Osterman Research Blog

The Slippery Serendipity of Social Media
June 13, 2012, 4:23 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

One definition for serendipity is “an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident”.

At a recent meeting of a leading vendor’s customers and prospects, the presenter was asked by an attendee if he could share his slides after the presentation.  The presenter replied that his PowerPoint was too large to send by email, but if the requestor had a USB flash drive he would be happy to provide him with a copy after the meeting.

There were three problems with this response:

  • The presenter – a very sharp and capable individual – was reliant on email as his primary (or only) tool for sending files, at least to those outside of his organization.
  • The presenter works for a company that offers two of the best tools on the market for sharing and syncing files – one of these tools could have been used to share the PowerPoint with the requestor.
  • The presenter obviously was not aware that his company offers either of these tools.

It’s the last point that was most striking: here is a presenter that clearly knows his stuff, who represented his company professionally and capably at the meeting, and who had no idea that his company offers tools that would make his life easier – and would make it easier for him to share information that might lead to another sale.  Here was a case of a corporate culture or personal preferences or something else that kept a smart and capable guy from knowing about tools that would make him more effective in his job.  In essence, there was too much friction between the source of information about these file-sharing tools and this individual – friction that prevented him from being more effective and efficient in his job.

It struck me during this exchange that one of the fundamental benefits of social media in its various forms is to make information slippery – to enable the flow of information throughout an organization such that people will discover things by accident, or at least with a minimum of effort.  For example, a quick perusal of Twitter this morning alerted me to news about a vendor with whom I need to schedule an analyst briefing.  I could have discovered this information by searching for it, but I’m so busy I probably wouldn’t have discovered it this morning.  In a much larger organization, an enterprise social media tool could easily and quickly enable all employees to be informed about a new customer, to search for another employee with particular industry expertise – or find out about the file-sharing tools that the company offers.

More often than not, we become so focused on our immediate work that we simply don’t have or take the time to learn about something new that could make us more efficient or more effective.  Social media can be that enabler.


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