The Real Value of Having An Intranet Team


At the end of my talk, titled When Social Media Meets Social Intranet, in November 2012 at Max Atria at Expo in Singapore, a gentleman asked me about how to ensure that the investment in social technology (i.e. social media and social intranet) worth the effort.

He told me that his organisation has invested in Yammer. However, after some initial enthusiasms, few people are using it now. So he was particularly interested on how to get people in the organisation to use Yammer.

This is a very common problem for social intranet. When there is a new technology in the organisation, everyone would want to use it – just like a new toy. However, after some time, people may perceive that there is little value in using it. After all, what’s the use of “yammering” your thoughts or ideas? You have better things to do.

The issue here is, of course, an expectation to get instant rewards from the use of social technology (i.e. Yammer). To bust such an unrealistic expectation, remind people to regularly share thoughts / ideas via social technology. And get someone (or a team) to do the nudging, promoting, and curating valuable insights and to profile the person who owns the idea.

When valuable ideas are curated and shared, people can immediately see the value of using social technology because they can straightaway harvest the “gems” of knowledge and skip the unnecessary stuff – often caused by over-sharing.

In other words, communities within Yammer or the social technology need to be cultivated and valuable knowledge needs to be highlighted. Only in rare exception, communities within an organisation, can grow by themselves through self-policing and self-managing – without any intervention by the management.

Organisations have to do away with “build it and they would come” mentality. Thus, organisations can’t just implement yammer, and expect people to just use it. Implementing social technologies requires time, effort, and patience – just like rolling out any corporate-wide initiative.

This is why organisations need to have an intranet team – who would be tasked with cultivating communities and leading change management effort to ensure the adoption of social technology. An intranet team need to also curate knowledge, facilitate discussion, and organise face-to-face activities that could boost the use of social technology.

Those activities require a dedicated intranet team – especially if your organisation is a large enterprise. If your organisation is an SME (Small Medium Enterprise), you probably only need one person to do the job. Getting part-timers (or getting people to do double-hatting) would be a bad idea because their attention will be divided, or worse, the work of cultivating communities is pushed to the bottom of the priority list.


When Social Media Meets Social Intranet Part 3

Continued from When Social Media Meets Social Intranet Part 2

How Social Intranet Delivers Value
Social Intranet is an intranet where all employees can author content and connect easily. Alternatively, you can think of Social Intranet as an internal social media for organisations.

Like Social Media, Social Intranet can provide many values to the organisation. But, mainly, Social Intranet can provide two main values: (1) A Platform for Internal Collaboration; (2) A Means to Reinforce Purpose and to Facilitate Change.

1. A Platform for Internal Collaboration
Internal Collaboration simply means making work “social.” For example, Vodafone, a telecommunication company, uses Social Intranet to boost productivity of their sales team. Before implementation of Social Intranet, the sales people used to handle difficult customers alone. But thanks to Social Intranet, the sales people can exchange tips and best practices on handling difficult customers.

2. A Means to Reinforce Purpose and to Facilitate Change
Social Intranet can also be used to facilitate change. For example, Farm Bureau Bank (FBB) in the United States, uses Social Intranet to communicate top management vision via internal blogs and discussion forums.

Other than blogs and discussion forums, Social Intranet provides a platform to launch a mock “internal social media” campaign. Yammer, one of twitter-like features, can be part of Social Intranet, and this feature can be used to further break down information silos in the organisation because it is essentially a platform for personal branding – which means employees can build their personal brand as they share knowledge via Yammer.

Social Intranet is pretty much like Social Media. A good Social Intranet has features like social networking, tagging, video repository, blogs, ratings, and wikis.

If your organisation is interested in building a social intranet, I have three products to recommend: (1) Microsoft Sharepoint and Yammer; (2) Jive Software; and (3) Thought Farmer. And if your organisation is an SME and can’t afford to invest in a social intranet, your organisation may want to try a free, cloud-based social intranet named bitrix24.

How Social Business Delivers Value

To recap, Social Media offers two values: (1) An effective platform for PR 2.0; and (2) A Platform to Emotionally Connect with Customers. And Social Intranet offers these values: (1) A Platform for Internal Collaboration; and (2) A Means to Reinforce Purpose and to Facilitate Change.

