For some time I have been banging on about my frustration with social media tools simply being used for marketing purposes while they also have the ability to help transform the way we do business.

The following is a discussion of how different business disciplines have transformed and how marketers can gain a better understanding of social media marketing practices today from looking at the past.

Knowledge management fundamentals

Some 15 years ago I was involved in the knowledge management (KM) discipline. At the time it was an emerging field and a group of us were involved in putting together the Standards Australia Knowledge Management Framework.

Essentially knowledge management was about the creation, transfer and retention of that knowledge primarily within organisations.

The buzzwords of the time included: co-creation, collaboration, CoP (Communities of Practice) – sound familiar? These are words that we often use today in discussions about social media.

Knowledge management implementation barriers

Many of the discussions that we had years ago about how to get people to share their knowledge came up against two critical barriers.  

  • Technology

In 1994 the best we could do was Lotus Notes, we thought it was innovative at the time. We started experimenting with wikis, more innovative intranets but the tools were certainly lacking. Today we have tools such as Twitter, Blogs, RSS, Mashups, Yammer, Facebook, and a variety of wiki platforms.

  • Attitudes/culture

Encouraging people to share their knowledge was fundamental to the success of the KM program, yet the culture of sharing – even in an online social sense – wasn’t embedded in our culture. Sure there were a few forums but the idea of social networks, review sites etc. didn’t really exist. Today the culture of sharing, contributing and collaborating is embedded in our psyche. We want to share and expect to have our say.

Enter Enterprise 2.0

In the past three years the term Enterprise 2.0 has been bandied around but what is it?

Harvard professor Andrew McAfee coined the phrase Enterprise 2.0, defining it as:

“The use of emergent social software platforms within companies or between companies and their partner or customers”.

The benefits of Enterprise 2.0 are often named as increasing innovation, productivity and ultimately harnessing the collective intelligence of that organisation – certainly KM was a forerunner to this discipline.

How is this relevant to me as a marketer?

As a marketer you are probably aware of social media tools and how they are currently being used to help engage with consumers today i.e. with companies blogging, being involved in Twitter and using different social media monitoring tools to listen to conversations

Many marketers understand these tools as essentially external facing, yet the philosophy behind the benefits and use of these tools was traditionally internal facing (i.e. knowledge management through to Enterprise 2.0). Understanding the history and transition of the varying disciplines gives you a greater understanding of the multiple benefits of the tools.

For example: on a simple level it is good to look at each of the tools your organisation is using such as Twitter, but is this being used for marketing purposes only? Or is it being used as a CRM tool? Are you systematically gathering consumers’ insights that can be fed back to R&D for product development? In short, are you getting the best ROI from these tools?

Enter social business transformation

Recently the esteemed David Armano, a senior partner at Dachis Corp penned a post about business transformation entitled ‘From Social Media to Social Business Design. Essentially the post discussed a shift in thinking – less about media and more about tapping the benefits of being a social business in a purposeful way.  

Joint partner in Dachis Corp, Peter Kim also posted recently ‘Reflections on Social Business.

At the core of their new idea is The Social Business Design Framework which captures ecosystem (community), hivemind (culture), dynamic signal (collaboration), and metafilter (content). It is not too dissimilar to the Standards Australia KM Framework that also highlights culture, tools people etc.

So am I saying that Armanos so called new business idea is simply KM? No. There is a fundamental difference. KM was primarily interested in managing internal knowledge sources within a company. The Armano model includes both internal and external knowledge management tools and applications for a more holistic strategy.

Knowledge management (KM) was often discussed as a form of change theory – a discipline that can revolutionise the way we do business. Today with new technologies and cultures aligned with collaboration Social Business Transformation will be possible and marketers can play their part in the revolution.