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In Part One, we looked at the importance of trust in building the social media ecology. In this post, we build on this to explore the importance of intentional activity (such as seeding content or synthesizing knowledge) for building the social media ecology, with an example from Oxfam America. Optimization of traffic on platforms like Instagram will be imperative. Even something as simple as replying to instagram messages online or comments on posts can make a difference when it comes to using social media to its fullest and gaining more traffic.

Sow and Yee Shall Reap

I recently had the opportunity to discuss with an IBF colleague, Ephraim Freed, an effective social media initiative he participated in at Oxfam America (a 450 person global development organization in eight countries). The organization had recently introduced a process called Annual Impact Review (AIR) for each of the program officers. The leadership’s goal was to use AIR to see patterns, define areas for improvement, and increase transparency. Ephraim and the knowledge team decided to use the social media discussion tool, ThoughtFarmer, as a vehicle for fleshing out the AIR recommendations. The knowledge team was very intentional. They chose a specific topic-agenda, so that eyes and ideas would be focused there. Moreover, they invited, cajoled, prodded, and coached credible program team members to be conveners of the discussion. Thanks to the knowledge team’s intervention (and occasional cheerleading online), employees were online discussing what mattered, and in a proactive way.

This intentional activity – seeding content, inviting others to seed, and gently nurturing it – is essential for leading social media programs. It’s facilitation, not manipulation. It’s inviting people to use social tools in their own self-interest, and in the interest of the learning organization. It’s also nurturing the trust we discussed earlier, encouraging the topics and inviting people to be curious. As with trust, topics must matter in the non-social world first. They contribute to strategic goals like growth, market share, relationship-strength, and productivity.

Keep an Action Agenda

I wince every time I open up Twitter or Yammer. I feel like Dorothy realizing that everything is edible in Oz, but hardly having time to taste. I see streams of ideas coming across the transept, and know I am overlooking great wisdom as I skim. I wish I could see a digest, in simple prose, not crazy acronyms. I wish there were arrows pointing me to the most relevant links, so that I could spend a productive ten minutes and then dig in. I’m not alone. Despite the huge uptake for social media in the fortune 500,[i] managers cite lack of meaningful synthesis as a major draw-back.

So, with both trust and topics, the leadership effort is about engaging action. What that means, is helping participants see patterns across time, across voices, or across threads. At times it may mean forcing the question, “So, how would you summarize this?” Or, “So, what is all this leading to?” At other times, it means pointing out possible connections or even contradictions, “We’ve been talking about report findings from three different teams, and, even though they differ in their estimates, I wonder if anyone else is seeing that they all point to the need for consumer involvement?” This type of synthesizing needs to be done with some humility (you may be too bold or strike too soon). And, you need agreement a priori from the participants that there is an expectation of action. Again, what goes on outside of social media echoes in social media: Good governance and decision-making in other parts of the business spill-over into the Yammerings, Tweets, and Connections. For example, in an online community in which I participate, the onus is on members who initiate a question to collate responses and integrate this knowledge into a summary back to the group. This is partly about the sharing policy of the community, but it also reflects the trust operating between its members offline and online.

Getting the right people out there on our social platforms – sharing and crafting ideas on the topics that matter to your organization’s performance – requires active social media leadership. If you are looking to build your interaction with you audience on social media or are even looking to create a platform that works in relation to your business, your best best may be to look into marketing businesses like NGP Integrated Marketing Communications if you are looking to build your brand equity. You may not find instant results, but you will do over time. It’s all about consistency and persistence. As social media leaders we must build trust on and offline, plan how social media participants spend their time, and help as users convert threads into actionable ideas. Social media leadership is not one person or department, but a collaboration inviting all levels of the organization. Start today by doing your own benchmark: How strong is your on- and offline trust? Who (and what ideas) show up in your social forums? Can you point to actions informed by online discussions? Do you get kudos for social threads’ coherence?Now, enlist executive management and social media mavens. This may be one of your most revealing and motivating benchmarks ever.

This is a guest post by Katrina Pugh. Katrina is a lead benchmarker with IBF. She is author of Sharing Hidden Know-How (Jossey-Bass, Wiley, 2011), and is president of AlignConsulting, a firm that helps organizations plan business and technology change by channeling insight into action. She formerly was VP of Knowledge Management for Fidelity, Senior Technical Program manager for Intel Solution Services, and held leadership roles at JPMorganChase and PwC Consulting/IBM. Kate is on the Advisory Board of Knowledge Management Institute of Canada, and is a lecturer at Columbia University’s Information and Knowledge Strategy Masters’ program.

[i] “The rise of the networked enterprise: Web 2.0 finds its payday,” McKinsey Quarterly, December, 2010.

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