Enterprise social media projects have a unique characteristic that is different from almost any other enterprise software deployment… and that is the personal 'Aha' moment where users suddenly transform from willing (or not so willing) users of tools to enthusiastic fans almost instantaneously. There is a user tipping point when the power of the medium is suddenly and starkly apparent – and from which there is no turning back.
A few personal examples:
I started using enterprise blogging (OK…it was a start-up but it was an enterprise in that it was a corporate situation, not personal!) five or six years ago now for an internal marketing blog. When I was in product marketing I was the go to person for all sorts of information from everyone in the company and it was my job to troll through information about the market, the products, the customers, and the competitors. In previous positions I had built Intranet sites to consolidate a lot of the formal documents and links that were applicable to various teams. I was not new to using various tools to organize and disseminate information. Initially blogging seemed no different…a lot of effort to post and categorize information. But I was diligent and it seemed like it might be useful since the whole marketing team (all three of us at the time) had access to post – and it addressed a more informal set of information than what I had posted to portals in the past. My Aha moment came a few weeks in when I realized:
A – No one was sending out emails with links to articles to the entire company any more (phew)…with some exceptions of course but those people got steered to posting in the blog fairly quickly because everyone was relieved to have less 'FYI' emails.
B – I didn't have to keep every d*mn email I got that had something that might, one day, be interesting. Once I posted it to the blog and categorized it, I was done with it.
C – I no longer had to be the bottleneck between people and
the information I had on my computer or in my email – I could point them to the blog and they could service
themselves through the blog search, content categories, and posting dates. Brilliant!
I was an early user of LinkedIn and I build a social networking site around independent music in 2002-2003 so I got social networking and how it enabled information discovery and trusted filtering but there was an immediacy and velocity that I didn't get until I used Twitter. Here's what happened: I knew Giovanni Rodriguez (@giorodriguez) through some client work. I knew Aaron Strout (@astrout) through my work. Guy Kawasaki (@guykawasaki) introduced me to my old start-up years ago. Giovanni introduced me to Mukund Mohen (@mukund) via phone/email. Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan) introduced himself to me after my presentation at the Gilbane Conference. Somehow I got introduced to Bill Johnston (@billjohnston) and I attended one of his great community roundtables. I wasn't communicating with any of these individuals via Twitter but Aaron convinced me to sign up so I gave it a shot. A few weeks in after I had linked up with these social media experts that I knew from other channels I had a lightning moment one day when I realized – because I could see their conversations with others – that they all knew each other. Now I thought they were all interesting anyway but knowing that they were in a highly interactive subnet made them all immediately more relevant to me. Being able to 'see' the conversations they were having with others I was introduced to all sorts of people that I 'met' on Twitter. Some of those individuals like @pistachio, @stevegarfield, @joec0914, and @slmader I have now met in person. While this example is intra-enterprise the same benefits could be seen in a large complex company – providing a way for people with relevant information and practices to network and share information.
I am going to borrow an example from my husband, Ted McEnroe, who is doing some very
interesting work at NECN – a local 24-hour
news network here in the New England area. In the past, their website was part of the umbrella of Boston.com but they recently rolled their own
site, although they still provide video to Boston.com as well. Now NECN is a traditional broadcast media
company – most people are not particularly enthusiastic about the web mostly
because they perceive it as additional work not as a new opportunity. Ted is changing that perception but as we
all know, changing culture takes time and hard work. So Ted has been working hard with his development team on
video-encoding and compression, workflow to get content up on the site in a
timely fashion, guiding his staff editorially to ensure that the news is
presented correctly, etc. On the side
he has been experimenting with Twitter (my fault), blogging, and he
occasionally posts videos to Digg. A
few weeks ago Nancy Pelosi was in town and NECN's excellent political reporter Alison King got a quote from
her to the effect of "a Clinton-Obama ticket is impossible". Ted thought that was quite interesting so he
posted it to Digg and it got a few hits before he went home for the night. Upon waking up in the morning, the video had
to The Huffington Post and a number of other well trafficked political
blogs. Then it made it to CNN
(although they did not attribute it correctly to NECN) and the front page of USAToday
(they did attribute it but mis-identified NECN as "New England Cable
Network"). The Elliot Spitzer story broke the same week so it wasn't
exactly a slow news week. For NECN and
its staff, having a video go viral and be picked up by national news outlets
was an instant, collective Aha moment.
The question: What will your company's Aha moment be and how can you encourage that moment to happen. Until you can reach the Aha moment, your social media efforts will not really take hold.