Familiar with that term? If you’re steeped in social media and Enterprise 2.0, you probably are. If not, here’s a good description by Sarah Perez on ReadWriteWeb:
Social objects are objects that connect people with shared interests.
Social objects are the core of any social software. They define the experience, the basis for connecting people and knowledge, and the tangible benefits for companies.
Jyri Engeström, founder of Jaiku and Google employee, described key considerations for establishing the social objects of a community, both in the ReadWriteWeb post and in an earlier post on his own blog.
- How well does the social object break itself into structured data? With a consistent structure, it becomes easier to build out engagement and maintain a consistent experience in engaging people.
- What data points define the social object? There is a tradeoff in terms of the value each data point will provide versus the hurdles that increasing data points put on users to participate.
- How much social gravitational pull does the object have? Complex social objects offer more handles for interaction. Simple social objects, such as microblog posts, don’t have as many handles. Big social objects offer more “social gravity”.
- What do you want people to do with your social object? Comment, rate, view, etc.
- Make the objects shareable. When a person finds something she likes, she wants to share it. Sharing = the essence of social.
Each aspect is an important consideration, for both adoption and utility of the social software.
There are many forms of social software – wikis, blogs, microblogs, etc. The challenge is turning the core activities of these systems into powerful social objects that engage people and deliver results. Viewed from this perspective, one can see why activity-specific social applications are gaining traction.
And it also explains why ideas are the killer social objects for an Enterprise 2.0 initiative. Three characteristics are key:
Each element above is valuable for communities, and critical for delivering tangible business value. Here’s how ideas relate to them.
The ability to collaborate is central to any social initiative. Do a search on any social software vendor’s site, you’re guaranteed to find the word collaborate multiple times.
Ideas are tailor-made for collaboration. Why?
- They venture into the unknown, where feedback is welcome
- They affect the work of somebody somewhere (and likely many somebodies), so getting input from those somebodies is important
- There are likely other ways to tackle the opportunity/issue, and one needs to hear about those
Ideas actually offer several ways for people to engage with them. There are discussions around the idea. There is voting for an idea. There are reviews of an idea. You can attach files to an idea. You can share an idea. Ideas are rich in handles for engagement.
Finally, ideas have a strong personal connection for people. This gives added oomph to their interest in engaging others on them, and tracking their outcome. They have great “gravitational pull”.
If you’re an enterprise employee, or you work with enterprises, you surely know this: there is a healthy appetite for analytics. Analytics apply to areas like sales, financials, human resources, manufacturing, and many other areas.
Well why not Enterprise 2.0?
There is much more to analytics than page views. Remember all those actions people can take with an idea, in the ‘Collaboration’ section? Turns out those actions are great for analytics. The straight analytics you’d expect – e.g. number of votes. But many, many more you wouldn’t. You can get a lot of useful data through smart analysis and implicit signals.
Great, so you collect these analytics, what next? With something like a blog post, the use cases for analytics are probably limited in a corporate environment. This is where the value of ideas as social object shines.
Ideas are (i) alternative paths to accomplishing something; and (ii) potential projects requiring resources. Providing a scalable way to leverage analytics as tool to sort through a large number of ideas is a great use for analytics.
This is where having ideas as social objects benefits organizations. General purpose social software – with general purpose social objects – isn’t built to leverage analytics for innovation management this way.
OK, let’s put that microblog post through a workflow process. No? How about that forum thread? No? Maybe that wiki entry? Blog post? Shared bookmark?
Workflow sometimes seems like a forgotten word in the realm of Enterprise 2.0. Discussions about Enterprise 2.0 can often reflect a knowledge management orientation. The usual social objects don’t lend themselves to workflow.
Ideas are different. Ideas need to go through a workflow. You mix the emergent, chaotic front end of innovation with the discipline of an evaluation process:
As The Nielsen Company’s analysis of innovation best practices by CPGs found:
Manage ideas lightly while managing the process precisely
Indeed, CPGs with a process where an idea must pass certain criteria in stages generate 130% more product revenue than do companies with loose processes.
And all that workflow has one other effect: ongoing engagement in the community.
Collaboration, analytics, workflow…why I’m bullish on ideas as the premier social objects for Enterprise 2.0.
Hutch Carpenter is the Vice President of Product at Spigit. Spigit integrates social collaboration tools into a SaaS enterprise idea management platform used by global Fortune 2000 firms to drive innovation.