“Hey you should totally join Yammer – here’s the link!” – or something like that arrives either in your inbox or instant message. “Sure” you think, “Why not”. So you register, confirm your email go to Yammer. “Great…. errr now what?”
“Social Networks and Social Media are just a waste of time”
You may have also signed up to Facebook, found a bunch of friends and family, read all their status updates and seen the 200 pictures of their dog/cat/child. You may have figured Twitter must be good because Ashton Kutcher is tweeting so it must be good, right?… and then suddenly you think “Nothing is happening” and never use them again.
If this rings true, don’t worry, it’s not uncommon. Social Networks and Social Media (the two are different) deviate from the traditional web experience you may have expected. We live in the “entertain me” society where, unless we’re fed the good stuff, we switch off. Why do you think we have hundreds of TV channels? They key to this difference is the word “social” – it needs us to socialize using the internet medium – interaction is the key.
Why is Social Media any better than email or instant message?
Social Media will never eradicate email or IM. They might merge a little but each will still have its’ own need.
Email is great to archive information that only you have access to typically. Unfortunately there’s probably a great deal of knowledge in your inbox and there’s no real way to expose that knowledge. In a Gartner conference, a presenter succinctly said “email is where knowledge goes to die” . Someone else called email a “knowledge coffin“. This pretty much sums it up. Once information hits your inbox, it’s rarely going to make it back out (the full transcript of the Gartner conference presentation is here).
Instant Message is kind of like a primitive social network. With it you have a list of your friends, family and/or colleagues. These people tend to be the people you know and trust for sources of information. If you have a question (for example) you might IM one of your contacts. But what if none of your contacts can answer that question. Or what if they can answer the question – how does that knowledge get retained?
Enter Social Media/Networking. Now you can connect to those same friends that exist in your favorite IM application, but now you have access to their friends – and their friends friends (depending on security settings, etc). You can now join interest groups, tag content, search tagged content and all the information and knowledge gets retained!
Take this example from Twitter:
The “@” is a directive that this message is aimed at the T-Mobile corporate Twitter profile (which is maintained by a number of T-Mobile staff) and will appear on their Twitter dashboard (but it doesn’t make the message exclusive to them). The “hashtags” (text prefixed with #) are useful tags that others can decide to use to enable grouping messages. These hashtags are not limited to a set number of words – you can hashtag any word, but in order to maximize your Tweet, it’s best to judiciously apply them as this user did. Check out this trend map for the hashtag #microsoft.
So now this Twitter message is out there, anyone can see it. Anyone with interest in the G2 phone or has a penchant for the caret symbol will have more chance of seeing it, can potentially reply and answer Hysiq’s question. These are people that would have never had contact with Hysiq if it weren’t for Twitter.
Why is Twitter better than a forum / message board?
Message boards have their place but as they grow in popularity they tend to lose their effectiveness. Finding the knowledge amongst hundreds of threads, even with careful searching, can make it hard to find the information you’re after. Twitter’s microblogging format (140 characters limit) along with the ability to connect to others by “following” them means you probably have more chance to connect to the right people to find the answers using Twitter – or to provide the answers yourself for those posing the questions!
So why is Yammer better than Twitter?
It’s not. Yammer is the same flavor as Twitter but served in a corporate cone. Only people with the same email address type (e.g. @microsoft.com) can connect to the Yammer Network. From there they can follow others, join groups and create communities. All within the context of your company.
This means that the “noise” that public Social Media outlets provide is avoided and instead a community of people whom all share one common interest is created. Now that each individual has the opportunity to ask or respond to others. Take for example this recent post on Yammer (this really did happen, but rather than divulge potentially secure information I’ll describe):
One person had a question about a product which was unique and in a specialist area for their company. They had probably not had much success with their contacts and so posted a question on Yammer. Within the day there were three responses from three different people which helped point them in the right direction.
So, in a short space of time, the person asking the question was able to reach out to a group of people they would have never had chance to in such an effective way. Someone with knowledge about the question posed picked this up and was able to connect and start a dialog with the person asking. Email and Instant Message would either have been ineffective at even getting this far, or at best create a diluted connection. This is an example of the power of a Social Network.
So what happens next?
Start to engage with your Yammer folks. Post questions, interesting and relevant articles that you think at least some folks will find interesting. Join Yammer groups that you think will be relevant to your job, read posts from others and perhaps respond to some of them. Soon you will start to realize you are part of a powerful network of knowledge and are connecting with colleagues that you previously may never have done so otherwise. The power of Social Media and Social Networks comes when you involve yourself; you only get out what you put in.
One last thing to think about: You’re reading a blog – a Social Media vehicle. You may have arrived here through a Yammer or Twitter post. You’ve been using Social Media tools throughout this entire experience! (within hours of publishing, this blog post had been re-tweeted by several people I have never personally come into contact with – again showing what social media can do!).
Here’s a video that helps explain Social Media, without mentioning YouTube, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn!
 Originated from Bill French – see http://ipadcto.com/2011/02/28/email-is-where-knowledge-goes-to-die/