Is social media part of knowledge management? Unequivocally, “yes!” Knowledge management is all about finding the knowledge you need when you need it and learning from previous mistakes whether they are yours or someone else’s. Social media is about making connections to other people, and sharing knowledge. Now, granted some of the knowledge that gets shared on social media is more noise than knowledge, but noise can be knowledge if your colleague tweets that they are stuck in traffic, you know they are going to be late for that 9am meeting, so it’s all a matter of perspective and context, a classic knowledge issue.
I recently read a three social media books, and took a social media course because social media often comes up in the KM consulting that I do and I wanted to have a better understanding of it and how it can be used, other than what I had figured out on my own. One of the books I read, “The Executive’s Guide to Enterprise Social Media Strategy,” by David B. Thomas and Mike Barlow, identified that knowledge management has been given short shrift, but argued that social media was on the verge of revolutionizing and transforming KM because of the direct access that people have to each other through social media, this can be employees inside the organization or customers and business partners outside of the organization interacting with the organization; all as a means of getting their jobs done.
The books were great, very enlightening about how to use social media and the kinds of things to do or not do, like not putting a twenty-something in charge of your social media strategy just because they “use it all the time.” Social media is another channel for communicating and interacting with your staff, clients, business partners, other stakeholders, and in some cases the general public (if we’re talking about tools like Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook), having someone with an understanding and appreciation of the magnitude of that responsibility is a good idea.
Better than the books was the course. It provided a model based on work done by Advanced Human Technologies. Their model, which is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License, allows for the creation of a comprehensive social media plan for an organization. The framework takes a thoughtful look at what an organization wants to achieve with social media, whether inside or outside the organization, and provides the questions that must be answered in order to engage the audience, develop capabilities, and measure success.
The activities and questions asked by the model are much like the questions we ask of knowledge management initiatives. In the end, I think, social media is just another way of finding out who knows what and asking them to share it or sharing what we know and hope that other’s learn from our experience, which is what knowledge management is all about.