Subjective Content Infrastructure

I created my first blog about 7 years ago because I thought it was cool that I could publish what I wanted without a lot of hassel and overhead. I didn’t think much about the implications at the time. Since then thinking about the implications of “social media” is about the only thing I have done.

I created this presentation in 2007. It was part of my process for understanding what this stuff was all about. With over 77,000 views, I guess I was on the right track.

Social Media Is…

View more presentations from Lee White
Throughout this time I have wrestled with defining the underlying fundamentals of what it is that defines Social Media. What I have come to believe is that social media, and it’s enterprise cousin: collaboration, are simply the infrastructure necessary to support the exchange of subjective content.
Traditional IT systems deal strictly with objective content. Financial data, sales data, HR data, etc. Just the facts. These systems cannot deal with opinion. Social software can.
What has to happen now is to figure out an effective way to integrate the subjective content with the objective content. Currently social systems tend to be in a silo with respect to the rest of an organization’s operations. This is one reason that it has been so hard to quantify the “business value” of social content. When we can integrate the subjective social content with the objective process content we can begin to more effectively demonstrate the value social systems bring to the enterprise.

SlideShare Post

I just posted my first SlideShare presentation. What a cool service. The presentation is called Social Media is… I created the presentation as a way to express what I believe to be the significant elements of Social Media, from an organizational perspective. I have to give a hat tip to Scott Gavin and Simon Revell for inspiring me with their Meet Charlie presentation. I also want to thank Presentation Zen for introducing me to the concepts of a different approach to doing presentations.

Virtual Rave

Yesterday and today I participated in an interesting event, the Enterprise 2.0 Rave. This was a virtual event that was held instead of the originally planned live event slated for NY City. The Rave was hosted by Francois Gossieaux and included a great group of panelists, including:

The event was two separate WebEx/Audio conferences. The discussion was among the panelists and attendees could submit questions using the webex tools.

All in all it was a good conversation, though I wish we would have had more time in order to dive deeper into the topics. I am hoping that the conversations will continue on the "Ning" social network site that was set up to support and extend the event.

My best take-aways were:

  • This thing we are calling Enterprise 2.0 is necessarily messy. It cannot be effectively created/implemented by a controlled, managed process. It has to be emergent. This will be a hard concept to swallow by those that are currently in power.
  • In the long run, success will only happen if there is a broad and strong organic base of people using the system and living the culture. That means that success will not be immediately evident or easy to see. Again a hard concept for the ROI crowd.
  • So, even as optomistic as I am about this way of working, I must accept that everyone is not going to be as enthusiastic as I am and I must learn to be patient and persistent.

Keep the faith.

Rave Canceled

I just got a call from Francois Gossieaux that the Enterprise 2.0 Rave has been canceled. Francois is going to try and put together some sort of virtual gathering instead.

Starting New Social Media Job

After many months of conversation, proposal writing and just trying to figure out how to make it happen, it finally has. Effective Monday (2/5) I begin my new job as the Social Media Guy here at GlaxoSmithKline. This position will be part of the Communications function and my first objective will be to work with all the Communications team members and look at how we can improve the socialization of our media efforts. I am still looking for a good job title. Any suggestions?

I want to thank Ben Edwards at IBM. Much of what I baked into the job description was modeled on Ben’s job.

Mission Statement

The goal of corporate social media is to afford every stakeholder an equal opportunity to be heard by decision makers.

Implementing Corp Social Media

I have spent a lot of time recently trying to figure out the silver bullet for implementing a Social Media infrastructure within a corporate (non-tech) environment. I think I am beginning to see wherein the difficulity lies…

Up to now my focus has been on getting the technical infrastructure in place. And also up to now I have always said that the cultural issues would be a bigger hurdle than the technical ones, but I wasn’t really sure what that meant. I think that part of the cultural puzzle deals with understanding your existing culture. If I were able to magically snap my fingers and have a world-class social media platform in place, I don’t believe that it would go anywhere, at least not immediately, in a fundamentally authoritarian culture. The culture shock would be too great. The norms for operating in an open transparent environment would not be in place.

