Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Jeremiah Owyang's participation spectrum

I'm sorry that I didn't get around to writing about this previously, but Jeremiah Owyang provided a model that one can use to measure a company's reaction to social media. Models are of course simplifications of reality, but sometimes the simplified model is useful to understand something.

Owyang's post describes five ways in which companies let, or do not let, employees participate in the social web. Owyang entitled these five ways as follows:

  • We Have No Clue

  • Shut It Down

  • The Corporate Representative

  • Common Employees Blessed For Social

  • Everyone Is Encouraged To Be Involved
Go to his post for the explanations.

While Owyang believes that different organizations will choose different styles depending upon their circumstances, he also has the belief that a clear winner will emerge over time: "in the long run –as Generation Y enters into the workforce, it’s undeniable that the fifth model where everyone is a participant of some form is most likely."

That of course assumes that (a) a significant number of people will continue to exhibit "I just ate a mango" sharing tendencies, and (b) employers will like this. However, while employers do have to adjust in some ways as the workforce changes, that doesn't necessarily mean that they will completely adjust. Perhaps no employer will be as clueless as the city of Bozeman, which temporarily required all job applicants to provide user names AND PASSWORDS for all of their social media accounts, but I wouldn't be surprised to see many employers institute, or continue to enforce, a "don't talk about work on your social media accounts" policy. Generals always fight the last battle, and a company that's burned by a social media disclosure is bound to react, no matter how cool Generation Y practices are.

So it will boil down to job interview showdowns:

"Uh, like, when I'm grabbing open source code for my new website, I'll sometimes compare the code to the code that I wrote for my last job. But the fascists at my last job said I was, like, 'imparting competitive secrets' or stuff like that."

"Well, Jim, I'll admit that it'll look good for the corporate image if we hire a purple-haired dude who lives at Starbucks on the weekends, coding away. However, we do have a business to run, and we can't have our corporate secrets being thrown all over FriendFeed."

Potentially, all the Generation Y people will refuse to work at the firm...who will then hire offshore people to do the job. (Once the company hires a translator to monitor what their offshore workers are saying on Orkut or whatever.)
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