Social IT Etiquette - Why It’s Time to Get Going with Social IT
November 29, 2012

Matthew Selheimer

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Just after the first 2012 US Presidential debate, KitchenAid USA was forced to publicly apologize for an offensive tweet published by a now-former member of the company's social media team. While the reaction to apologize for the insensitive and inappropriate nature of the tweet was speedy and appropriate, it didn't diminish the finality of the tweet once tweeted and re-tweeted in the public domain. With the click of a key, KitchenAid's once-sterling brand and reputation was on the line – a 140-character line.

It's fairly easy to incorporate "social" tactics into corporate communications and outbound marketing. But what does it actually mean to be a social IT organization?

What constitutes a social IT function? Adding a Twitter feed? A LinkedIn or Facebook page? Blogging capability? Perhaps a system enabling chat?

And what communications policies need to be established and shared to avoid a KitchenAid experience?

A number of existing IT management software companies have recently bolted-on "˜social capabilities" and features that allow IT departments to post a status update to Twitter or Facebook, and some can even open a ticket from a Twitter feed, but is this really the right approach to Social IT? These add-ons can certainly increase user intimacy, but without the right communications policies in place, it could cause unexpected harm.

One alternative would be to consider private Twitter accounts where IT teams could be more open in communications so they aren't publicly available, but this would require users to take the initiative individually by following their corporate IT's private Twitter feed, and IT would have to manage each request to follow the feed one by one, including making sure to deactivate followers when they leave the company. This approach has some merit, but isn't very practical. And the same type of situation applies when we talk about RSS feeds.

So how can IT organizations really exploit the full potential of the social media revolution and enable Social IT? From conversations with many IT professionals, including everyone from CIOs and CTOs to IT administrators and help desk professionals, we've learned how to create a truly social IT organization. At the heart of our conversations is a common theme: leverage Social capabilities to improve efficiency through greater collaboration to make smarter decisions about changes, resolve incidents faster, and eliminate recurring problems.

Social capabilities like Twitter and news feeds have the potential to generate a lot of noise for IT workers who are already very busy dealing with a lot of other noise. So how do you streamline and present only the most salient information to the people who need to know it in order to help them collaborate more effectively, capture the output of that collaboration, and leverage the information for future reference?

The key is to implement an approach that frames social communication in the proper context and then makes it super easy to turn those communications into knowledge. That knowledge can then be proactively communicated to all relevant stakeholders in real-time when working on a new change request, an incident, or recurring problem. The result is IT operations and processes that are enhanced and enriched by social interactions, and knowledge that is created seamlessly for future use by everyone in the organization.

When "going social" all options should be on the table, just be weary of the limitations and pitfalls of add-on features. The real value in becoming a Social IT organization comes from embedding social collaboration into everyday work tasks, challenges and decision-making. That's a real game changer. That's a true innovation. And it's already available today.

Matthew Selheimer is VP of Marketing at ITinvolve.

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