Consolidating values from Social Media and Social Intranet, we can immediately see values that Social Business can deliver: (1) Capability to deliver exceptional customer experience; (2) Collaborate better to improve productivity or to innovate; and (3) Be a more nimble organisation.

Two real-life examples illustrate the value of Social Business:
First, Samsung. By maintaining an active presence in Social Media and having a great Social Intranet, Samsung creates a service innovation called the smart care – which is a one-stop centre for servicing Samsung products.
Second, Xilinx who like Samsung, has an active presence in Social Media and a great Social Intranet. As a result, Xilinx raise engineers’ productivity by 25%.

Last slide. Three key take-away from this talk: (1) Organisations have to be in Social Media; (2) Social Media has to be supported by Social Intranet; and (3) Transform your organisation to be a Social Business to survive in today’s economy. Values are created, no longer through superior product or service, but through premium experience.

This blog post is part 3 of When Social Media Meets Social Intranet. Here are the links to all blog post:

When Social Media Meets Social Intranet Part 2

Continued from When Social Media Meets Social Intranet Part 1

How Social Media Delivers Value
Social media can deliver many values to organisations. But the two main values are: (1) An effective platform for PR 2.0; (2) A platform to emotionally connect with the customers.

I’m sure you can agree with me that capability to effectively use social media is no longer a choice, because today’s customers are the most difficult customers ever! Today’s customers are citizen journalists – which means customers can voice out their displeasure through social media like blog posts, Facebook posts, or Twitter.

How many of you have heard of a gentleman by the name of Jeff Jarvis? He is a prominent tech blogger who in 2005, wrote a blog post titled: “Dell lies. Dell Sucks.” In the blog post, Jarvis ranted about how poor Dell customer service was, and the blog post attracted over 100 “Me Too” comments. Imagine a simple blog post gets multiplied 100 times.

The Need for Social Media Policy
The first step to ensure that social media delivers value, is to put social media policies in place. The right policies can help to protect the organisation’s reputation from misuse of the social media by the employee.

Let me give you two examples. First, Ashley Payne – a school teacher in the US – was sacked by the school because she posted a photo of herself drinking alcohol in her Facebook. Ashley Payne sued the school for unfair dismissal.

Second, in Singapore context, Straits Times was in hot water recently because a disgruntled employee tweeted profanity using their corporate Twitter account. Regardless of your opinion about the two cases, you don’t want a lawsuit filed against your organisation or your employees abuse the corporate social media account.

Creating social media policy is fast becoming a necessity for organisations. According to research, 47% of Facebook walls contain profanity, but should employers give a darn?

Yes! Absolutely. Because a simple social media policy is often sufficient to prevent the misuse of corporate social media account. Take for example: Ford who came out with a simple social media policy that says: “Play Nice, Be Honest.” But my favorite is Oracle’s social media policy that says: “Employees must establish that all opinions are their own and not Oracle’s, but at the same time, distinguish that they are indeed employees of Oracle.” It’s my favorite because it covers all angle, Singapore’s style.

Let’s return to how social media delivers value.

1. An Effective Platform for PR 2.0
Social media is an effective platform for PR 2.0. Facebook can be used to serve as the corporate magazine to update customers on the latest happenings in the organisation like what Zappos did on their corporate Facebook. Twitter can be used as a broadcasting tool to update customers on the latest products / promotions like what Starbucks did on their corporate Twitter. And Youtube can be used to serve as a repository for corporate videos to convince customers that the product/service is indeed the best out there, just like what Popeye Chicken did on their youtube account.

Furthermore, social media can be used as a means to showcase social proof. For example, Sony used Pinterest as a digital brochure that can showcase the number of likes that a product/service received. The number of likes is a social proof that some customers out there like the product/service.

2. A Platform to Emotionally Connect with the Customers
Social media can also be used as a platform to emotionally connect with the customers. What do I mean by connecting emotionally? A product/service is more than just what it is. A product/service means a tool to improve the standard of living of your customers, i.e. a way to make them happy. Connecting emotionally means highlighting the story behind a product/service, on how a product/service makes the customer happy.

