Should This Blog Link to Twitter (Part 2): What the Enterprise Demands from Social Media

02Nov08

So last time around, I was wondering whether I should continue to link my Twitter (and Facebook), which tend to have personal-oriented (and possibly problematic) content, to this blog, which is much more of a business vehicle. Naturally that begs the larger question: how is social software in general, and enterprise social media in particular, coping with the blend of business and personal begat by social media?

It’s still very early days, but I’d like to explore three aspects: How the enterprise is responding to social media and what it demands; some of the features/functions that have arisen in social media to attempt to moderate behavior; and finally the inherent inability of technical solutions to provide a way asynchronously manage the appropriateness of one’s behavior. I’ll tackle the first two below, and the last in the next post. And but so…

What the enterprise demands from social media: control

Web 2.0 is about openness. It’s about the freedom to interact with others, unfettered by controls. Putting roadblocks around people or things only strangles the community. The old top-down hierachy of corporations is dead, and Web 2.0 will unshackle employee communities to let them communicate and collaborate free of any corporate controls.

Yeah, right. To quote Animal Mother from “Full Metal Jacket”: “Wake up, dreamboy.” Corporations may be buying into some of the advdertised benefits of Web 2.0 for employee collaboration, but many (seriously, many) of them will demand careful controls for how people can interact and the ability to control the conversation. Some will do so for regulatory reasons (Big Pharma and banks in particular), and some will do so because they’re big companies and that’s just the way they are. If the solution provider cannot offer a level of control appropriate to their risk-aversion, well then forget it.

Some features/functions that have arisen in social media which attempt to moderate behavior

SelectMinds has been working in this world for awhile, so I think we’ve got a pretty good idea of how the big, risk-averse organization is willing to approach Web 2.0. Some of the requirements are:

  • Contribution pre-approval. Every feature built must allow client-owners to moderate end-user-submitted content before it’s live to site. Does this slow down the conversation of the end users…even drive down usage a little? Sure. But the enterprise simply won’t buy the solution if they can’t have control. Eventually they’ll realize that end-users are behaving themselves and trust some of the other controls built in, including…
  • No anonymous posting. The enterprise social media system must have only approved, vetted members, and those members’ names will be attached to everything they post. You’re less likely to flame the company when you’re name will appear, bold and linked to your profile, at the bottom of your post.
  • Controls for who can post to what. The enterprise is naturally sensitive about ensuring that the “proper” people are submitting content into vetted areas, and will demand the ability to regulate who has the ability to contribute to which areas.
  • Naughty word filter. Sure, it’s easy to get around it by typing “f*ck”, but in every prospect meeting I’m in, to a one, a discussion of discussion-board functionality leads someone to ask “but what if someone uses a swear word?” It’s literally better to just have the ability to block certain words than to attempt to defuse the client’s fear of naughtiness.
  • Community policing. We’ve grown accustomed to seeing buttons reading “Report abuse” or “Flag as in appropriate”. This kind of community-self-policing is just as important in the enterprise social media context, especially when, eventually, you convince your client to trust the community and remove pre-approval requirements.

Now you know a bit more about what the enterprise is demanding from social media, and some of the features (both for enterprise, as well as consumer social networks) that help regulate behavior.

Next time, I’ll discuss why tech cannot completely save people from themselves: the inabilty of people to synch themselves to a persistent but asynchronous social environment.

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