The Three Business Opportunities of Social Media/Software

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I’ve been attending the Gartner Symposium Event in Cannes this week and my brain has been bombarded with so much information on so many topics and I won’t be using this post to share all I learnt but instead i’ll share some snippets around social media and in particular the Business Use of Social Media/Software.

It wasn’t a surprise to me to hear so much about the benefits of social media at a technology event, but what did surprise me was that there wasn’t many people there who actually used it.  There was a symposium tweet-up arranged via twitter for the Wednesday and only 6 people attended  -  yes i was one of them, so a lot of work to do in terms of awareness and understanding if anyone thinks this stuff will impact the business model. You can follow or catch up on the tweets from the Gartner Symposium events on twitter.

So on that note i thought it would be a good idea to start to bring the issue of business use into some context for people based on a number of Gartner sessions i attended and one in particular facilitated by a very good analyst Ed Thompson, who as it happened gave another excellent presentation on Customer Experience (more to follow on this one in a separate post).

Gartner highlight three separate and logical areas to guide thinking and implementation approaches to these tools and technologies within organisations.

I’m going to share my perspective on these areas:

1) Internal -  “your people, your place”
Essentially this area is about looking at the internal opportunities that are there for you. This is an area which I personally feel will deliver great benefits not just around the learning but in supporting a wide range of internal business issues.

It is important to remember that unless your organisation has articulated business issues you will struggle to get buy in or support.
Some potential business issues you might hear which you could link to these tools are as follows: NB this list is an example and is not comprehensive. It also doesn’t imply any particular approach.

- people finder or skills finder (internal staff directory)
- project spaces and business collaboration
- real-time or near real-time internal communications (yes email is an option but that isn’t always collaborative)
- learning communities and peer support groups

2) External – “your people, other people, your place”

The second area that Gartner referred to was external but a platform that was managed by the organisation. An example of this would be where you host a community function for people to discuss and or support each other like a helpdesk community support function. In local government terms this is a challenge as we need to be careful about trying to create communities that we intend to be organic. So the difference here is that we are clear and open about what we would expect such a community to do or what broad outcomes we would expect.
Again some potential business issues you might here to link to would be as follows:

-  service improvement function
- service user support community
- shared communities of practice
- project spaces and collaboration with partners and other organisations

3) Public – “your people, other people, their place”

This aspect is the area that to be honest most people focus on, it includes facebook environments, twitter, youtube etc. This is where stuff (for most social media people) get interesting. However this is also where most fear resides and organisations are low in awareness around the possibilities, case studies, return on investment figures. BUT this is where the MOST VALUE will be gained to all.

Again some possible business issues (not comprehensive) you might come across which could be linked into these solutions or approaches – however i stress and i say this all the time now. Don’t focus on a single technology, do your homework, work out what will actually deliver the value in any given circumstance.

- connecting and engaging with communities
- civic debate and discussion
- trend spotting, listening to the social web community or as Gartner refer to it “the collective” can provide insights into what might be the next big opportunity or next big issue developing.
- people to people connections
- building relationships

All of the above requires a different viewpoint on the traditional way of looking at things. The social space is ALL about the relationships between people and the benefits that spin-off from those interactions. We are now moving into a more focused look at people to people relationships (P2P) – In these difficult times, the potential to interact with people becomes even more important, for all of the issues i have given as examples.

What is interesting about this is that it has always been about P2P but dressed up and disguised as business to business or business to consumer – what drives those agenda = People.

The challenge for anyone wanting to explore the world of social media and social software is to learn more about how people interact and the connections and networks people have. I for one am very excited by this prospect and look forward to learning more over the coming months and years.