Here are two stories to highlight this point: (1) University of Phoenix tells stories in Youtube about how online degrees improve the standard of living of their students; (2) Tom Shoes tells stories, using a corporate blog, about how the company helps disadvantaged children, in developing world, who have no shoes.

But no matter how well-crafted the social media policy is, and how good the creative content is, social media can still backfires as what McDonald and Nestle found out recently. McDonald’s Twitter campaign to collect positive stories backfires when it was swarmed by negative stories about McDonald’s product. While Nestle’s Facebook campaign backfires when a group of environmentalists posted modified logo of Nestle’s products. It got worse when Nestle staff tried to stop them from doing so.

So what can we do to prevent a social media campaign to turn against what it is intended to be?

Well, first things first, the organisation has to let go of control. There is no method or procedure that can 100% guarantee the success of a social media campaign. The next best thing your organisation can do is to use more of its internal knowledge (i.e. collective intelligence).

Let’s go back on McDonald and Nestle’s case. McDonald could have done better if they test their assumption internally, by conducting a mock internal campaign for example. While Nestle could have done better by testing the replies internally before posting them on their Facebook page. Nestle is so big – some of its staff could be environmentalists and could craft a better response.

So the use of Social Media has to be supported by Social Intranet, because Social Intranet provides a safe haven for testing ideas/assumptions within the organisation. But what is Social Intranet, really? Let’s discuss it in the next blog post.

This blog post is part 2 of When Social Media Meets Social Intranet. Here are the links to all blog post:

When Social Media Meets Social Intranet Part I

I had fun giving a talk, titled When Social Media Meets Social Intranet, on 22 November 2012, at Max Atria, Expo, Singapore. The talk was part of Fuji Xerox Empowers 2012.

Here is the video:

When Social Media Meets Social Intranet from Roan Yong on Vimeo.

And here is the slides of my talk:

In addition to slides and video, I also provide the script below – so that you can have a preview of the content before you watch the video and can have an accompanying text while going through the slides. Happy reading!

Many organisations failed to make use of social media as a competitive strategy. For example: Goldman Sachs, a leader in banking industry, failed to make their corporate Facebook page thrive. Goldman Sachs’ Facebook page is devoid of any activity just like a ghost-town.

So too, SMRT, a leader in transportation industry in Singapore. SMRT, when they first started their corporate twitter account in 2011, put this statement: “We’re here, 9am – 6pm, Mon – Fri (Excluding public holiday)”. A statement which doesn’t suit the 24/7 nature of social media and reflect badly on SMRT’s capability to effectively use social media.

Organisations have to learn how to effectively use social media because millions of people are in the social media now. And the number keeps on growing day by day. Furthermore, according to research, 50% of web sales is going to occur by 2015 – less than three years from now.

But to effectively use social media, organisations need to also build a supporting infrastructure, i.e. social intranet, so that organisations can transform themselves to be a social business.

So what is a social business?

According to IBM, social business is a business that embraces networks of people to create business value. Networks of people are referring to employees, customers, and partners. This definition obviously makes sense because, employees and partners are actually internal customers! It’s impossible to make your customers happy while neglecting your internal customers at the same time.

To understand how social business deliver value for organisations, let’s look at its two components: Social Media and Social Intranet. Let’s first zoom-in to social media in the next blog post.

This blog post is part 1 of When Social Media Meets Social Intranet. Here are the links to all blog post:

The Rise of (Intranet) Citizen Developers

Singapore Mini Maker FaireI was honored to be one of the speakers at the first-ever Singapore Mini-Maker Faire, at Singapore Science Centre (Newton Room) on 4 August 2012.

The working title of my talk was “the rise of enchanters”. I decided to change it to “the rise of citizen developers” as I felt that the term “citizen developers” is more apt for the event and is more inline with the maker culture.

In case you missed it, here is the slides of my presentation.

And here is the outline of my talk. (P/S: read the following text and go through the above slides at the same time – if you want optimal learning experience).

My talk is divided into three parts: (I) The Advent of Experience Economy; (II) The Rise of Digital Native Leaders: Citizen Developers; and (III) A New Class Awakens: Intranet Citizen Developers.

Part I. The Advent of Experience Economy

We live in an experience economy (Exp.onomy) – an economy where people are willing to pay premium price to have memorable experience when using products/services.

