Social media in the workplace – ho, hum…

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In my day job, I am an insurance broker – one who specialises in dealing with new and unusual exposures.  I am also an insurance broker who happens to be interested in matters technological and social.  I therefore keep being asked to comment, write about or develop insurance products for ‘social media in the workplace’ – or related terms.

I try to explain 2 main things about the difficulties in dealing with these requests:

  1. First, too many people (including most of those asking me) still think social media in the workplace means people up-dating their Facebook profiles, usually with sensitive or confidential information, when they should be up-dating spread sheets – or whatever.  This McKinsey article makes it clear that this is far, far too limited a view of the subject.  To paraphrase, (thanks to Media Influencer) “social media negates the consumer paradigm.  Clear enough?  You can’t understand social media without understanding that it turns ‘consumers’ into producers, creators and distributors.”
  2. Second, there seem to be, at best, mixed results when it comes to firms actually implementing social media in workplaces, as this report (by Charlene Li at Altimeter but spotted at Pretzel Logic) suggests.  Paraphrasing again: ” …when you benchmark the technology category of social business software (that includes employee, customer and partner engagement) against say CRM, or BI or ERP, its even more striking how nascent the sector is compared to its predecessors.”

I haven’t posted anything recently because I have been trying to think through precisely these issues – concerning the difference between the present and future states of social media in the workplace.

I have also been thinking about what social – in the McKinsey sense discussed in the report above – means for a people/data driven intermediary business like mine, what insurance products might look like if insurance consumers become producers, creators and distributors and where I position myself as all of this unfolds.

I haven’t come to any firm conclusions yet but now I have found these bookends to my thinking, I plan to spend more time commenting as I think about these issues over the coming weeks.


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