Friday, 21 January 2011

NetIKX event - Using social media to achieve organisational goals

Wednesday saw me heading off after lunch to the BDA offices in Wimpole Street, London, to attend my first NetIKX event, full of curiosity to see what this group is all about.  One or two familiar faces in the group when I arrived made me feel at home, and as the room filled up the atmosphere became positively buzzy.
The format was to have two speakers, then a coffee break, then syndicate sessions with roundtable discussions of several key themes drawn out of the presentations. 
Our first speaker was Hazel Hall from Edinburgh Napier University and the key point that sang out from her presentation, and really struck a chord with me, was that it is vital to have a purpose and an understanding of which services you want to deliver - and only then consider which social media tool(s) would best suit.  In line with this idea, Hazel’s presentation focused on the various services social media could be useful for, rather than running through the usual ‘this is a blog, this is a wiki, etc’.
Some of the services Hazel mentioned where social media tools could help included:
·         Broadcasting information  -  blog, Twitter, Facebook
·         Collaborative project work   -  wiki, instant messaging, online tweetups
·         Staff development, training & teaching  - amplified events, YouTube, podcasts, webcasts
·         Information discovery & access  - blogs, online guides
·         PR & marketing  - blogs, Twitter
·         Personal profile  - LinkedIn, Facebook, blog, Twitter
·         Invite peer review of ideas  - Slideshare, blog
·         Crowd source ideas  - twitter, Facebook
The second speaker was Nicky Whitsed, Director of Library Services at the Open University.  Nicky showcased a range of practical uses that social media tools have been put by the OU to support their 250,000 students.  These ranged from YouTube (the OU is their largest provider of educational content), to iTunes U (they’ve had 20 million downloads from this service, mainly from non-UK based students) and OpenLearn, which is a free service open to all and allows collaborative working and learning on the site.
After some welcome coffee and networking, the syndicate group I joined got down to the serious business of discussing the current and potential uses of social media in our various organisations.  These covered a range of sectors included the NHS, insurance, accountancy, university, membership body, independent consultant and recruitment. 
A common theme was that almost everyone still felt they were quite novice at the whole social media thing, and were still feeling their way in terms of how to use these tools, or in some cases how to persuade their organisations to allow their use at all.  Some successes were also described, including the use of Yammer (similar to Twitter) within a large accountancy firm to share knowledge and have conversations across silo boundaries, and using the wiki functionality of Sharepoint to develop and share instruction manuals at the insurance firm.
An interesting point that came out of the wrap up discussion was that in the past disruptive technologies (such as the Internet itself) have taken up to 10 years to be developed and adopted, and more conservative organisations could ‘opt-in’ later on once they were comfortable with the new.  Today, however, is the era of ‘perpetual beta’ where new applications and tools become available and are adopted within months, and can disappear again just as quickly, and it is the flexibility and adaptability to use what works and be prepared to switch and change that is key to success. 
A salutary warning was also made, that conversations among customers and clients are happening within social media, whether organisations engage with them or shut their ears, and that ignoring your customers is a dangerous tactic to take.  See also Val Skelton’s report in Information Today.

- Nicola Franklin

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