So organisations today can create value for their customers, not through superior product or excellent services, but through premium experience.

Let me give you several examples to illustrate the experience economy.

1. Nokia N-gage. It was a great product that combines phone capability and that of gaming console. Unfortunately, it was also a clunky device. And to make it worse, Nokia didn’t offer enough support for gamers. For example, questions like “what happened to my game license when I changed phone line?” are never adequately addressed by Nokia.

2. Microsoft Passport. It was a great product which offered great service. The idea behind it was to provide a single logon services to many Microsoft product. How cool is that? Unfortunately Microsoft didn’t pay enough attention to user experience (UX). The logon windows in Microsoft Passport pop-up many times even when they are not supposed to.

3. Google Wave. Like Microsoft, in Google Wave, Google has a great product that offers great service. Unfortunately Google Wave doesn’t have a clear value proposition! No one knows what Google Wave is and how to use it (it is too complicated to use).

4. Apple Inc. One of the few companies who understand that we are living in exp.onomy is Apple. The key to Apple success is their Insanely Simple design philosophy – which translate into: (a) simple product design that is intuitive to use and (b) simple service process.

This sort of insight (i.e. how to succeed in exp.onomy) is becoming important – especially in the age of social media where people are empowered to be citizen journalist.

Speaking of citizen journalism, one company that don’t get it is Dell. In 2005, a famous tech blogger, Jeff Jarvis, complained about Dell’s product and service. Jarvis’ blog post gets more than 100 comments. (A simple rant is amplified more than 100 times!)

Apparently, in 2009, Dell still doesn’t get it. A customer said that he preferred to buy a new, non-Dell laptop than going through Dell customer service hell.

In contrast, Apple made service process simple. If a customer shows up at its service centre with a broken device, then Apple sales rep would either fix it on the spot or offer a replacement. It is that simple!

Part II. The Rise of Digital-Native Leaders: Citizen Developers

In an environment where there is an insatiable need to have premium experience, who should take the lead?

Let examine several candidates.

Candidates #1. Techies. There are the kind of people who has good technical expertise but low empathy. These folks are in love with the sophistication of the product, and to them, customer experience is about providing a thick manual.

Obviously techies aren’t the best leaders for the exp.onomy.

Candidates #2. Business People. These are the kind of people with high empathy but low technical expertise. The Business folks are in tune with the premium experience that people crave for. Alas, they are often held back by their Engineers and thus succumb to low-tech means to provide premium experience.

Without technology, the Business people fall short of meeting the WOW factor in giving premium experience.

The kind of leader that we need, is business people who can tinker Ala Tony Stark (aka Ironman), who has high technical expertise and high empathy.

Developing ourselves to be such leader is easier than we think, because of the LEGO-tisation of programming. That is, programming using building block (Object Oriented Programming), or assembling third-party software.

The business people who can thinker is also known as the citizen developers. And these are the people who can empathise, prototype, and excite the ground.

Part III. A New Class Awakens: Intranet Citizen Developers

All medium to large enterprise require intranet because as the number of employees grows, email can’t meet the need to organise the enterprise information. Only intranet has the chance to meet the growing need to organise information within the organisation.

The problem is, intranet has to be custom-made. This is because each organisation has unique information need as a result of different groups of people, different business context, and the different content that the organisation consumes and produces.

Because intranet has to be custom-made, it is usually expensive. This lucrative industry is ruled by rapacious vendors who would push as many custom-made function as possible to milk as much money as they can from their clients. The biggest victim is, of course, the powerless employees who crave for a premium experience in information management.

This situation gives rise to intranet exp.onomy. And this intranet exp.onomy is going to get bigger – thanks to social media, cloud computing and mobile devices that complicate the management of information.

Fortunately, like many others in technology industry, intranet is being LEGO-tised. And Microsoft is taking the lead in the LEGO-tisation of the intranet with their hot-selling product: Microsoft Sharepoint 2010 (Sharepoint 2013 on its way).

Sharepoint is built based on webparts (in a way, apps-based), and it can be used in conjunction with other Microsoft products like Access, Excel, Infopath and Visual Studio. So, essentially, Sharepoint is giving you a free-hand in shaping solution to meet customers’ needs.

