Social Media, a Knowledge Management Tool

I was reading an article on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network on Social Media versus Knowledge Management. Written by Anthony J. Bradley and Mark P. McDonald of Gartner, I was interested because I’ve discussed the topic of Social Media and Knowledge Management a few times in the past and I was pleased that the topic was still getting attention.

Then I read it.

To be fair, it started badly and got better. Here are their two “definitions”.

“Knowledge management” is what company management tells me I need to know, based on what they think is important.

“Social media” is how my peers show me what they think is important, based on their experience and in a way that I can judge for myself.

The basic precept presented in the article was that Knowledge Management is about collecting, classifying, and distributing knowledge while Social Media is chaotic and a source of concern for organizations afraid of losing that control.

I will admit that there are likely organizations that have that fear. I also believe that these same organizations would have that fear even if they didn’t have a Knowledge Management program. Social Business is a different mindset that take time to adopt.

It is the mindset, not the technology, that has to evolve.

Knowledge Management systems are the way they are because when the idea was conceived back in the day, that is the tech that was available. The technology for knowledge to be emergent wasn’t around. Information had to be submitted, categorized, and disseminated in order for it to be readily leveraged in the pre-2.0 applications.

I worked on a few Knowledge Management projects. The challenge was encouraging the submission of good, focused, content and then reliably making it accessible to people. With all the tools in the social media toolkit, this can be automatic.

Sure, curated knowledge is still valuable, but now you can use a wiki for most of the traditional curated knowledge. Ad-hoc information works well in forums, discussions, micro-blogging, and comments. Blogs are great for expanding on items that just don’t fit in 140 characters.

When you throw in social sharing, rating tools, and some basic gamification to encourage participation, one of the largest challenges to traditional Knowledge Management falls by the wayside.

Social Media is the future of Knowledge Management. People need to stop drawing a line between them, implied or otherwise, and work to evolve the older Systems of Records into Systems of Engagement.

The target is Social Business and it is built on the systems of the past.

5 thoughts on “Social Media, a Knowledge Management Tool

  1. Although I reserve the right for any organization to come up with their own contextually specific definition of knowledge management; their definition is not even a definition is it ? It’s just a pretty useless statement.

    Knowledge Management is like ECM – it should be about strategy not about technology, so I agree with you on that front. Therefore “social media” technologies can be enablers of KM, just as ECM technologies can. I have suggested before that a “Knowledge Enabled” enterprise needs good information management as a pre-requisite for reaching it’s goals; in which case “social computing” platforms can provide for good information sharing as part of an Enterprise Information Management (EIM) strategy.

    BUT Pie, for goodness sake, please don’t get sucked into using that frikkin awful “Social Business” moniker ! it is soooooo woooly and undefinable it makes “Knowledge Management” look like a well understood term !!!!

    All business is a social activity – well it is until SkyNet goes active and our robot overlords take over business activity as well as everything else……….. 😦


    • Jed, the word social is the issue. The new part is translating the real-world social into the digital world. Maybe we should call it Digital Social Business? (TLA alert!)


      • LOL – DSB, just love a new acronym……

        My response would be, that other than vendors who need a trendy term to re-brand their tired products, why do we need a new term at all ?

        The ACM still talks about Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW), we can talk about communication, collaboration, information sharing. There are plenty of terms (and acronyms no doubt !) already in use.

        I could forgive the trend to put 2.0 behind everything, because of the attempt to show a step change, a major version “upgrade” to the paradigm concerned – however as you know I truly hate sticking “social” infront of everything, it’s a totally bogus marketing driven trend (IMHO and all that…….).

        Now I have got that rant off my chest, I vote we tweet out the new acronym – DSB is born !

        (although as an ex-Military communications specialist, DSB stands for double-sideband, just as ECM stands for Electronic Counter-Measures…….)


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