Sunday 1 July 2012

LIKE Ideas Conference - The Business of Social Media part 2

This post continues the previous post on LIKE Ideas

The first session after the break was a panel discussion with Virginia Henry, Richard Hare and Hank Malik on the subject of internal engagement. They started out by saying that we need to move away from talking about 'social media tools' and towards talking about 'collaborative working'. As highlighted in previous sessions, one of the most important uses of social media is to facilitate communication and help to solve problems. The group were asked for their opinion on the quickest way to ensure the failure of a social media project. Their answer was that there is always a danger of focusing on the technology without thinking of the need behind it. This was touched on in earlier presentations and it's sound advice that I'll take away from the conference. I think that too often there's pressure to try out the latest tool without too much thought as to why you're using it. If the latest 'it' product meets a need you have then great, keep using it. If not then get rid of it because there's certain to be something similar along soon.

Another point made by the panel was that the culture of the organisation is an important fact in the success or failure of social media tools. I know this to be true from personal experience. If the group that you work with is not 'into' social media then I find that there's very little you can do to convince them. I think that everyone has a right to make up his/her own mind about these tools but at the same time I do wish some people would be a little more open minded - at least try something before you dismiss it! The panel said that if something was tried and didn't work then it's best to confront the failure and use it as feedback rather than pretending that it didn't happen at all. In this way trying social media could be part of a valuable evaluation process. If trying to promote greater team interaction through social media didn't work then you may have to look beyond the tools to deeper problems within your organisational culture...

There was also some discussion about 'chatter' on social media sites. I know that this is one of the biggest problems that many managers have with social media use - they're afraid that people will waste time on it rather than doing anything productive. I'm not going to pretend for a moment that people won't take advantage of these tools to follow celebrities and discuss trivial things, but there's so much more to social media than this. Someone pointed out that the chatter is important since it can lead on to other things. People have to get to know you in order to be able to trust you and ask for your help. Having an actual conversation on social media, even if it is about something trivial, is a way to build your reputation so people know that they can turn to you. At the end of the day managers just have to have some trust in their staff when it comes to managing their time on these sites.

The next session was given by lawyers Andrew Soloman and Simon Halberstam and focused on legal guidance for using social media. Although I said in the previous post that it was important that people don't feel too constrained when it comes to using social media, it would be foolish not to have some guidelines in place. Social media impacts on all parts of the law but one of the key areas singled out in the presentation was defamation. It's important to remember that this can be done in any number of ways and can come back to haunt the company at any time. Just saying that something is your personal opinion in NOT enough to protect you in court! Andrew and Simon advocated having a clear social media policy in place as a matter of course - very sage advice.

The final presentation of the day was given by Stephen Dale who talked about the future of social media. He showed how in the future people will be interacting with devices in a much more intuitive way but warned that the quantity of social media content is growing at the expense of the quality. As information professionals, this gives us a key role to play. Stephen highlighted digital curation tools such as paperli and scoopit and showed how we can use our insight into our users needs to identify the best content out there. I think this is an important point to remember. Just because there is a wealth of content available on the Internet, it doesn't mean that information professionals are becoming redundant. Someone still has to be able to direct users towards the best quality content for their needs and information professionals come with the skill set to do this. If we can retain our reputation as a trusted source of information then we can still be the ones that users come to when they need advice about digital content. Of course this is dependent on us being able to use social media ourselves, yet another point I think we can make to reluctant managers!

Stephen finished by illustrating the rise of apps and showing how important they will be. Designers used to think about designing for the computer first and mobile devices second, but the computer is fast becoming an afterthought. In the next few years, sales of mobile internet devices are going to eclipse sales of the traditional computer and we have to be ready to meet this new challenge.

Overall LIKE Ideas was a really interesting day which left me with lots of food for thought and promoted many stimulating discussions. I'll be keeping a close eye on their calendar and I hope to attend many future events that they run. I advise you to do the same!

photo credit: nan palmero via photopin cc