Microsoft invested a lot in Sharepoint – especially with the recent $1.2b acquisition of Yammer (or better known as corporate Facebook). So, it may be worthwhile to learn about Sharepoint.

The point is, with Sharepoint, you can transform yourself from weak passive employees to be proactive intranet citizen developers. To be a good intranet citizen developers, however, you need more than just a skill in Sharepoint. You also need to know Information Architecture, Content Strategy, Change Management, Usability, and Service Design.

So join me in a journey to change the world – one premium experience at a time.

Check out the video clip of my talk below.

RiseofCitizenDevelopers from Roan Yong on Vimeo.


Wait! Why Procrastination Is Good For Information Architect / Content Strategist

Old Buildings in Outram Park, Singapore

In any intranet project, nothing is more difficult than championing information architecture (IA) and content strategy. Everyone seems eager to get into the “real” work – which is developing the intranet infrastructure.

You know you’re in this kind of situation when your team-mates ogle more at the coolness of intranet technology (e.g. sharepoint), than your draft plan to manage information/content in the intranet.

Well, if you are a psychology buff like I am, then you’d know that such tendency is common, because people tend to crave for lesser instant-gratification than for future greater rewards.

So you can’t really blame them for being blinded by the shiny new technology, especially when people are rewarded on doing “visible” work. (which is normally the case in any organisation).

What would you do then? Keeping mum about the whole situation will not help, because sooner or later, the new intranet will become a maze full of junk contents. People can’t find the relevant information and their excitement will quickly turn into big disillusion.

Introducing the Twin Towers: Information Architecture and Content Strategy

IA and content strategy are the pillars for successful intranet implementation. You know that. Even though your team-mates may not. Without IA and content strategy, people will not use intranet, no matter how advanced the intranet technology is.

IA deals with the way information is organised and thus focuses more on how to design the information structure. Content strategy, on the other hand, focuses on how to fill the information structure with relevant contents and on how to maintain the “freshness” and the relevancy of the content.

Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between IA and content strategy, because they are closely intertwined, so much so that information architect and content strategist role are usually assigned to one person in the intranet team.

Whatever the working arrangement is, no point spending too much effort to explain the difference between the two concepts. You need both to make the intranet useful. So whenever possible, present the two concepts as one holistic solution to make intranet usable.

Why Procrastination Is Key In Selling Information Architecture / Content Strategy 

One thing that I learned from my years of experience in implementing intranet is the importance of “delay”. This may seem counter-intuitive – but trust me: you sell neither information architecture nor content strategy by positioning yourself as the smartest guy in the room. (btw being a smarty-pants is never good for your own career.)

When your team mates are mesmerised by the intranet technology, the last thing that they want to hear is their effort would go down the drain because they don’t pay sufficient attention to the alien-sounding IA and content strategy.

The best time to sell the two concepts is after the exercise to gather user requirements for the new intranet, have been completed or nearly completed. At this time, the thrill of implementing a new technology has past its climax. And potential intranet users have given their requirements.

You should then ask your team-mates these questions:

  • [information architecture] “Have we thought of how information will be organised?”; “Can we agree that we need metadata to make information retrieval more efficient?”
  • [content strategy] “Have we thought of how contents would flow in the new intranet?”; “How about content lifecycle?”; “Don’t you agree with me that junk content will make our intranet less useful?”

Getting your team mates to agree with you using the above questions, means you are earning the rights to educate them on IA and content strategy. Prepare a presentation on IA and content strategy beforehand, so that you can advocate the importance of IA and content strategy – when you finally get your team mates’ attention.


Want Change? Use Video

Okay, hands up if you’re struggling with making change within your organisation?

The greatest challenge in the change management is making people care about the message that we are telling them. This isn’t an easy thing to do – especially in organisations, where people are swamped with daily work activities.

Most people just want to get on with their daily routine and maintain status quo. It’s not that people are lazy. They just need to be convinced that the change is worth their attention and energy.

So the question for us – the people who roll-out change in organisation – is how to grab people’s attention and tell an engaging story. To me, the answer is by launching great marketing campaigns to initiate the change effort.

