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.
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Blog Carolinas Information Release

Blog Carolinas

A Conversation about Social Media in the Enterprise

  • See how Social Media is impacting your Marketing and Communications Strategy
  • Learn how Community can serve as a model to improve your organization’s productivity
  • Meet others that are dealing with the same issues you are.
  • Talk to experts in the fields of On Line Reputation, Search Engine Optimization, Web 2.0 Technology and On Line Community Building
  • Experience cool new stuff

Event Details

Date: May 9, 2008

Location: (Map)

Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society
3106 East NC Highway 54
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709
800-243-6534/919-549-4691

How to Register

You can register for the event at: http://blogcarolinas.eventsbot.com
Blog Carolinas is a free event but is limited to about 200 attendees, therefore registration is necessary to attend.

Sessions & Format

Scheduled sessions include:

  • Listening to the Conversation about your Organization
  • Engage your Customers in Conversation
  • How is Social Media changing PR?
  • Recruiting Digital Natives
  • Be Prepared, Sharing Information is a Culture Shift

All sessions will be conversational, no long boring Powerpoint presentations.

Confirmed Session Leaders include:

Who Should Attend

The objective of this event is to begin bridging the gulf that currently exists between the current developers/users of Social Media tools and those organizations that have not yet adopted those tools. Each group has much to learn from the other, and a conversation is the best way to begin to build that bridge. So there are really two audiences for this event:

  • People that are currently familiar with Social Media, and want to see it used more effectively in professional and organizational settings.
  • People that do not currently use Social Media, but have heard from friends and main stream media that it may be of benefit to their organization.

So let’s start a conversation…

More information about the event can be found at: http://www.socialtext.net/blogcarolinas

(Disclosure: Blog Carolinas is being produced and hosted by E Quint Consulting.)

The Need / Brand Duality

Any Brand would love to be synonymous with the need it addresses, e.g. Kleenex & stuffy nose. In a way this is the objective of all marketing efforts, to create an unquestioned bonding of brand and need. Why do I bring up this point in a blog about Social Media? Because in a world where citizen generated content is becoming the most important information available, most marketing efforts need to be re-evaluated.

In the old days (pre-Cluetrain) Brands had the power to create and control the needs of the consumer through powerful advertising and communications programs. Brand generated content was the most important information available. Marketing efforts focused on doing research that optimized the wording of Messages in order to maximize impact. Those with money and power were able to create the need/brand duality necessary to drive sales.

Today and tomorrow, spending time and effort optimizing the brand message is having less and less impact. Instead to create the coveted need/brand duality, successful brands will spend more time, money and effort understanding the consumer needs as expressed by the consumer themselves. No longer can need be dictated by “effective” messaging. In this new world of marketing, listening will become the core competency. Only then will brands be able to remake themselves to truly reflect consumer need, and have a chance to achieve the coveted need/brand duality.

Communication is the Heart

I have been struggling recently trying to figure out my “product”. I need to be able to describe what it is that I bring to the table for a client. I know I CAN bring value, I just couldn’t quite put it in words, that quickly and easily, conveyed that value. I guess what I have been searching for is a clear problem or need that I can apply my solution to. That age old problem of everything looking like a nail to my hammer.

All of my rhetoric and elevator pitches so far have been about how I solve problems. I have not been speaking in terms of the problem to be solved. This morning I think I have come closer to articulating the problem statement.

Communication is at the heart of any organization:

  • communication between managers and employees;
  • communication between functional areas;
  • communication with stakeholders and customers;
  • communication within project teams…

and I have yet to see the organization that has perfected the art of communication.

Enter social media and the community. By embracing a community model, any organization can take a quantum step forward in their communication effectiveness. This is where E Quint comes in. As a Community Architect, I use a structured approach to:

  • assess and understand the current communications ecosystem
  • develop a blueprint for improving communication structure and processes
  • help implement a new infrastructure for conversation

Improving the effectiveness of organizational communication will lead to better decision-making by organizations, which of course leads to what everyone wants, a better bottom line and the ability to keep on keeping on.

