Today’s Social Media A-Listers: The Archetype of Tomorrow’s Company Leaders

Dennis Howlett had a post yesterday on Chris Brogan’s blog, Web 2.0- Was It Ever Alive? In the post, he takes the postion that much of the value of “social” is overstated, and will suffer from low internal adoption. He also believes the Gen Y/millennial fascination with social media will pass as workplace realities creep in.

Another post I read a couple days ago was on the New York Times Bits blog, Will Microblogging at Work Make You More Productive? This post and Dennis’s are nearly diametrically opposed. Included in the comments to the post was a very pro-social media point of view from a 22-year old named Emma.

Taking the two viewpoints together, I came up with this chart:

This certainly parallels the recurring generational differences on things like war, helping the poor, music and many other aspects of our lives. Use of social software in the workplace is actually one of those things that I believe will survive the inevitable changes in life perspective that will occur for Emma.

The ME in Social Media

Social media is a diverse pool of interests, motivations and relationships. It’s quite flexible for the uses you want.

Emma is very much in the learning mode. She’s engaging others on Twitter to diversify her knowledge network (see The Revenue Impact of Enterprise 2.0 to understand the value of this). There is no reason for her to discontinue this behavior, and indeed, she’s helping her career via social software.

Now as Emma progresses through her career, she’ll build up an external and internal network that provides sources of information, opinion and perspectives. These will be immensely valuable to her.

She also start to lead others. Inside her company, there will be applications that integrate collaboration and social networks natively with the apps where she does her work. Emma, and other talented young executives, will emerge as key players inside their companies by playing a couple roles:

Content producers and information filters. And this is where the A-Listers of today provide the examples.

Enterprise A-Listers

What does Robert Scoble do? Louis Gray? Chris Brogan? Brian Solis? Even Dennis Howlett? They are influencers, they have the power to bring high visibility to what they talk about and what they share.

What makes a company run? Employees with the judgment to see what’s needed and the ability to influence the organizational allocation of resources.

Currently, this influence is built only on the in-person encounters that occur in meetings and common project work. This won’t go away, but it is a very serendipitous sort ecology inside the organization.

The next generation of employee leaders will skillfully use social software inside their companies to influence the direction of the company and to build out highly visible profiles that will aid their career advancement. Over on the Connectbeam blog, I wrote a post called Five Moves of Power Users in Enterprise 2.0. The post examines how proficient users of social software would operate inside companies. Here are the five moves I described:

  1. SEO your social profile
  2. Build a good-sized social network base
  3. Comment, engage, discuss
  4. Celebrate and communicate the workstreams of others
  5. Share information with a vengeance

Of course, the power in all this only happens if the employee happens to be talented and have good judgment about the company and her peers. Mediocre people will be pretty quickly exposed if they attempt this.

But the point still stands – companies will benefit by having better collaboration and dissemination of colleagues’ perspectives and ideas, and employees will benefit from a higher awareness of the things that make the company. And the social software power users will emerge in prominent roles inside companies.

I’m curious what you think. Please take a second to vote on the future of social software in the workplace:

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