Posters and a website are the foundation for a good marketing campaign, because they create greater awareness and inform people on the reason behinds the change effort. To have a great marketing campaign, however, you need to produce fantastic videos.

The Power of Videos

In recent years, more people and organisations are using videos as a change management tools, because videos are the best medium to store and convey stories – especially the emotional elements of the story.

Take for example, KONY 2012. It is a successful viral campaign that calls people to take (simple) action to stop Joseph Kony. (if you don’t know who he is and you don’t care, then I was at the same boat with you – before I watched the video clip below).

Here is another brilliant example of the use of video as a storytelling tool: the trailer of the movie, Prometheus. By using real event brand – TED – and projecting it into the future, i.e. year 2023, we are unconsciously drawn into the story. It’s akin to getting invitation to participate in the future – told by the movie.

Why the Adoption of Video Has Accelerated

The use of video has been increasingly important over the years, and will be critical in change effort in the future, for at least two reasons. First, the effort and cost to produce and to host videos have been steadily decreasing over the years. Second, the technology to support the consumption of videos, such as broadband internet, mobile platforms like iPad / iPhone, and sharing tools (i.e. social technology) is widely available.

Even within the organisation, the infrastructure for hosting videos can be easily acquired and it is now more affordable to invest in such technology. In sharepoint 2010-based intranet, you can consider Kontiki enterprise to host and distribute videos.

In short, the time is ripe to make use of video as the leading tool in change initiative. By not investing time / effort in producing videos and not investing in infrastructure, organisations are making change more difficult. And these organisations are not agile, are less innovative, and will get left behind.


Further Readings

Bailyn, E. (19 March 2012). The Difference Between Slacktivism and Activism: How ‘Kony 2012′ Is Narrowing The Gap. Huffington Post

Tsukayama, H. (10 March 2012). Kony 2012: The Anatomy of a Viral Campaign. Washington Post.

Suddath, C. (16 March 2012). Five Reasons the Kony Video Went Viral. Bloomberg Business Week.

Pomerantz, D. (18 April 2012). ‘Prometheus’: When Movie Marketing Goes Very Right. Forbes.

Prometheus Viral Clip: David The Android. Youtube

Singtel’s Transformation And How to Make It Happen (An Outsider’s Perspective)

Singtel's bid to become more Silicon Valley, less Singapore Inc

A Snapshot of The Business Times, 16 April 2012.

What’s up Singtel? After a study trip to Silicon Valley, the company reshuffled its senior management team and the CEO, Chua Sock Koong, said that the kind of talent that they would recruit into Digital Life were people from media, internet space and digital space.

Wow! Can a single study trip change the mindset of the senior management? In Singtel’s case, it seems to be. I’m happy for Singtel, not because I’m their loyal customer for the past five years, but because I think they are moving in the right direction for two reasons.

First, Singtel understands that, to be successful in today’s economy, they have to bring-in talents with skills in social media / PR. It is folly to think that customers (employees included) will keep their opinions, on new ideas and on service dissatisfaction, to themselves -  when they are highly educated and armed with social media and mobile gadgets. Today’s economy is about co-creation. And Singtel gets that.

Second, Ms. Chua’s philosophy on innovation. She has definitely hit the right tune by looking wide at the whole business ecosystem, to come up with innovative adjacent product / services like AMPed and skoob. This perspective on innovation is advocated by Ron Adner in his book, The Wide Lens: A New Strategy for Innovation.

Don’t get overly excited, however, by the senior management’s good intention to make change happen. They may not succeed because of – you guess it – the middle management’s resistance to change.

To deal with middle management’s resistance and to increase its chances in changing mindset of their people, Singtel has to do two things well.

1. Promote the right people, i.e. people who share the senior management’s views and are able to translate their vision into day-to-day actions, and convince everyone that the change is the right thing to do via dialogue and focus group conversations.

2. Adopt social organisation model. Singtel has taken a huge first step in being a social organisation. It has Expresso – Singtel’s internal Facebook, and blogging and sharing platform.

Expresso is certainly a laudable effort in stimulating quality conversations among employees and cultivating internal communities.But, to make it work, Singtel has to think about social intranet strategy, i.e. how to have user-generated contents, how to store/retrieve contents easily, and how to maintain the quality of contents in the intranet.

