Sometimes in IT, it’s hard to distinguish the gadgets from the game-changers. Every CIO has been pitched something that seemed intriguing and turned out to be frivolous (and vice versa). That’s why they can’t be blamed when they hear “social media” and think “teen-agers on Facebook.”
Nor has the general media particularly helped. Articles frequently correlate social media with the “voice of the customer.” Even articles on social media targeting CIOs have generally focused on IT involvement from a technology standpoint – that is, social media is a communications mechanism in the same way that e-mail is, and thus, must be managed by IT.
That’s what Metro Tasmania CIO Rodney Byfield argued in his CIO Australia article several weeks ago. It’s also the gist of Matt Foulger’s five-part series, Social Media for the CIO (Foulger works for HootSuite, which has developed Twitter management tool, so be aware of his bias). Even InformationWeek’s recent article on social media trends for 2014 focuses on what it means for the business.
No argument that, as technology, social media should be managed by IT. But the fact is that social media has unexplored intrinsic value for IT. Social media – or as it might be better referred to here, enterprise social networking – relies on the precept of sharing information that might not otherwise be shared. Notwithstanding blatant use of Twitter for marketing, there’s an honesty in social networking. It’s a way to find out what people really think. Consider these scenarios:
No. 1: Finding the right staff. As I noted last month, I have great for CIOs trying to hire new employees in cutting-edge technologies. That’s where a site like LinkedIn comes in handy. You can search on technologies, companies, skills to find prospects. You can identify previous employers, and find former co-workers for back-channel recommendations. You can troll the groups for prospects who speak intelligently about their challenges and successes.
No. 2: Tapping into internal communications. Want to figure out why you’re dealing with so much shadow IT? Use tools such as Yammer or Chatter as the latter-day version of a suggestion box. These collaboration tools let you create impromptu groups or enterprise-wise chat rooms to post questions (i.e., what’s the one thing IT can do better?).
No. 3: Getting smarter. You can also use these collaboration tools internally to improve insight among your IT staff when there’s a problem you’re trying to solve. You’ve hired a smart staff; give them a way to share their experience without having to create a massive knowledge management database (which we all know rarely works anyway).
No. 4: Learning about product issues. Setting up social networking capabilities for other departments can help IT’s relationships with those departments. Whether you set up an e-mail address for customer complaints or monitor an internal Twitter feed for mentions of your company, you can find out what your customers are thinking. What aggravates them? Analyzing those concerns gives you the opportunity to take a solution – supply chain improvement, customer support changes – to the department proactively.
You may prefer the old-fashioned method of chatting face-to-face, at dinners and trade shows and other events. Don’t stop doing that, but expand your viewpoint of what entails social interaction and you’ll learn so much more.
To see other Forbes articles on social media, click here. Comment below or email CIO Next Community Manager Howard Baldwin about how you’re using social media to be more efficient.
Originally published on Jul 9, 2012 3:34 PM