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This post is part 3 in a 5-part series focusing on the potential impact of social media within the enterprise. Part 1 dealt with a framework for understanding how social media supports relationships and content in ways that both enable and constrain employees. Part 2 addressed the multiple types of relationships that social media supports, compared to earlier generations of collaboration tools. This third installment focuses on the implications of presenting and protecting content on organizational collaboration. This series is based on an article published in Vol 14, No 1 (2015) of MIS Quarterly Executive.
Information placed online often takes on a life of its own. When I attended business school in the late 1990s, the rule of thumb was to never put anything in an email that you wouldn’t want your spouse or your boss to see.
Today, we admonish both employees and children alike to take great care about what they put online, because it is not easily controllable once in cyberspace and may be online forever. Perhaps the adage should be revised in light of current capabilities — never put anything online that you wouldn’t want your future spouse or future boss to see.
The transparency and permanence of digital content, however, can have its benefits for organizations. When information behaves in unexpected ways, it can also find its way to places it can be beneficial that were not identified beforehand. While email tends to lock information into very private silos of knowledge intended for specific persons and purposes, social media tools can often liberate that valuable information for use elsewhere in the enterprise.
Transparency can allow others to benefit from information shared in normal interaction. For example, Discover Financial Services learned that allowing people to “overhear” the conversations of others as they occurred led to a massive increase in an awareness of who knows what in the organization.
Permanence also allows this information to be used by others at a later time.