If we learned anything from the historic Barack Obama presidential win last night, it was that the president elect’s campaign team changed politics forever through the effective use of mobilizing the youth vote, recruiting a massive volunteer army and securing unprecedented campaign funds through the use of social networking. Experts and pundits will be analyzing the approach all week, but it begs the question that’s probably on the mind of any CMO today – how do I inject the power of social networking into my organization and more importantly, how does it work within the context of an established enterprise organization?
According to Ross Mayfield of SocialText, one of this morning’s workshop presenters at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, the answer lies in understanding the power of “connected collaboration” as a strategic tool to help companies not only survive, but win in the current economic downturn. Mayfield founded his company on the belief that in order for companies to remain competitive and agile in response to the rigors of change, companies must also increase productivity to stimulate innovation and emerge as leaders.
But it’s not as simple as applying consumer trends such as Facebook and MySpace to the enterprise environment. While Mayfield says that these social networks are great for getting people used to the concept of being able to identify who knows who and who a user knows, in order for its application to be effective in an enterprise organization, a social network must encourage adoption and collaboration that helps to also identify what an employee knows, which employee knows what and which employee knows who knows what in order to facilitate shared knowledge and ultimately accelerate workplace productivity.
Connected collaboration, exemplified through Mayfield’s Power Law of Participation theory, works to 1) accelerate project and process cycles 2) saves time looking for information and people 3) delivers content that amplifies point — the culmination of which helps companies do more with less and innovate.
And, if you think social networking is only for Millenials, Mayfield argues that people by nature want to share information. While it’s easy to downplay the value of social networks by older workers, setting up the right kind of social network for the enterprise that is designed to address cross-generational usage needs (eg. embedded email based communication features for older works vs. widgets for younger workers), an increasingly mobile workforce that wants and needs to stay connected to the mothership and providing training is important.
Whether we like it or not, companies are moving from file-forced communications to people-centric collaboration or as Mayfield puts it, the “pdf is where knowledge goes to die.”