If you were not at my session at the Social Connections conference in Boston 2 weeks ago, you can still see and download my slides, but I don't think you will quite get the gist of the message I expressed.
A catch-22 of great magnitude that while your outside persona is free to post, your "business" head is confused or full of fear.
Let me explain.
Email vs. Status Updates, or Single vs. Blended, is a metaphor for the way your organization works.
Collaboration or as the marketers call it, social business/media comes in many forms. Companies, or rather, executives, are trying to understand how to integrate this into their sales or internal efforts of transforming their companies into something new. Is email the old world or just a part of the new one? Are status updates the new way or just email by a new name?
One one hand you have a handful of people that "get it" and are always sharing, open and looking to help others be it via email or some other methods.
On the other side you have the opposite. The same employees want to help people, and they are Facebook active, but when it comes to work, they are not so forthcoming.
Why? What is the problem? If they share outside the office, why not in the office? Do they send one line emails or explanations regularly? are their status updates more like blog posts or just time stamps for their billing hours?
Setting aside the need to set goals for people (every employee should post once a day or twice a week,...) in order to prove to the executive that you are now a corporate social media titan, let's discuss the people factor.
People naturally share information with friends and family, some more than others, but inside all of us is a need to share, to bring people closer to us, or to help others understand us, and our unique worlds.
Facebook, Twitter, support forums, photography sites and numerous other examples are just some of the ways one can share their experiences. And it is great, usually for fun, but also for sad times as well and you do it from your home or while at a party or dinner.
Then you leave your home and go to work, your commute probably is not short or fun, and you arrive at the office and in some cases are told, by your immediate management, NOT to post anything about your work or the teams, even though the company itself is a strong proponent of social and collaboration.
Maybe this is a bit harsh of me.
Let us say instead, you believe that by posting a bunch of information on your company intranet or ESN (Enterprise Social Network) your manager will think you are not doing your work or billing enough hours. True, you are probably posting great content, or details that are needed, but that is not how some managers see it.
The corollary is the same, if you do not post anything, people think you are not working at all or maybe even left the company. And if we take the target/goals idea you have not met your quota of posts!
There is also a numbers problem here. The data shows that about 15% of the people are posting over 85% of the content. Take a different view of numbers, direct marketing works on a 1-3% hit rate.
Before your company starts turning everyone into social drones, realize that it will never be an all or nothing effort. Are you prepared for this "failure"? Have you decided to congratulate those that would be social anyway, over the ones that are breaking out of their shells? How will you know the difference? Will there be different expectations? In the age of personalized everything, can you be so granular inside your company? If not, why not? If you need help, contact me to discuss it.
Many people will not post, tweet, update, podcast, video message or whatever you ask of them for many reasons and that is okay. Really, it is. It does not mean they will never do it, just they have not been exposed to the right thought process to help them along. Time of course is a big issue and we have so little of it but everyone can forgo something for 2 minutes to post a simple update or comment or to vote or like something posted.
However, what if you are the only one who has certain information and you are part of a team or organization that should you not be able to work or be missing while traveling, could your team survive without you? Of course, some may say, if you have provided all this information, they could survive without you and fire you all because you were collaborating.
Yes, the corporate world does work this way sometimes, but also has greater need and respect for those that provide the data. Usually. But not every time.
Just like the first time you tell someone you love them. Maybe they love you back, maybe they don't, maybe you are 5 when you say it, maybe 18, maybe 25. The outcome and expectations are different at each age and level. So it is in the corporate world.
In the US where capitalism has reigned for all of our lives, it is very hard to suddenly change that mindset of me, mine and 1+1=1, to yours, ours and get to 1+1=3. A friend of mine suggested collaboration is the ultimate capitalism. I am not so sure, but I am willing to bet that a shared culture will be evolving over the next 10-15 years more so than we have seen in the years since 9/11. Post 9/11 we have seen some drastic changes that enable us to be more global, more open, more reliant on others for information and sharing more information while also becoming more insular at the same time.
This schizophrenia of the Enterprise will continue until the current levels of management evolve or get pushed out. The newer companies maybe better at sharing, while smaller, but the jury is still out if they stay the same or revert to Enterprise ways as they get older and larger.
I believe organizations can be more open and collaborative but we need to hep them realize there will be a mixed bag of engagement from within for a few years to come.