Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Social 'radio tuning' : static or single station....which is best?

When I talk to friends and co-workers about my role in enabling social computing strategy,I get some interesting reactions.  Many of them say that Social Media (especially Twitter)  it is just a bunch of 'noise'.  As a novice user, I also struggle with wading through the millions of pieces of available information to find the ones that are valuable for me.  But, isn't that what makes social media different than traditional websites?

A radio analogy has been used in my interviews with IBM experts on this topic. Some say that it's best to have everyone participating on different radio frequencies, which could be perceived as 'noise' to some.  It's up to the listener to figure out which they want to listen to.  Their view is that it would get very boring if without the variety of social 'radio stations'.  On the other side of the spectrum, some experts belive that employees should clearly understand the company message, and work to strengthen that common message.  In this way, it makes it easier for the listener to 'tune in' to a clear station and participate quickly.  The downside of this view is that a repeat of the company 'line' is not very interesting to many.  They could get this same type of one-way communication from traditional marketing channels.

I personally think that differing opinions and views are what make social media successful.  But .. if you want your message to come across clearer than other 'stations', you need to get validation from your peers.  Convincing listeners to listen to your 'station' is the hardest part of this new social world.  In some ways, tips and education can help you achieve that goal.  More importantly though ... you have to have a message that is interesting and unique. Without uniqueness, you will fall into the static.   This needs to be balanced with supporting company goals.  Employees who participate in social networks on topics related to their day job (in their own voice) have a responsibility to understand what their company is trying to accomplish, and think about how their social participation fits.  It's an interesting balance, and is one that will evolve over time.

Companies need to think about what their strategy is, so that they can provide appropriate guidance and education to their employees.  There is not single answer here, and I welcome discussion.  What do you think?

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