Implementing Social Media at Large Organizations

September 19, 2008

Social Media

As I mentioned in my first post, I’m currently leading a small, but growing team of people at my firm who are focused on building our social media capabilities, both internally and with our clients. Five years ago, when I joined my company, the only mentions of the terms “wikis” and “blogs” were usually preceded by the words “What the hell is a…” Now, as with most organizations, there is an enormous demand for social media, both internally among my colleagues, and externally with my clients. Luckily, I work for a firm where I have had the flexibility to pursue my interest and passion for social media, and over the last two years, have been able to grow this capability to where we are today.

So how did I get to this position? It’s important to note that I didn’t go to school for social media (I majored in public relations), I didn’t get staffed on a project where sharing information using social media was part of the culture (I was working for a client in the Intelligence Community where the prevailing attitude was “Need to Know“), and I wasn’t told by my leadership that I would now be the social media expert (they didn’t know a blog from a website). No, I was just a strategic communications consultant who saw that social media was fundamentally changing the way organizations communicated, and I decided that this was an area I wanted to focus on.

To my surprise, when I first started working in the Intelligence Community, I stumbled across something called Intellipedia, a wiki similar to Wikipedia, on the Top Secret network on which I was working. Upon more exploration, I found out that Intellipedia uses the same software (MediaWiki) as Wikipedia, and is not only available on the Top Secret network, but that it’s actually used to share VERY sensitive data across all of the agencies within the Intelligence Community. Well, upon discovering this, I said to myself that if the CIA, FBI, DNI, and other Intelligence agencies can use wikis and blogs to share classified information, there’s no reason why these applications can’t be used across the government.

I started voraciously reading about how Intellipedia worked – who was behind it, what technical feature did it have, what else was planned, who was using it, etc. I bought all kinds of social media books (Wikinomics, The World is Flat, Wikipatterns, The Long Tail are just some of them), I attended multiple conferences and other professional development events, and most importantly, I didn’t shut up! I talked about social media to anyone who would listen to me. I constantly looked for ways in which social media could enhance or replace existing processes (couldn’t we just post this white paper to a wiki and edit it there instead of sending it around over email?), I volunteered to help write proposals, white papers, and any other document that I could get my hands on where I could talk about social media, and I sent dozens of social media media articles and success stories to my leadership and anyone else who I thought would be interested. In short, I really annoyed a bunch of people for a long time!

Eventually, I must have gotten my point across as I’m now one of the top bloggers on our company’s internal blogging platform, am one of the top wiki editors, am advising many of our senior VPs on what they need to know about social media, and am responsible for meeting with many of our clients to talk about how and if they should use social media internally. Over these last two years, I’ve worked a lot of 9AM-5PM days on my client work, only to be followed by nights working 5PM-9PM on building our social media capability (my wife is a saint for putting up with me!!). I’ve had to learn how to tactfully stand up for what I believe in without pissing off too many people. I’ve had to do a lot of “what is a blog?” briefings. I’ve had to endure a lot of contentious discussions with our legal, marketing, HR, and IT departments. The last two years have involved a lot of work, a lot of stress, and a lot of headaches, but it’s also been extremely rewarding, personally satisfying, and exciting. What’s in store for me over the next two years?

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About sradick

I'm Vice President, Director of Public Relations at Brunner in Pittsburgh. Find out more about me here (http://steveradick.com/about/).

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