Using social media tools to share knowledge within the enterprise
Thanks a lot to Martin Couzins for contributing this post to the LCP blog, in which he explains and evaluates his use of social media to set up a successful knowledge sharing event. Martin is former user development editor at XpertHR and is now looking for new content/comms/training opportunities. Find him on LinkedIn and Twitter or contact him by email.
The transformation of the web into a social place is completely transforming the way we use it. Over the last few years we have seen networking platforms such as Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and a range of blogging platforms enable web users to have two-way interactions, the upshot being:
· The web has become a place to talk
· The web has become a place to share
· The web has become real time
· The tools to help users share are intuitive and free
For various reasons, the pace of change of how we do things online inside the corporate firewall has been slower. But new (free) tools are now available to help organisations provide a space online where colleagues can share and talk in the same way they can outside of the corporate firewall.
I along with three other colleagues – Karl Schneider, Adam Tinworth and Andrew Rogers used some of these tools to set up a successful knowledge sharing event at Reed Business Information – a business to business publisher.
At the start of 2008 we set up a weekly event called Elevenses. It was to be at the same time (yep, 11am) on the same day each week. The aim was to bring people together from all teams to look at how technology was changing the way we were doing business and specifically to look at projects and initiatives people were working on. The sessions would be 45 minutes maximum in order to encourage attendance.
Publishing is an industry going through an enormous amount of change as a result of technological advances so there was a need to keep people up to speed with developments and to showcase the work of people around the business.
The training team were more than happy for us to give it a go as it was at very little cost to them – content for each session was created by those who attended, and only more recently have we paid to bring in guest speakers. Yammer is free and a setting up a blog incurred some cost as did creating an advertising pop-up, but these costs were minimal. This was a bottom up approach to knowledge sharing.
Tools for the job
We used a mix of traditional and newer communication channels to market the event:
· Promoted the event on Yammer
· Sent an invitation to the wider business on email (Outlook)
· Sent weekly email reminders to team managers alerting them to the week’s topic
· Published regular stories on the intranet
· Used a pop-up advertising board in the foyer of the building to promote the event as colleagues arrived in the morning
· Created and updated a blog (for internal use only) with all the learning points/presentations from each event. The was a link to this from the intranet homepage and a link to each new post on Yammer
The four of us who set up the event shared managing the event. This included booking rooms, setting up planning meetings and organising the schedule. Each session was based on someone from around the business curating it – this meant they were responsible for asking others to contribute content. Again this was done using Yammer. A group of those interested in curating sessions helped plan content. We also used Survey Monkey to gather feedback on sessions and to identify new topic areas to cover.
· The first session on Twitter attracted nearly 40 colleagues – this was a huge success. It is worth noting that no formal training session would ever be that popular.
· Two years on and the events still continue – sessions have run each week except for holidays and breaks due to organisational problems.
· Each session generally attracts 10 to 30 people, which makes it a very successful initiative in terms of attendance
· Those that come regularly are also those in the business that have had successes adopting ideas
· New sessions, such as a lunchtime workshop, have sprung up
· There are a core of regular attendees – in some senses these are event advocates who help with content and curation
· We have been successful at bringing editorial colleagues to events but this is because it has been perceived as an editorial event (all of us organisers are in editorial positions). The challenge has been to bring in others from IS, marketing, sales and so on. This is beginning to change and if the content is relevant they do attend.
· Organising weekly events takes time. If you are too busy then events get cancelled and you lose continuity that can be hard to restore. Communication becomes key at this point – we found people would turn up when we had cancelled an event
· Keeping content and session formats fresh and engaging is key – we started to bring in guest speakers, for example.
· Informal, short events that are well communicated around the business have worked at Reed Business Information – in many ways the approach has been: by the people, for the people
· Yammer has worked really well for supporting knowledge sharing outside of the weekly sessions – people carry on the conversations and continue to help each other (for all colleagues to see).