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Many-To-Many Communication and Social Media in the Enterprise

On one hand, enterprises want to communicate more with customers and their marketplace along with collaborating with partners to get things done. On the other hand, the objective of an enterprise is to seem like a single entity so that all information and communication is accurate, consistent, relevant, and protected even though the organization is made up of many people.

Social media sites such as YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, and others are built around groups of people who have a common interest and anyone can post content. This many-to-many communication model is contrary to how enterprises work. Specifically:

1) Control--Organizations like to control all information out of their environment. Marketing controls information around the brand, Legal controls information to protect the organization from lawsuits and to guard intellectual property, and Customer Service addresses issues on a case by case basis.

2) Role--Everyone in an organization has a specific job and role, so while it may be one person's job to follow and respond to a social media site on behalf of a company, not everyone in the company is allowed to.

3) Process--Organizations have specific processes for generating and approving information and how it is communicated. Posting information real-time, on the "fly", is usually not possible.

While many enterprises will assign people to follow and participate in social media sites, the primary objectives are to promote the organization and to manage the public information to make sure it is in sync with the overall organization’s information. The organization’s own web site is still the preferred and primary source for communication on the Internet. An enterprise's web site, TV ads, and retail outlets are examples of an organization communicating as a single entity while many employees contribute to the content. This one-to-many communication model works well for enterprises.

Many employees find business value to their job from viewing the information available on social media sites. So if an organization wants to allow their employees to view social media sites, but to restrict their participation, what options do they have? Some options could be:

1) Identity enforcement--Making sure that the employee is participating as an individual and not linked to the organization in any way.

2) Approval--If the employee is participating, that all content posted has been approved.

3) Time of Day--Allowing employees to access or participate in social media sites during non-core business hours.

So as more organizations allow their employees to bring in their own communication and computing devices that have social media software running on them, employees must make sure that their participation in these public social media sites falls in line with the corporate communication and security policies and their job role. The ability for organization to monitor and enforce these policies is a challenge, but is of critical importance to the one-to-many communication model that works well for enterprises.