lively two-way or multi-layered conversation thread among many participants.

Social polling invites blog readers to comment on a post in a number of different ways, some of which are non-threatening, leading to greater collaboration. Workgroups can “follow” other team members to boost collaboration (with their permission, of course), receiving updates on team or individual progress on activities, work assignments or projects. Whole teams can easily create and edit a document — a 401(k) Summary Plan Description, for example, or a set of intranet governance rules — with version updates made clearly visible in a collaborative wiki workspace.

Micro-blogging applications like Twitter and Yammer (not one of Sharepoint’s out-of-the-box capabilities) have been used effectively by CEOs and corporate marketers as immediate sounding boards and feedback mechanisms for products and ideas, and have proven to be very useful platform for real-time updates (Tweets) during a crisis.

Sharepoint with social media offers previously unknown possibilities to gather unfiltered feedback and facilitate the right conversation and collaboration among employees.

Photo credit: psd’s photostream, licensed under Creative Commons.

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