Social Media in for-profit organizations

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The KM4DEV in Rome group met up on February 3 for its monthly meeting. This event was kindly hosted by FAO and Mario Gastaldi was our special guest to talk about “social media in for-profit organizations”.

Mario is an Enterprise 2.0 Specialist, with particular skills and expertise certified by AIIM on Collaboration Technologies, and the deployment of Collaboration Platforms within small, medium and multinational organizations.


These are the main points that have been made during the discussion between Mario and the participants:

  • Often in organizations, people wish to believe work happens in ways that are highly structured, predictable and hierarchical. However, the life of any organization is much different and more complex.
  • Perhaps any organization would be a fluid and organic entity with many networks spanning across the formally established structures.
  • The management and leadership of any organization should work according with this reality, accepting it and reinforcing it.
  • A learning organization, i.e., an organism, has knowledge sharing as one of its main drivers. In learning organizations, knowledge sharing is valued, and encouraged. There is also openness to learning from others and learning by doing, as well as a constant willingness on behalf of the organization’s leadership to cultivate what is seeking to emerge from within the organization, as a result of various people sharing knowledge, doing and learning together based on shared purpose and interest.
  • When the management, leadership and/or governance of an organization actively ignores the above fact (i.e. that organizations are naturally networked and fluid organisms rather than rigid and structured hierarchies) the effectiveness and efficiency of the organization suffers. This is because its natural state of being is undermined by what is being imposed from the top, or by already established organizational procedures, systems and culture.
  • In cases like the above, people in the organization usually find ways of working the system in order to balance what is being imposed with what is needed in order to get things done. This happens, inevitably, and is a cost to the organization’s effectiveness.
  • The above organizational reality has always been present. These days, however, it becomes more and more difficult to impose ways of working that interfere with the natural way of being of organizations. The reason for this is social media.
  • Social media (blogs, discussion forums, twitter, facebook, etc) has been greatly facilitating the forming of demand-driven and open relationships and interactions. It creates conditions for sharing and learning that are motivated by interest and enthusiasm.
  • With social media, it becomes increasingly difficult to impose ways of working on organizations without taking into account the natural ways in which people who are part of them work and learn.
  • Introduction of social media as part of organizations’ work can be beneficial to encourage sharing and learning across structures and hierarchies that serve the goals and purpose of the organization. The more open management and leadership is to social media, as well as to knowledge sharing, organizational and culture change, there better is for them and the organizations they are part of.
  • An example of this is Cisco, a company where social media (e-conferencing) was introduced by the organization’s leader initially to reduce costs. Later social media became a powerful culture and systems change driver positively interacting with the already existing organizational culture, mindset and openness to experience and experimentation.

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