Gartner says that a social business is one that provides “sustained value” through pulling together “talent, interests, experience, insights and knowledge”. But buried underneath this advice are requirements that must be uncovered if businesses have any hope of putting it to work. We talked about talent before. Let’s take a brief look at interests as we do our social business archeology.
Interest means the curiosity to pursue a topic and the passion to stick with it. Social media technology is good at providing an easy way for interested people to participate with teams and topics. Whether chiming in on social forums, providing ad hoc feedback through messaging clients or rating products and project documents, social media technology enables the easy participation of the interested. Yet it is vital to combine interest with talent, experience, insights and knowledge in order to become a social business. Failure to do so merely confuses passion with competence; something Harvard Business Review recently warned against.
The importance of interest is that it is a primary motivator. When we’re interested in what we do we work smarter and achieve greater results than when we’re disengaged. HR study after HR study demonstrates that keeping employees interested and engaged is far more effective than money or perks in delivering high quality results and retaining high quality employees.
The challenge of interest is reflected in a study conducted by Nielsen in 2006. That study shows that 90% of online community members lurk, 9% contribute sometimes and 1% are the core contributors. This means that 99% make up the pool of likely interested people who want to interact with the (likely talented) 1% who are creating. That is a huge disparity. So businesses must both identify interest and then work hard to plug in those interested people in ways that will be helpful.
Some strategies that work include
- Posting project plans and summaries on your intranet and then inviting feedback – critical and constructive
- Exposing a feedback forum or message stream for each project to your wider organization. This allows the lurkers to browse other things your company is doing and chime in if they see something that piques their interest.
- Designating a project liaison to act as the single point of contact for projects. This allows all project team members to engage with others if they wish, but it also provides a hedge against distracting inquiries from outside interested parties – especially at times when team members are “heads down”.
- Tracking what kinds of content employees are searching for and accessing on your corporate intranet or ECM system and then building up an “interest profile” for each employee. When combined with a talent profile (see my earlier article on this) this can be used to proactively seek out project team mates or ad hoc advisors.
Many different social technologies exist to enable participation and sharing of interests. The trick is to identify your purpose then specific, measurable goals that drive your social business design. Then you will see sustained value.
Image: Creative Commons Attribution by flickr user JD Hancock