Written with Bill Ives, who works with Pistachio Consulting periodically on the enterprise space.
Social media tools have begun to migrate from the consumer web to the business web, sometimes facing outward, sometimes focused in. Just as public-facing applications need broad appeal, enterprise tools need to be designed for a defined organizational space to be effective (see Enterprise 2.0 is not Web 2.0 nor is it an Oxymoron). With the explosion of the Twitter market, some of these new tools are designed specifically for enterprise microsharing (sometimes called microblogging and social messaging). Although Twitter can be used within an organization, it was created for the broader web and does not have the functionality that appeals to enterprise decision-makers, seeking multifaceted tools.
One of the initial players in the enterprise microsharing space is Socialcast who we have covered before (see Enterprise Microsharing Tools Comparison, Socialcast Brings Twitter Style Functionality into the Enterprise, and Socialcast Adds iPhone and Gmail Plug-ins).
Last week Socialcast released a priority broadcast message capability that gives designated participants authority to elevate need-to-know messages to a community in real time, separating this information from regular traffic and denoting its importance. Broadcast messages appear prominently in the network, highlighted with unique colors and triggering instant email alerts of a new broadcast.
This new capability was developed from customer comments and it is has been tested in over thirty companies. Organizations have broadcast emergency alerts, quarterly messages from the President, key promotions and congratulatory announcements; intermittent bursts relevant to everyone receiving the signal.
We like the idea of bringing important messages inside the microsharing environment because it reaches people where they are, through mobile devices and desktops alike. It also demonstrates leadership support and purposeful engagement with the tools. If done right, it may entice more participation from people throughout the organization because conversation happens around the broadcast within the stream, rather than in corporate email silos.
For this feature to influence the culture in 2.0 ways, it should be the content, not the sender’s seniority, that determines when this capability is used. It should broadcast important messages from those holding the corporate vision alongside those outside the executive suite. People at many organizational levels are privy to news that affects everyone and they should have the power to use it.
Someone in the transportation department may learn of a roadway accident that will have an impact on everyone leaving work. An ad hoc speaker in the auditorium could be announced by someone in community relations or PR. An imminent change to social media policy could be shared by a member of the peer council no matter their department. They each have a real reason to use the system and should have a mechanism to do so. At the same time, it should not be over used or it will appear as spam.
Senior leaders should likewise demonstrate they are listening to what employees are saying. They should also post regular messages, not only broadcasts, showing they want to be part of the ongoing conversation with all levels of the enterprise. This will demonstrate real engagement and allow them to gain the full benefit of these tools.
Broadcasting is one examples of an emergent capability not appropriate for use on the broader web, that can work well within the enterprise. This feature would not even be relevant to Twitter because users have access to only one follower pool and the system depends on its distributed nature. In an enterprise you can have layers of participation and parallel systems for those who aren’t microsharing yet. This feature can provide a greater sense of community within the enterprise as all levels of the organization can now respond to breaking broadcasted news through a channel that provides greater collaboration than email. We look forward to more innovations like this one within the market as it adapts to the needs of the enterprise.
Bill Ives has made a career helping firms with business applications of emerging technologies. He covers the enterprise 2.0 space through three blogs: Portals and KM, FastForward and the AppGap. You will begin to see him now on TouchbaseBlog, too. We welcome his contributions.
Marcia Conner is an enterprise learning and social media analyst and a 20-year veteran of the enterprise technology market. She writes the Fast Company Learn at All Levels blog and is Senior Enterprise Strategist for Pistachio Consulting.