What’s a Community Architect?

Since I started using the phrase Community Architect the other day, I have been trying to figure out how to explain what one is in a pragmatic way. Or, in other words; what do I deliver?; what is my product?

The first thought that has come to mind is that my deliverable to a client is a Community Blueprint. Development of the blueprint would involve several stages which would define the activity of the engagement. The components of the Blueprint (or whatever product name I settle on) will include:

  • Goal definition – A conversation with the Sponsor of the initiative to determine what they are ultimately trying to achieve. Setting of objectives.
  • Environmental assessment – Review of the current situation, internal and external, with respect to the goal and objectives defined
  • Stakeholder engagement – An active process of bringing all stakeholders (or representatives of all stakeholder groups) into the conversation. Stakeholders will begin using light-weight community based tools at this point in order to see and understand first-hand the concepts of community based collaboration.
  • Roadmap Creation – The process by which stakeholders will identify processes, structures and behaviors necessary to meet goal and objectives.
  • Tool selection – The process by which stakeholders identify specific tools, and vendors that will allow the Roadmap to be implemented.
  • Construction – Setting up the tool infrastructure.
  • Habitation – With the tools in place, the process of encouraging use of the community.
  • Final Inspection – Review with the sponsors to confirm that goal and objectives have been met.

If you will notice, this approach does not distinguish between building a community that is fundamentally internal or external to the boundaries of the enterprise. My belief here is that most communities will span that divide, making such distinction irrelevant. But in those cases where a true internal or external community is prescribed, the process should still be valid.

Project Community

For the past few days I have had a myopic obsession with the word “community”. So, of course, I began to wonder what happens when you combine the concepts of Project Management with the concept of Community. The first thing that pops into mind is the community of people that are project management practitioners. A worthwhile area of investigation, but I want to look at something a little different…

What happens when we think of “the project” (any project) as a social object? By social object, I mean, something around which conversation naturally emerges. If the nature of a project was so compelling that people chose to talk about it out if interest, as opposed to out of requirement, it could really change the complexion of project effectiveness.

I am not talking about getting rid of PM tools, I am just saying that if people were passionate about a project, there would be less need to beat them about the neck and shoulders to meet deadlines. The point here is not that Social Media, as discussed in earlier posts, directly drives efficiencies, but that is can create a community of project stakeholders that are passionate about the successful completion of a project.

The Practice of Community

In 1954 Peter Drucker published the Practice of Management. It is considered by many, myself included, to be the seminal work about the nature of organizations in the 20th century. I once read that he spent much effort in naming his book before settling on “Practice” as the key word in the title. My recollection is that he considered ” The Art of Management”, “The Science of Management”, and “The Theory of Management” among others. He decided that “Practice” best described the concept he was after. It is something that we are continually learning and trying to improve by trying it out, or practicing it. So with great homage to Mr. Drucker, I am introducing The Practice of Community.

My definition of community is “the integration of the many into the one”. I will expand on this theme and its broad implications, over time. For now I just want to frame up what this means for me and E Quint Consulting.

NOW I have the elevator speech I have been looking for:

Other person in the elevator: “So, what do you do?”

Me: “I facilitate the development of community as an organizational structure within organizations.”

Other person in the elevator: “Cool! Tell me more about that.”

…or something like that. 🙂

Basically what this means is that I can talk about what is happening all around us with regard to social media, enterprise 2.0, WOM, etc. within the single context of community, where all of these instances are simply examples of “the integration of the many into the one”.

From this basis I see many themes that I want to develop:

  • The cognitive dissonance that occurs when organizations attempt “community” marketing while operating internally as an authoritarian hierarchy.
  • The practice of community is about continually working to include the next the next layer “outside” into the whole.
  • The “tools” of community, both new and old.
  • Why is community a viable organizational model “now”?
  • Can community and hierarchy co-exist?
  • Examples of community that can serve as models for the enterprise.

If you see anything you like here, please take it and run with it and give me a link. Remember this is just one big community. 😉

My new job title: Community Practitioner.