A great learning experience with social software

ark-booklet Yesterday’s Ark Group workshop in London on “Social software: Maximising knowledge-sharing in your business” was a great experience from my perspective, on a number of levels.

This is the workshop at which I stood in for David Ferrabee during the morning and set the scene for the event that included terrific presentations by Denise Maskew at United Utilities, Ben Gardner at Pfizer and Richard Hare of British American Tobacco.

So, on to those multi-level experiences.

On the one hand, there’s the aspect of learning from what others are doing – an experience I find valuable at every event I go to, whether as a presenter or speaker or simply as a participant – and yesterday was just such a learning experience.

Not only did I hear about some interesting things going on at the companies represented by each presenter, but also I learned of the genuine and real-world issues facing the companies represented by those who came to the workshop to learn. As the event was closed, I’m not at liberty to either identify the companies nor be specific about their issues.

But the fact is that, during the past few years, I’ve seen at first hand much of the issues I heard about yesterday, ranging from severe blockages at a senior level within the organization to even discussing social media to cop-outs from IT that social media overloads infrastructures or presents security risks.

I’ve heard them all before.

While it’s always easy to talk in the abstract about how to address such issues – and consultants always seem to have a rosy eye on the eventual successful outcome – the stark reality in the real world of organizations is that it never, ever, is as easy as such abstract looks suggest.

Indeed, in some cases, social media just isn’t going to happen in an organization for any number of reasons. Accept that and move on in the things you do as a communicator in the company you work for – or move on to another organization where the climate, culture and executives are more conducive to social media.

The other multi-level aspect of yesterday was some of the experimentation I did, notably with Twitter.

Tweeting elements of a conference or other event to a hashtag is becoming something rather du jour these days. Everyone does it. We had a hashtag – #arksocialsoftware – and some of us there duly tweeted at various times during the day.

What’s interesting about this is not so much our tweeting but seeing how others outside the event react and respond to what they see going at inside our event, so to speak. Can they add some value? Can we stimulate something in them that otherwise may not have happened? I think the general answer to such questions is ‘yes.’

I also continued an experiment I began a while ago involving Twitter – posting tweets to blog posts on this blog via the Twitter LiveBlog plugin for WordPress.

I did that with the sessions from each presenter:

What the plugin does is capture each tweet and add it in chronological order (unlike Twitter which does it in reverse order, just like a blog) to a blog post the plugin creates from your first tweet containing a start tag. It continues capturing tweets until you send a tweet with the stop tag.

Useful for people who don’t use Twitter but who do read your blog or subscribe to your RSS feed. Another way of offering your content in ways some people might prefer.

The only trouble is, the plugin is a bit flaky with recent WordPress versions, doing things like adding tweets with the wrong time stamps, which meant I had to edit each post after publication. A pity.

In any event, yesterday’s workshop was a great learning experience, one I hope the participants found likewise.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

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