Using social media to achieve organisational goals – the next steps

Blog by Elisabeth Goodman

A shift from skepticism about, to evangelism for Social Media?

On 19th January, NetIKX hosted what proved to be a very successful seminar on this theme, with speakers Dr Hazel Hall1 and Nicky Whitsed2.   It was a follow-on seminar to one hosted the previous year, where we had introduced our members to a range of social media tools, and questioned if and how NetIKX might use them and also guide people in their use3.

Although our January 2010 seminar was also very popular, there was still some skepticism about the value of social media tools, and how organisations might use them.  This time, as Hazel commented to me in an aside at the end of the meeting, the tone was perhaps more one of how organisations might be persuaded to adopt the wider use of social media.

Social Media can be used by Library and Information Departments for a diverse range of purposes

Our speakers described the wide range of uses that social media tools can be put to, and their ability, beyond that of the previous tools available to us, to connect people as well as data and information.  We and our customers, can use social media tools for:

  • Collaborating on projects and for learning through wikis and ‘tweet-ups’
  • For staff development, teaching and training e.g. through ‘amplified events’ where someone present at an event will be sharing the content through Twitter with those who cannot attend.  Or by posting a recording of the event for others to access afterwards.  The Open University use Illuminate to run and record such events.
  • Providing virtual reference sources
  • Seeking feedback or peer review on planned presentations (which Hazel did for this presentation)
  • For gaining a better understanding of customer needs leading to new service developments

As Nicky pointed out, it’s important to understand the tools that our customers are using, and to be able to deliver services through those.  In fact her department has a ‘digilab’ where they have all the latest technology and social media tools, enabling their staff to become familiar with their use, and experiment with new ways of delivering their services.

The adoption of Social Media will be evolutionary, with some people leading the way

In the syndicate discussion groups that followed the presentations, delegates discussed the already visible evolutionary pathway in the adoption of social media by organisations.

Human Resources departments are using tools such as LinkedIn to learn about potential recruits.

Sales and Marketing teams are using Twitter and monitoring the web to find out and in some cases respond to what their customers are saying, monitor the competition and also influence the perception of their organisation.

Some companies are using tools such as Yammer internally to try out the use of such tools, or even to support the ‘crowd-sourcing’ of ideas in project management or general problem resolution4.

There needs to be a fine balance between policies and trust

It’s certain that organisations need some form of policy for the use of social media to address such issues as security and ethical behaviour.  Nicky shared details of sites such as http:/socialmediagovernance.com that can help us with that.  However, policies need to allow sufficient scope so as not to discourage the use of social media.

Library and Information professionals could influence the policies within organisations, and even encourage the adoption of values or competencies within performance review frameworks that promote knowledge sharing through social media tools.

As we discussed in one of the syndicate groups, people are used to assessing and building trust through face-to-face interactions.  Social media users are now finding proxies for building that trust, for example by relying on the judgment of those whom they know already, seeing which postings are re-tweeted by others, reviewing the posting history of new people that they ‘meet’ online.

Increased adoption of social media by organisations will require a cultural change

Again, as put by one of the syndicate groups, we are operating in a ‘perpetual beta’ environment.  This is a shift for organisations that are used to making decisions on well-established software with a firm support infrastructure.

As Hazel put it, we also have a ‘youngster elders’ scenario, where people who are perhaps more used to leading and being the authority on subjects, need to be open to seeking guidance from the more knowledgeable younger generation (as some of us may already be doing at home!).

Hazel and Nicky described how Library and Information professionals can play a role in guiding and supporting the evolutionary adoption of social media tools by:

  • Demonstrating how the tools can be used
  • Experimenting and developing our own capabilities, as well as giving our users the opportunity to experiment
  • Providing training e.g. in digital literacy

Concluding thoughts

The use of social media tools in the organisation should be part of Library and Information Management strategy but they tend to be owned by Security.  We need to help organisations to switch from an emphasis on the risk of using social media, to the risk of not using these tools.

Notes

  1. Dr Hazel Hall is Director of the Centre for Social Informatics in the School of Computing at Edinburgh Napier University. She is also leads the implementation of the UK Library and Information Science Research Coalition. Hazel was named IWR Information Professional of the Year in December 2009.
  2. Nicky Whitsed is Director of Library Services at the Open University.  She is an experienced strategic and change manager having led successful projects in the commercial, medical and academic fields. Nicky is trained in project management and facilitation and also has experience as a trainer. She has served on a number of CILIP and JISC committees and on a number of editorial boards.
  3. Elisabeth Goodman and Suzanne Burge presented on ‘Social networking tools – should they be taken seriously’ in January 2010.  See Elisabeth’s presentation: “Using LinkedIn, blogs and Twitter for networking and communities of interest”
  4. See related blog by Matthew Loxton on crowd-sourcing
  5. Whilst writing this blog, several of the participants at the seminar also shared their accounts of the meeting.See for example the following:
  6. Elisabeth Goodman is the Programme Events Manager for NetIKX, and is also the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, providing 1:1 guidance, training / workshops and support for enhancing team effectiveness through process improvement, knowledge and change management. She also provides 1:1 tutorials, seminars and workshops on the use of LinkedIn and other social media. Read Elisabeth Goodman’s blog for more discussions on topics covered by this blog.
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4 Responses to Using social media to achieve organisational goals – the next steps

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