I spent yesterday touring the Web 2.0 expo (part of the time with fellow miscreant Jay Cross), and it led me to think a bit more about social media tools and approaches. After touring the floor, having lunch, and touring the floor some more before the keynotes, my reflections have to do with hybrids and implementation.
We were prompted to visit Blue Kiwi, which is probably the leading European social media platform. Talking to them, and the others there (Vignette & Lithium) has me reflecting more broadly. Mzinga is clearly targeted at the learning space, being integrated with an LMS. Vignette, on the other hand, started as a CMS for KM, but then added social media around it. Drupal is an open source CMS that’s been used for social media, and Elgg similarly started as an open source portfolio tool but has expanded.
It’s an interesting question about whether to keep your social media separate from your other tools, or to couple them with some other core functionality. Vignette’s story about building on their core content management system supporting knowledge management makes sense from the point of view of mining value out of the discussions. Yet, for a learning group, Mzinga’s integration of formal and informal learning is also plausible. And, of course, there’s now Sharepoint’s integration of social tools around resources.
On the other hand, a pure focus on social networking may be the more natural framework, but how do you get power to leverage the content generated? Coupling them makes sense if you’re coming from one direction or another, but I’m trying to integrate formal, content management, knowledge management and more into a seamless ecosystem. Do you integrate, or do you have APIs to couple capabilities? On one hand, an integrated solution is less work than an integration exercise, but on the other hand, I don’t expect there to be one all-singing-all-dancing solution. Tony Karrer, riffing off of BJ Schone’s post which emphasizes making things work and play well together, looks to LMS vendors partnering more, and I reckon that loose coupling makes sense. However, I don’t know if having a separate app for blogs, wikis, and all works, as you want profiles and discussions to be integrated, so reckon you do want a social media environment, or you’ll have to use a lot of glue. I’m still wrestling with this.
What definitely makes sense is having an implementation strategy for success. Lithium was advertising ‘successful’ communities, and so I naturally inquired about their approach. They said that they don’t start small, because to succeed you need critical mass. I asked about incenting the connectors and content producers, and they indicated that was part of their strategy as well. They indicated that there was a VIP room exclusively for big contributors where they could hobnob with the C-suite. Getting the C-suite to actually play struck me as a success factor, but hard to guarantee a priori. They almost seemed more a services firm though they did claim to have a solution as well. (I have to admit that their firm’s title, however, makes me think of chemical psychotherapy, not a great mental image.)
As a contrasting approach to success, Blue Kiwi’s pricing model is based around the activity in the system: if you’re not using it, you’re not getting value, and consequently you shouldn’t pay. Their threshold seems low: 2 accesses a month constitutes chargeable activity, whereas I would say 2 a week would be more indicative, but the cost for that activity is relatively low. What excites me, however, is the notion of measuring and trying to charge for the activity as an indirect measure of value. A more direct measure, the knowledge grown, seems to be a really exciting opportunity.
I’m realizing that what’s really important is the knowledge shared, and grown. I reckon that optimizing performance is going to be just the cost of entry, and the competitive advantage will be the generation of new opportunities. The key, then, is accelerating the growth of accessible actionable knowledge. So that’s what I’m focusing on. How about you?