Social intranet strategy has to be accompanied by social media strategy. To strengthen its social media effort, Singtel have to think about connecting with customers via online conversation – especially in Twitter, because Twitter is the king when comes to real-time digital conversation and tracking the reach of the conversation / measuring online influence.

Singtel got to act fast, because Starhub has been tweeting for awhile now!

Singtel's Twitter account (as of 22 April 2012)

Singtel's Twitter account (as of 22 April 2012)

Starhub's Twitter account (As of 22 April 2012)

Starhub's Twitter account (as of 22 April 2012)

When the proposed transformation is completed, I believe Singtel would become a more customer centric organisation than it has ever been and a truly exciting multi-national company.

Thoughts? Agree / Disagree?

Greg Smith, The Secret of Viral, And The Chamber of Engagement

This article was published in Social Media Today on 18 March 2012 by the same author.

Check this out: Greg Smith, a vice president in Goldman Sach, posted the reason for quitting his job in the New York Times. And said that his former boss was at fault for the deteriorating corporate culture. Goldman, he said, cares more about profit than its customers.

Greg Smith stories went viral on the internet. And scores of career consultant throw their hat into the ring by offering opinions on career management. Did Greg Smith commit a career suicide? You bet. Whatever Greg Smith does in the future, it won’t be related to the banking industry. His banking career is over!

I totally agree with Amber Mac, a respectable career consultant, on why you and I shouldn’t follow Greg Smith’s example. Like Amber Mac said in the article, you should quit your job gracefully when you know it is over. And one way to do so, is to keep your (negative) opinion about the job to yourself. Just because you want to quit, it doesn’t mean you have to burn the bridge.

Since this blog isn’t about career management, I’d like to offer social business’ perspective to Greg Smith’s story. There are two thought bubbles that pop up in my head when I read the story: (1) Why did Greg Smith’s story go viral? What’s the secret sauce of viral stories?; (2) What should be the platform for real conversations between management and rank-and-file staff?

The Secret Sauce of Viral Stories

Greg Smith’s story is by no means unique. Watch the above video clip. And you would see another man, Joey DeFrancesco, who also quit his job publicly. And like Smith’s story, his story went viral in the internet. This begs the question: Why the seemingly ordinary stories of people lives can go viral?

The main reason is empathy. We can empathise with both stories because of the bigger picture. DeFrancesco quits because the unfair treatment that hotel employees usually receive. He becomes the voice of all hotel employees who silently suffers from the gross mistreatment. While Smith quits because the deteriorating corporate culture in Wall Street (read: greed).

Those reasons appeal to many people. And because we can relate to Smith’s story and DeFrancesco’s story, we feel the urge to like or to forward the story to our friend, colleagues, or family members. That’s how the story went viral.

So the secret sauce of viral story is the emotional hooks that the story has. Can you position the story to appeal to many people? Can you make people feel emotional through your story? If you can do that, then there is a high chance that your story will go viral.

Social Intranet is The Right Chamber for Employee Engagement

Greg Smith and Joey DeFrancesco wouldn’t be folk heroes if what they say doesn’t make any sense. Organisations need to do more about employee engagement than just conducting the infamous corporate climate survey.

It is unfortunate that Smith and DeFrancesco used the wrong media to tell their story. In the age of social intranet and social organisation, they could have expressed their displeasure within the corporate walls, i.e. via internal blogs, discussion forum or video repositories.

If they are brave enough to tell their opinion in social media, then surely they are brave enough to share it with all their colleagues. The management could then conduct closed-door honest conversation with the relevant people.

No matter how bitter they are, Smith and DeFrancesco should have given the management a chance to tell their side of the story. By going public, they are killing off the opportunity to do real dialogue between them and the management. The social intranet, not the social media, is the right chamber for engagement and conversation.

Arguably, a real dialogue is only made possible if the management doesn’t punish people for expressing their opinion in the social intranet. But at the very least – you, I, and other rank-and-file staff, should extend our hand and give the management an opportunity to prove that they care about employee satisfaction.

When all else fails, look for another job! Discreetly of course.

Comments? Do you agree with me?