Social media tools help us by increasing the social content in our work. When we pass over a report or a piece of information, we are able to attach context to it. That context is vitally important. Context provides a reason for the object to exist, communicates your emotions about the object, and insodoing gives that object (or the process around it) inertia.
Giving context permanence is something that has often historically been punitive. Tracking slips used to be (and likely still are) attached to memos and reports to keep tabs on who saw given bits of information and who acted accordingly. They weren't used so much as to provide context as to guard against people saying "I didn't get the memo."
Social media seeks to attach context not only to memos, but to the individual paragraphs, and to the source material that led to those paragraphs. This context reveals artifacts of ownership, individual contribution, inspiration and the results of good group effort.
This isn't happening to blame, but to capture enthusiasm, harness it and reward its continuance. As it becomes more commonplace to have the artifacts, people begin looking for them. Pockets of expertise can be extended, individuals are rewarded for particular elements of knowledge, and the group as a whole grows from the seed of their inspiration.
This growth I call Social Inertia.
Consider this scenario
Five people are instructed to form a work group. They have been given a goal. Some have individual skills to bring to the table. Some necessary skills are shared between group members. Some necessary skills are not covered by anyone.
The group identifies what it needs as a group, who has what expertise and what skills are missing. The group then sets up a wiki with pages dedicated to each skill or need.
Experts quickly fill in overviews of what they are experts in and provide some links to existing web resources. The group can then ask questions or add other resources.
The group then assigns different missing elements to team members who then swarm their assignments. My teams generally go link hunting and create common tag bases in del.icio.us. This information can then be quickly processed and rapid wiki pages developed.
The actions create social inertia. The individual activities reward existing expertise and allow the people involved to feel individual value. The group activities generally generate a lot of good information quickly.
The team research keeps it interesting, keeps someone around to discuss new issues with, and is an easy but rewarding cooperative game.
It's very possible that a few weeks after the creation of these wiki pages, they will never be looked at again. The exercise, however, is quite valuable. The exercise gathered much information, established internal expertise, shared new knowledge (context) Due to its success, the project gets off on the right foot (inertia).
The key here is to make sure that the use of the tools have obvious value to both the individual and the group. The social media tools can be very simple, as long as they are relevant. If the group is not used to social media, you also need to be able to clearly convey what that value is. …. What the relevance is.
Blogged from the Sai Oak in Ocean Shores, Washington