Friday, February 19, 2010

Social media and knowledge management

Over the years, I’ve started to use more and more social media tools. My evolution started with this blog in 2004, then on to my songwriting blog, joining MySpace to share music, Google/Yahoo Groups, and now LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Wanting to use it more efficiently, I just finished my certification as a Social Media Specialist from the Social Media Magic University.

In thinking about social media and knowledge management I saw Venkatesh Rao's thought provoking article about Social Media vs. Knowledge Management: A Generational War. Reading the comments alone show how effective social media can be in sharing knowledge. The article talks about a conflict between knowledge management and social media, which he attributes to generational differences.

What's important about the article is thinking about where social media fits into a KM strategy and the barriers to its acceptance. Social media is still relatively new, and I think conflict is typical of any change or innovation. Early adopters embrace the new technology, late adopters wait until all the bugs are out and they are forced into it. For example, KM is just getting started in some industries. When I started blogging in 2004 it was unheard of in my industry. So the potential barrier is the stage of innovation for the person or industry.

My opinion is that social media is a knowledge management tool. It is very effective when working with external groups and with open communities. The yellow pages/expert locator function is excellent for people outside my traditional network. The discussion and informal nature, along with the sound bite mentality encourages flow of more tacit knowledge. It’s also great for knowledge sharing outside my circle.

On the other hand, social media is not great for capturing, storing, and protecting knowledge. This is especially true for key business knowledge. Managers still (justifiably so) are concerned with content or opinions expressed without their knowledge. Copyright issues and other terms of service still need to be carefully considered. Evaluating the quality of knowledge and who’s an expert is another big issue.

So like any tool in the toolbox, it all comes down to what is your strategy? What are you trying to achieve? What are the pros and cons of each tool?

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