The Value of social media conversation
In the middle of last month I found myself in a corporate environment like the one I used to think was the norm in the earlier stages of my life. Magnolia corridors, anti-static hall carpets and double-glazed floor to ceiling windows populated by men and women in suits, carrying folders with notes.

 

It felt a little odd to see people using pen and paper but what felt even more odd was the sense that this was a world that was isolated from what I, these days, consider the norm. There was no opportunity to broach something deep for instance, which caught my attention (I wanted to discuss the challenge of maintaining  group cohesion in a company with 4,000 employees) without preparing the ground with a lengthy introduction. It was impossible to get the experts within the company into the conversation (as it was impromptu they were not even aware of where I was or that it was taking place), much of the time I was there (on a consultation visit no less) was spent chasing down people within the organisation who held some of the information I needed, or knew who did.

When eBooks first came out, complete with hyperlinks, the ability to contain embedded video and music files and the option to contextualise any book by providing the complete history and background of its writing I thought that the case between them and paper books was not so much one of digital versus dead trees as one of ‘smart books’ verses ‘dumb books’.

‘Smart’ for me was being malleable, contextualised and versatile and ‘dumb’ was being “just what you see”.

Social Networks and Social Business

Social networks and the ability they give us to enter into a “conversation” are an empowering tool which transforms the art of talking into something else entirely. Because in a social media environment we can pick and choose the level of intensity, depth of expertise , seriousness and even length of time we will spend discussing something we enter into the conversation already fully prepped and mentally prepared.

More than that, those we invite to it come also fully prepped and only join if they are prepared. The conversation which takes place then is not only at the same level of intensity by most, if not all, of the participants but it is further deepened and added value to by each individual’s ability to call upon their own knowledge of hyperlinks, websites and apps to back up their points.

Seen outside its context, the conversation in a social media environment, when evaluated appears to happen not only amongst smarter individuals but itself is also smarter in terms of the wealth of information it involves and the depth of analysis it invites.

To prove the point, not too long ago I had a conversation on G+ on exactly this subject.

Businesses, today, are looking towards unlocking the social business model. Social business is all about knowledge management (KM for short) and the way it enables organisations to function within their borders and outside them like a true social network.

Behind this initiative is exactly the attempt to turn ‘dumb’ conversations into ‘smart’ ones. Just like individuals benefit directly from this approach in a social media environment, organisations and businesses will also benefit in increased knowledge flow and much better knowledge management than they currently have in place.

Characteristics of a ‘Smart’ Conversation

It is, of course, entirely possible to have a smart conversation offline. But it takes so much organisation, planning and synchronisation that it becomes prohibitively expensive in terms of time and effort involved.

What makes social media so effective is the degree to which the conversation which takes place is made possible by a tech-driven, very low-cost tech threshold.

And just in case you are wondering, the characteristics of a smart conversation are:

  • Focus on a specific, technical subject
  • Highlight underlying principles.
  • Bring in corroborative or combative articles from blogs and news websites.
  • Call other experts and their knowledge to contribute.
  • Call other experts and their wealth of links and information to participate.
  • Do all this in a contemplative, non-aggressive or disparaging manner.

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