Experiences: October 2007 Archives

Social Networks. Are they a corporate asset?

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Over at Web Strategy, Jeremiah talks about Visible Path's Corporate Social Network Design Council event that he spoke at recently. A key question that he highlights is how do personal and professional networks become both a private asset to an individual as well as being shared by the enterprise.

There's no question that networks are an incredible asset and they have been for decades. That's half the value of an MBA program most people would say. The question is whether anything is different in the online space now that it has gotten far easier to manage one's networks and to mine a network by leveraging the different degrees of separation.

They're certainly an asset but I don't think the networks can be shared by an enterprise without the active participation of the individual. I can give you my phone book. But unless I personally introduce or connect you with all the people in the phone book, no one will take your calls. This means that networks are primarily an individual asset and will always be. Rather than trying to mine an individual's network, companies should focus on helping employees build their own personal networks. As long as those employees are with the company, the company will benefit too.  

Being scared of Social Media

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So I grew across three continents in a world where I never shared too much about myself. It might have been because I was in a boarding school for several years where I had no true privacy. So I sought to hide certain parts of myself from others. I wanted to have a private life too. Later in the early 1990s, I started to get involved in online communities like the AOL forums and the WELL. Those worked quite well for me. I was able to design a very specific online identity tied to specific interests and compartmentalize my life. This carried on for years as the web grew and I joined more and more communities. But now things are getting harder.

Social Media is frightening. I'm expected to participate and have an opinion on practically everything I touch. Whether its in the workplace or at home, everybody wants me to collaborate and contribute. Words, images, voice - everything and anything needs to be put in the public domain. I must upload my photographs to flickr for friends to see, my facebook status must reflect my activities, my wiki profile needs to reflect current professional interests and if I am not twittering then I'm not cool. You get the idea? Social Media has a dangerous side. Not only are we forced to reveal more than we may want to, but we're also pressured to do so just to be a part of the conversation.

What's the solution? I don't know. But as I navigate the social media landscape, I'll be constantly asking why participate, what value does the participation bring and does every conversation need to be joined? We have private lives for a reason, because we like to keep some things private. Does that need to change?

Getting it wrong with Social Media

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choate.jpgThe other day's New York Times reported how law firms are using video to recruit summer interns. Apparently, it is a fiercely competitive market and attracting the best can be difficult. While it is a nice social media type thing, I'm quite disappointed with the efforts of one of the firms. A 100 year old legal firm in Boston with 200 employees is using video clips that are a spoof of the infamous Mac versus PC ones.

The problem? Firstly, they should try to come up with something original. A spoof simply reinforces the stereotype of lawyers lacking imagination. Secondly, next time use real lawyers not actors. Actors make it look fake. If you can find lawyers to do the testimonials, I'm sure a few of them can do the acting as well. And finally, please post to You Tube. I'm not sure whether to trust the view count of your inbuilt flash built in video player. Doesn't seem very authentic to me.