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The Role Of The Enterprise Architect In Social Media

I was speaking with an Enterprise Architect at a GIMA meeting last week, and it got me to thinking about the technical background that could be useful in social media.  Most success stories in social come from marketers, PR folks, and SME's inside a company (recruiters, customer service, technology) who connect with an audience through content and social networking.  For most of us, one of the founding principles of social media is to focus on the content, not the technology (it's even one of my slides in my presentations).  But I've been short-sighted.

Most of the time, I don't want Information Technology involved in my social media projects because they want to control the software, which puts up a roadblock to conversation, and often is a sub-par product.  I can't tell you how many developers want to build their own blogging software when given the chance to be in on the project (please don't, just, please don't). 

But there's more to it than just the blogging platform. I've been amazed at how rarely we use social media software to rethink our web content strategy, but it's not surprising that as we begin to embrace open source programming, the bias against home-grown products would lessen to allow the enterprise to take advantage of social media tools to present a more comprehensive face to the public.  Take a look at the following corporate events and divisions. 

Career sites
News and Press Releases
Customer Service
Advertising (Online and Print)
Commercials (Television and Radio)
Charity Events
Company Events
Industry Tradeshows
Industry Roundtables

The information to present these parts of corporate life to the outside world is almost always available in digital form, but most companies aren't set up in a way to take full advantage of them.  Most companies also don't take advantage of the expertise they have internally in educating the public what it takes to run a business.

And that information is important. Take two local companies - Charter Communications and Ameren, our cable and electricity providers.  Both companies have millions of customers. Millions of customers. And both companies are routinely mocked in papers and the the public for customer service.  Settting aside actual mistakes and boneheaded moves, think for a moment how difficult it really is to provide cable and internet services to millions of people.  Imagine the complexities of not only generating, but transmitting electrical power to an entire region.

It's mind-boggling, and what I've found is that the public in general has a poor view of these companies, but individually, when you meet the men and women of these companies and they discuss what it's like to try and service millions of people, the criticism becomes more muted and more targeted towards mistakes.  It's one thing to complain about energy prices, and quite another to complain about the reservoir collapse.  The two are not related, but the public often merges the two in their head.

This is true for companies large and small.  If blogging teaches us anything, it's that showcasing the personal side of your business is good for business, because it reminds your customers that you're human.  You can make mistakes, but your customers should be given the information to know when something is a mistake, and when it's a symptom of a compex system.

The Enterprise Architect has a role in all this, as the technical lead in showcasing how to get Subject Matter Expertise out of the corporation and onto the web.  For both internal and external applications, the question should always be asked if content that is generated by a company can serve more than one purpose.  And is the company's network set up to take full advantage of the creative power and expertise of its employees?

From e-mail and document searches to XML feeds and customer contact points, the technical architect to a company's computer's systems can and should play an intimate role in the promotion and generation of social media campaigns.

Anyone out there doing that, or have the capability to write up the technical specs for what is needed?