Connecting vs Reaching

Abstract connection network

This snippet by way of Stowe Boyd really struck a chord with me with respect to the difference between social networks and enterprise social networks. Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook got called out by Maureen Dowd in this New York TImes article:

“Sandberg may mean well, and she may be setting up a run for national office. But she doesn’t understand the difference between a social movement and a social network marketing campaign. Just because digital technology makes connecting possible doesn’t mean you’re actually reaching people”

I’m not going to debate Sandbergs motives in the context of Maureen’s article – not my bag. But as I spend my time thinking about product vs real established customer needs at work, this last statement about connecting vs reaching exposes the stark difference between consumer social networking and what happens in the world of work.

Enterprise social networking as we’ve known it thus far has had the exact opposite problem:  Just because digital technology makes reaching possible doesn’t mean you’re actually connecting.

Reaching people is accounted for. It’s called Email. In the world of work, connecting doesn’t come from just bringing people together. Really really connecting to impact performance and execution comes from surrounding real purpose and context such as a sales forecast data point, a problematic travel expense statement, a curve ball customer request, a need for supplier arbitration, with your network of people. You can reach people all day long but to get the network to truly galvanize around a problem, you need to infuse smart expertise identification and social or collaboration at the point where problems and opportunities emerge.

This is the expectation of “social”, in the enterprise.

 

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7 comments
Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrin

As usual you get it right. But I suggest a third step : Reaching > Connecting > Doing. From my point of view what businesses struggle at is "doing" even when they managed to connect people. But that's mainly a management matter where they're more likely to want to see a technology one.

William Mougayar
William Mougayar

I see this situation as part of the typical chasm between B2C vs. B2B thinking, and it's slightly complicated because of the advent of the "online social" factor.  Being schooled by the Facebook mold, Sheryl Sandberg sees that every solution starts and ends with a social network implementation or analogy. That's a tough one to swallow if you are in the enterprise camp (for the reasons you mentioned), but the simplicity (or naiveté) of the consumerized approach to everything is a tempting one and it is being tried. 

Branavan Ganesan
Branavan Ganesan

Your comment back to Dan is interesting as my first thought upon reading this was the huge serendipity value you find from a crowdsourced environment.  I feel it has value int he work context. Now whether it trumps discovery, or purpose is another matter. I agree the biggest return from an engagement perspective definitely is the ability to close the loop or get additional learning about some common issue.  The question and answer paradigm is what creates the most activity in the social sphere.  One point from the marketing perspective and reach however.  The behavioral practices of the decision maker are different than that of the engaged practitioner (you are a notable outlier).  Since the decision maker consumes voraciously, then delegates for closer attention, reach is of value in the social space, as an alternative or additional coverage to email, from the perspective of a marketing campaign.  After all, C suites tend to be a page view in the metrics universe, at least in our experience. As for Boyd's point, I would agree with Dan's hypothesis and your observation. Network size is highly overrated.  It's up there with #profiles in a network as key performance indicator rather than % active.  This is turning into a post.  In any case, your blog post did its job which is that it got me thinking. So thanks for that. @brenny:twitter

Nikhil Govindaraj
Nikhil Govindaraj

Well stated Sameer. I think thre are two pieces here...one is the business context or the purpose, I think the other is the top down vs bottom up approach. 

Dan Pontefract
Dan Pontefract

This has got me thinking. Perhaps we (society) are confusing connections with connecting versus reaching. In LinkedIn, Facebook, G+ and Twitter people are focused on 'connections' (or whatever the platform vernacular) and it might be that these same people think the connections are in fact opportunities to connect and/or collaborate whereas in fact they are simply reaching. I need to mull this over more ... but it does nest nicely into Chapter 7 of the book where I delve into something I call "The Participative Leader Framework"; where direct connections are more powerful and purposeful than the so-called weak ties meme.

Sameer Patel
Sameer Patel

Cool. Let me know when you finish mulling. Love to see where you end up. There's an argument to be made for more serendipity from more connections. That works as a primary mataphor when it comes to  public networks but not as primary in the work context. Purpose trumps that, as I see it. 

milindpansare
milindpansare

Great post Sameer. IMO most Enterprise Social platforms today provide a general "dial-tone" that enables discovery and conversations through serendipity. Constructs such as "groups" and "discussions" that are used to structure Enterprise Social platforms somewhat support the notion of context, but not necessarily purpose. (Q&A functionality in a few platforms does get closer).  Purpose, Sponsor, Time are all constructs that are missing, IMO in general purpose ESNs today. Social Innovation management platforms do have this structure - challenges (time bound, clear sponsor/recipient for ideas, time bound collaboration, and the concept of graduating ideas from discussions to products married with enterprise business processes. Perhaps it's time for general purpose enterprise social dialtone providers to take a page from Innovation management platforms?

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