Which side of the firewall is hotter?

For something like 15 years much of my online activity and certainly most of my work has taken place inside the firewall. Of late however, I’ve ventured forth and am eagerly talking with those within and beyond the 2.0 pale. There’s a lot of excitement, there’s a lot of chatter and there’s a lot of Twitter.

In this space, some participants get very excited, especially over the new arrivals – it must be like having a favourite secluded holiday spot that suddenly gets found out by everyone, a sort of fear of The Beach 2.0. I think they think the nouveau arrives are tourists whereas they are intrepid explorers of 2.0. Either way there’s a vast amount of activity taking place and I’m sure someone is already working out the carbon emission comparison between sending a Twitter message (a ‘tweet’) and making a cup of tea. Point to note though is that all this is happening externally, it’s in the public sphere.

My prime focus is internal communications and intranets, so what I’m interested in is who does what in the organisation and how to ensure that both mission critical sales messages and information about the strategic business direction gets through to the right people at the right time. Despite the best efforts of some very clever people, it’s an area that’s notoriously difficult to measure. That said, what we’re interested in monitoring is impact on the business – time saved, better productivity, increased innovation, synergy through teamwork, enhanced collaboration and business transformation. The ultimate measure therefore is the bottom line – are we making the business more profitable?

This question started to get me thinking about what goes on outside the firewall and the merry mayhem that is social media today. I’m seeing a lot of messages and discussion about search engines, blogging, video and even music (see the excellent Blip.fm). But I ask myself, but, what does this achieve?

Is, and I know how heretical this may sound, is social media outside the firewall truly productive? I guess I can guess some of the answers in terms of wisdom of clouds, tapping into the mindset of consumers and turning that into lucrative products, niche marketing in the long long tail. But, does any of this actually generate wealth? In the firewall we create things and sell them, that’s the business model. Most of what goes on there is invisible. We want at least some privacy, and often we want a lot, confidentiality is important to any business – few, if none can be 100% transparent.

What this means is that we don’t see enough of what’s happening in the most important area of social media – that that’s happening in the firewall. What we do see, is all the white hot discussion about social media in the public sphere. That looks hip cool and funky trendy. But is it really hot?

My contention is that it’s what happens inside the firewall that’s really hottest. It’s for this reason that I’ve started to compile my list of Social Media Case Studies. I think I might call it the ‘Hot List’, as this is where 2.0 is really happening, not ultimately in blogs like this.

True or not? Be very interested in hearing what people think about this…

4 thoughts on “Which side of the firewall is hotter?”

  1. I know what you mean; Twitter & FriendFeed and a lot of the chatter can feel really circular if end up only following folks who are most interested in social media itself.

    I find the novel application of social media to build real communities (http://BikePortland.org is my favorite example) to be much more fascinating. And an enterprise is automatically a place where the application of tools, not the tools themselves, matter.

    But I think you’ve uncovered a great idea to help with the adoption social computing in the enterprise. If people argue that social tools are frivolous, you can counter with the fact that they enable conversations that actually matter! Conversations that affect the bottom line.

    I like it…

    Jeremy Schultz’s last blog post..Big press events: Do employees care?

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