My previous post about closing the social media gap raised some interesting discussion on twitter around how we start to approach the issue of narrowing the gap between those who are active in social media and those that are not, for various reasons – getting access to such websites is still a major block, but also and more importantly is the term “social”.
Social as a term for practically nearly all managers and senior managers in local government (through my limited experience) is something that conjures images of staff not working and chatting in corridors or by coffee machines exchanging stories about the weekend football match or even the latest gossip.
But fundamentally organisations are powered by social interactions in one form or another, however because we don’t often capture these kinds of “informal” social interactions in formal business workflow we fail to recognise that they exist at all. This is one of the reasons why in my view the term “social” is counter productive, it actually becomes a pain in the a**e when trying to engage people in conversation.
The interesting part of the twitter discussion was actually when we started to talk about what word or words we could use instead of social. The trouble here is, I don’t think a single term works to solve this issue.
I think the most logical way to approach it is to focus on the business challenges and outcomes and then consider how a new set of tools can support, resolve or even solve those challenges. Again my rule number 1 is critical.
An example here is some colleagues our workforce development team wanted to promote the use of the internet and of course some of the social platforms that exist as a way to support self-directed learning within the workplace. Social tools were part of the solution and the word social didn’t come into play at any point really and we had a good level of response from people. It might sound tactical but we did social by stealth and it worked.
So my current view is that use terminology that is context specific to ensure that your audience are able to engage in conversation and dialogue about the possibilities and opportunities of using new tools.
We can’t however ignore that the generic term of social media and social networking represent a set of tools which many of us exploit individually and organisationally…but we should focus on what we are doing and not on how we are doing it.