Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Wikipedia, wikis and social media marketing – 4

Posted in social networking and business, Web 2.0 marketing by Timothy Platt on March 12, 2011

This is my fourth installment in a series on wikis as a business-supporting and enabling social media channel (see Web 2.0 Marketing, postings 40, 42 and 43 for parts 1 to 3.) I started this series looking outward, and with a focus on community and marketplace-involving and enabling wikis, and on outwardly directed marketing. This posting turns inward and begins a discussion of wikis as a potential component to internal web 2.0 enabled intranets and information architectures. And I begin by pointing out a crucial detail in Part 2 of this series where I in effect defined a hypothetical organization around a possible wiki.

The point I would make here and both with regard to outwardly facing wikis and inwardly facing ones, is that the most effective and creative application for this technology may very well be an unexpected, unusual, novel none-of-the-above. It is in breaking into new conceptual ground and new application that new marketplaces are built and blue ocean strategies are developed. So I gave what may be seen as a more standard example in Part 2 and note here that your community-facing wiki, set up for your business or organization might be quite different, and in ways that would not be automatically considered in any general review. The same point applies here when interactive intranets and internally supportive information architectures are considered and once again I will simply cite a more common usage and wiki business model, to highlight some key general points.

The example I would cite here is one I have seen very effectively used – wikis set up as resources for collaboratively managing and carrying through on projects and particularly where project participants are geographically dispersed. The specific example that immediately comes to mind for me is a social networking project that involved: identifying and reaching out to a whole series of external community constituencies and the goal of this project was to:

• Develop vetted contact lists,
• Systems for reaching out and collecting and organizing responses from them and developing conversations, and,
• Building a database system with appropriate SQL queries for managing this shared internal resource.

The product of this project would help this organization to connect out to its marketplace more effectively, and under circumstances where a custom in-house solution made more sense than a third party solution. And we used a wiki to organize and manage all of this project development activity with instant messaging and other tools brought in as needed.

Everyone on the project team contributed content and contributed to editing, refining and updating material already there as they learned more and did more that would fit in.

• This included developing information on the target communities we were reaching out to with a focus on identifying hub networkers and other high value contacts (see Social Networking Taxonomy and Social Networking Strategy.)
• This wiki offered links to the prototype database system under development with its test-stage user interfaces.
• The wiki was also used as a feedback tool for a very wide range of issues, from scheduling and timing, to specific feature questions and approaches.
Mashup content was included with both internally developed and third party content. In this, we all shared sources of best practices insight we found and relevant information we developed for current and anticipated work.
• And with time this wiki came to include a wide range of other project stage-relevant content as well.

Basically, we collectively built an information resource in this wiki that helped us track progress, identify and resolve gaps and reach for a best-in-class solution that would meet stakeholder and organizational needs.

At the end of this project after we had gone through our prototyping and alpha and beta testing stages, and when this system formally went live, we archived this wiki as a reference for future work.

As a final thought for this posting, or rather a final set of thoughts I want to at least briefly outline a possible wiki structure that may look attractive for internal, in-house use but that would probably not make sense in practice.

At the end of World War II, most businesses saw themselves as what amounted to information oases in a desert of crucial expertise scarcity. Many if not most businesses did in fact hold proprietary and localized expertise in their knowledge areas and new employees had to be trained to this in-house knowledge to be able to function. Most businesses still carry within themselves a great deal of unique information as to internal processes and procedures and on who does what. But since the advent of the internet, more and more information of all types can now be found online, and from anywhere to anywhere. Companies are now more apt to find the crucial information they need, explicit trade secrets aside, to be easier to find and access from the outside than in-house. So even when the information that would be organized into a wiki would be used in large part for internal value within the organization, crowd-sourcing it as in my example from Part 2 of this series may be a best route to take.

And I come back to the idea of thinking outside of the box and looking for completely novel ways and approaches to developing collaborative social networking resources such as wikis, and in building new types of business models that they can support and enable. The examples I give here are simply first steps where you can and should break into new territory as you take the second and subsequent steps.

The next posting in this series will look at third party solutions to in-house facing wikis, and some of the issues and due diligence concerns that you would address in pursuing that type of social media solution.

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