I believe the answer is organic grassroots growth. Bite off small chunks, start with small groups where trust and openness are already working assumptions. Let those groups be the ones to tell the story. "Be the ball." Use word-of-mouth as the engine to make the case for using social media.

What are the benefits?

One of Kathy Sierra’s main themes is about getting to the root of what it is that "users" want. This is more commonly referred to as benefits to the user. Most people/organizations that have a product or service to sell, have a tendency to define the benefit with respect to the product or service it self.

…2GHZ processor and 100 G of storage…

…0 grams of transfat…

Kathy’s point is that users don’t really care about the product or service itself, they care about what the product or service can enable them to do.

…easily upload my pictures to flickr…

…eat as much as I want without feeling guilty…

Right now I am facing a situation where I need to define the benefits of something. I need to keep Kathy’s perspective in mind.  Here is the situation…

I am a huge advocate of using social media within an organizational setting. I have spent much of the last year talking about it whenever the opportunity arises. I finally became inspired to try and create a position that is 100% focused on social media. Subjectively I know this type of position would provide a great benefit to the organization. My problem is that I am having trouble objectively defining the benefits. Almost everyone I talk to asks the same question, "What are the benefits to the company?" I reply with the usual talking points,

Internally social media supports innovation, breaking down of silos, …

Externally, social media can get us closer to the customer, allow us to become part of the community…

The typical response is "but show me the benefit." As I read Kathy’s post this morning, I began to wonder if I have fallen into the trap of defining the benefit in terms of the subject (social media) instead of the object (the user).

So it is off to find a new windmill, how to show the benefit of social media in terms that clearly point to the benefit of the user, as opposed to meeting my own need of finding a problem for my solution.

Social Media is about The Rest of Us

On Monday I attended Healthcare Blogging Summit in Washington DC. This was a sub-conference of the Consumer Health World conference. The keynote speaker was Steve Rubel from Edelman. Steve gave a great presentation defining "Social Media". I took some notes and picked up some new ideas. One of the main points I picked up was his metaphor for social media as a "universe" that is populated by "galaxies" (centers of gravity such as mySpace, YouTube), "stars" (the A-List Celebrities), "planets" (the B&C list), "shooting stars" (flash-in-the-pan: Diet Coke and Mentos), and "comets" (recurring themes: authencity, transparency). It is a good image and I will probably use it.

The next thing he talked about was how to effectively operate in the social media space. Four simple points:

  • Find
  • Listen
  • Engage
  • Empower

The first three were to me straightforward and part of the story I try to tell others. The last point, Empowerment, was a light bulb. I had never carried the thought process to the next logical step. Empowerment is really the fundamental element of social media. To be honest, the light bulb did not really turn on until today (sometimes I process rather slowly).

My new mantra is:

Social Media is anything that empowers the rest of us.

Up until now, whenever I have been asked "What is social media?", I would usually list a string of technology terms. "It’s blogs & wikis & RSS & social networks & …" Not a very satisfying or compelling answer.

Now I have something to say.

Steve, thanks for the spark. I think that sometimes it takes listening to the words for a long time before you really hear the meaning.

New (or Narrowed) Focus

This blog has fallen on some hard times, primarily due to my new focus and growing activity of bring social media inside the firewall. As I have mentioned before I have started a dark blog. I have almost as many posts internally in less than 2 months as I have posted here in over a year. I have also managed to move my interest in social media from pure personal development into actual value added activity for the organization. A while back I posted about becoming a blog evangelist; I have for all intents and purposes managed to make that happen. To tell you the truth about it, I am pretty excited by what is happening. This is the first time in a long time that my personal passion and my actual work have been this well aligned.

Now I plan drive change from the inside!!!


Just call me "George". (Thanks to Hugh for this.)

I think now I have a better perspective and a better focus on what I want this blog to be. I want to tighten my focus here and really get into the use of social media within a large organizational setting. Hopefully others in a similar position will be able to leverage some of what I am learning for their own use; and that I can find some new insight from new connections.

Here we go…