Today we discuss the power of the web and digital media. Specifically, a few tools you should be aware of. I will discuss wikis, social media, and a plan to utilize these tools effectively. You will find that a little thought will go a long way.
The Power of Wikis
Wikis are collaborative web sites where anyone in the group can post, edit, or delete any digital information. This type of communication technology would be useful in many different types of organizations. In fact, many large and successful organizations already utilize these tools including organizations such as Disney, Yahoo, IBM, New York Times Digital and even Motorola (BCS, 2014).
The reason such organizations rely on this type of digital technology is that Wikis can be used for a number of different things that most organizations need. From internal blogs to facilitating internal discussion and documentation, a Wiki provides an open forum that expedites traditional modes of collaboration.
The best part is that organizations of all sizes and types can benefit from using Wikis because individuals can publish and collaborate instantly regardless of geographical location, as well as track project development, decrease emails, and more.
A Wiki is moldable while remaining functional. Of course, their success depends greatly on how the organization utilizes the tool. Ideally, a Wiki should be used for knowledge and information sharing, identification of best practices, content publishing, and project management/documentation (BCS, 2014).
But there are a few perks in regard to what a Wiki can bring an organization. For instance, Wiki enables a team to work collaboratively. It allows documents to become tools within the organization. It expedites search and retrieval of such documents while encouraging members of the organization to share and provide their input.
It should be noted however that simply having the Wiki in the toolset does not and will not empower the organization. The content should be relevant, and the organization should encourage usage and personal involvement. Leaders should be editors and edits should be changed when happened upon. Content creators should be known but everyone should be encouraged to be a content creator.
It is not hard to see why or how a Wiki can benefit an organization. Though, it can be a challenge to get an organization to actually use such tools. But if the organization introduces such technology into their organization, that wiki will become the first place members of the organization will turn when they have a question about how to perform a task or want to provide information (Wallace, 2008). The best part, the information can remain in spite of turnover so organization growth remains.
The Social Media Powerhouse
Social media is powerful. If utilized correctly, the power it can provide is almost limitless. People, images, ideas, agendas, songs, games, etc., all have the ability to be in front of millions of people, literally overnight if the messages go “viral”.
Paul J. Meyer said, “Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.” Bill Gates said, “I’m a great believer that any tool that enhances communication has profound effects in terms of how people can learn from each other, and how they can achieve the kind of freedoms that they’re interested in.”
Social media offers a unique advantage is several ways. To begin with, you do not have to personally communicate the message to each and every person who might see it. The people you have originally communicated with are the ones who are communicating it to others by simply passing it along to people they think would be interested in the message.
Individually, a person can damage a company or other large organization because of a “shock story” they can provide about them. Mass distribution of documents, videos, or even comments on personal experience can be far-reaching. The idea of whistle-blowing has a whole new meaning in the world of social media.
Social media also allows individuals to connect and organize with smaller groups and allows smaller groups to connect and organize nationally (Hiar, 2010). This creates power for the people, against the abuses of governments, corporations, and other large entities. Not only does this allow the people to hold these large groups accountable, it allows people to gain access to the information extremely fast (Shirky, 2011). Often times, faster than the organization can plan or address the unexpected opposition.
On the other hand, a company or large organization can gain power by listening and reacting (Wolf, 2013). If people are commenting on a product or service, the company can gain power by listening to the message and actually doing something about it. If the people are upset by the actions of a politician/law/action, the government can gain trust by handling the situation. By reacting, publicly if necessary, the organization demonstrates their willingness to correct mistakes or flaws and can ultimately gain trust in the people they seek to either lead or sell.
These Tools Are Essential Now
Digital technology is playing a bigger role in our lives each and every day. Many of us who grew up without it, are now pretty much forced to integrate it. Some are resistant, but some embrace it. In this section, we explore how technology affects us, some basic preferences and some possible reasons why, and I will provide a possible plan of action for bringing communication technology into your organization.
Many polls demonstrate that technology is an integral part of both our personal and business lives. This is rather consistent with national trends actually. These technologies are a way of life now and it is not just for the extremely young. The 45-54 year age bracket is the fastest-growing demographic on both Facebook and Google+. 189 million of Facebook’s users are ‘mobile-only’ and climbing fast. YouTube reaches more U.S. adults aged 18-34 than any cable network (Bullas, 2013). Surprisingly enough, Social Media has overtaken porn as the number one activity on the web. 25% of smartphone owners ages 18-44 say they cannot recall the last time their smartphone was not next to them and 56% of Americans have a profile on a social networking site (Garibian, 2013). Imagine the power!
The preferences for different digital technologies have a lot to do with exposure, need, and comfort levels. Certain circles will tend to utilize different technologies. Wikis, for instance, maybe more of a business or information-sharing technology, so those who just want to keep up with friends would be less likely to utilize such a tool. A couple of years ago, Twitter users were 33% more likely to be Democrats, so perhaps the way they utilize the tool or the messages being sent are not a preference of the conservative (Baer, 2012). Of course, each outlet has a different spin or feature than others. For instance, Google + has a feature called “Hangout” which offers an online video chat similar to Skype, but that automatically uploads to YouTube upon completion. This feature is even equipped with a chat function for participants. The need is different for everyone; hence, the usage would be a little different along the different lines.
Introducing the New Technologies
If I were a senior manager of an organization and if I were responsible for the introduction and integration of these communication technologies for the goal of sharing information and knowledge more effectively, I would utilize a multi-phase approach.
First I would define and solidify the goal. For instance, it would be important to know whether we were going to utilize these tools for sharing information to the public or only with each other internally. Once this goal is established, we need to define what types of information we would be sharing. These types could include files/documents, videos, messages, or simply a storage place for all of the above.
The next step would be to evaluate the key features of the suggested digital platforms. This is important because if a certain feature of function is necessary for the mission but not provided by the platform, it may not be the best fit for the task at hand. Sure, it could be another tool in the box, but it may not be the primary.
Then I would evaluate the security functions required by the organization and the security functions and features of the platform being considered. I would also evaluate if organizational security features could somehow be integrated into the platform being utilized.
Finally, once the mission has been defined and the platform has been selected, I would begin to slowly introduce the availability to the organization. I would first start out with fellow senior management members. This would ensure a level of oversight as the lower levels begin to participate as well as provide an opportunity for the upper levels to become fluent in the different aspects of the technology so as to ensure they are knowledgeable when lower levels have questions. Then I would slowly trickle access down to the lower levels and find subject matter experts or “champions” in regard to the technology on the different levels so that upper management was not burdened with repeated questions.
It would be a process for sure; however, taking it one step at a time and being methodical about such digital technologies would reduce the abandonment and “web noise” in regard to our organization. Being strategic, upfront, can save a lot of time and money both upfront and on the back-end.
You might also be interested in my article discussing Knowledge Management – Tools.
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