Social Media’s Revolution: Egypt, Tunisia, Is the Enterprise Next?

SharePoint, Facebook, Twitter, and blogs have the power to change business for the better

With social media’s Twitter and Facebook working as a megaphone for Tehran’s outcry, Tunisia’s toppling, and Egypt’s revolution, it is very easy to say that giving the individual a voice can have a huge impact on change and those that govern. 

In April 2008, James Karl Buck, and his translator were detained covering anti-government protests in Egypt. Buck, on his way to the prison, managed to tweet simply “arrested.” Less than 24 hours later, he was able to tweet: “free.”  It’s appropriate that Egypt’s change  would be organized by social media.

What is the potential impact of social media on the enterprise?  I would have to say I expect change will occur thanks to their influence. 

In my own personal experience it was surprising to find out that over the past few years my  tweets and blogs have been read by executives.  I was surprised to hear that Microsoft pays as much or more attention to bloggers than analysts. 

Over the years that sounding board of positive and negative feedback has been tempered even more in the blogosphere, and that message captured in 140 characters on Twitter, where it's passed on and refined in minutes. 

More than anything, Twitter has helped to shape and define the SharePoint community. As events are organized, true organic community SharePints are dynamically pulled together, and Twitter extends their reach. And its global reach in finding local talent is unmatched.

What corporations will find at first with social media adoption is that the same people who run enterprise communication today will continue to be a significant voice.  The challenge is in adoption of the enterprise social media tools in leveraging a platform that gives the individual a voice. 

With SharePoint 2010 as the social media application or platform, users will have access to wikis, blogs… but it’s the social tagging, noteboarding, and activity feeds that change the social experience in the latest release.  Executives need not fear that a social revolution will happen in their corporations, but giving a voice to the hundreds or thousands who put their time and dedication to the company day in and day out may be worth their consideration, and why not a voice for change?  

A corporation is not a democracy and probably shouldn’t ever be, but could we avoid union dues if important needs and desires were more quickly addressed without picketing? It is easy to see in our recent history that bloggers definitely have had an impact on change. 

Look at MiniMSFT, a blogger who brought change in the way performance reviews were conducted at Microsoft, and behind closed doors was personally addressed through corporate videos and employee conferences by Microsoft’s HR Executive, Lisa Brummell.  It was easy to see how the blog became the sounding board in that case.  Many employees were saying the same thing, but needed a platform to say it.

I have to wonder if Microsoft's Steve Ballmer, who hasn’t paid attention to Wall Street’s beckoning, would listen to his employees if they were less subtle in their request for him to end his reign. 

How do you measure loyalty within the company during a string of layoffs?  I suggest it’s not through exit interviews, but in sentiment that is most constructively voiced through social media outlets yet to be taken advantage of in corporations.

What we get out of social media in the enterprise will give a voice to the individual.  It may not be as exciting as what’s happening with your friends on your Facebook wall, but the relevancy of what’s happening in your co-worker’s activity feed over time will become more and more significant in influencing how we do our jobs.

Information itself will be more fluid and make our companies more agile and more influenced by feedback.  Enterprise social media’s revolution will take a different form, and the method of change it brings may not mean a regime change, but it's bound to bring agility and change from the bottom up.

Editor's note: Read more about Social Media and SharePoint in the May issue of SharePointPro magazine, coming free to your home or workplace. Sign up here!

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