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A missing ingredient in the social enterprise

"Social" anything is just about as hot as going green these days. It's no wonder companies are quickly looking for ways to capitalize on social technologies for their employees, partners, and customers. But while momentum around social technologies is great, understanding of how to most effectively take advantage of these tools is still evolving.

As a company in this space, we have noticed one key ingredient that most companies consistently fail to take into consideration when looking to go social. And that's the content.

I have heard many examples of companies trying to realize all the benefits of going social, but failing to achieve their goals. Why? In many cases, it is because social technologies have been simply added on to their existing intranets or portals without much thought given to what this means to the end user.

What benefit does an R&D scientist derive from having access to a social technology? How does Web 2.0 help a marketing professional get their job done faster and better? How does a special librarian gain insight into how to "weed and feed" the content management system?

In social knowledge networks, as in many other aspects of life, context is everything. When given context, people using social technologies have a reason for connecting, and begin to extract the true value of these technologies.

In SKNs, context is achieved through content. For the R&D scientist, it is the drug discovery report written by a colleague in another department. For the marketing professional, it is the market research analysis written by a coworker in a field office. For the special librarian, it is the comments written by a senior editor.

People will connect when there is context, because they have a shared reference point, a reason to connect. Collaboration happens and problem solving accelerates because the socially connected people have a basis for their discussion, not merely because they can now IM each other.

Content is the backbone of a successful social knowledge management strategy because it's not just about connecting people together. It's about how we use that interaction and bring people together to solve a business problem.

You might have heard us mention the social volume knob. This allows vetted content to retain its veracity and provides control over what content gets socialized, and how. Otherwise, you get a free-for-all of opinions without authority.

Once we realize that the expertise of the enterprise lies with vetted content, we can then successfully apply social technologies to enhance that knowledge and connect communities.

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