Collecting Souls: Knowing Your Social Media Strategy – Part Two

In Part One , I wrote about how I choose to use Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, and Twitter. Those are all “external” social media outlets, in that they are available to anyone on the World Wide Web (assuming that their government or employer doesn’t block them or some other such nonsense).

But what of SharePoint? As with almost all of my blog posts, this one comes back to SharePoint. You thought I’d let you get away without it this time?

Those of you who use SharePoint inside your organizations may already be wrestling with you own social strategy for My Site alone in SharePoint 2007 or the expanded social features in SharePoint 2010. I’m a one-man show, so I don’t have those issues; no one would ever look at my My Site profile!

I’ve been thinking about the “social” aspects of SharePoint a lot lately because of some work I’m doing. Many organizations struggle with how to think about using social features in the enterprise because, while they may use the phrase “Facebook for the Enterprise”, that’s not really what they want. They want people to be doing their work, and doing it better than they would without SharePoint and its social capabilities. They don’t want people frittering away the day with their profiles and status updates a la Facebook.

Similar questions arose ten years ago or so when all of the instant messaging platforms really went mainstream and people we’re all of a sudden pinging each other asking what was for lunch. Many organizations were easily able to block these services because they initially lived outside the firewall. However, they eventually saw value in the technology and now many, many organizations have some type of instant messaging in house.

“Social” stuff is going through some of the same growing pains. Organizations are trying to understand how social can bring value and ROI while not becoming a waste of time. They are also trying to figure out what “social’ actually is, and the definitions vary from place to place. There’s a fairly high investment to get a platform like SharePoint up and running (which is probably happening for other reasons, mainly). To get the social features of SharePoint up to snuff, there seems to almost always be a need to layer on some third party tools like those from CubeTree, NewsGator, or others, or to do some significant custom development. These add-ons add even more to the cost and time to implement. So it’s a non-trivial set of decisions about how or whether to move forward with building social media into the enterprise.

What most organizations want is the new idea of the ‘connected enterprise”, and not just “social”. They want to make serendipitous connections between people which can result in innovation or leaps in efficiency. Understanding exactly how to do that within each organization is a tricky problem to solve. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. I expect that it will take at least a few years for most organizations to even understand where to start with all of this.

In the meantime, the Web at large will be moving forward as rapidly as it always does. Who knows what will be de rigeur by the time most organizations make their first serious forays into social media or the connected enterprise internally? Will they do it well? Will they go “all in”? I look forward to working with more organizations as they undertake this next step in their SharePoint Journeys.