Why special librarians should be active on their organization's intranet social media


Back to the dissertation now and trying to do a big push this month to get ready to defend in the Fall. A member of my committee had some great suggestions of parts of the literature that I should cover in my literature review and had missed. Particularly some CMC things I overlooked (more on these another time).

Ran across this when looking for other things by Leonardi:

Leonardi,P.M. and Meyer,S.R. (2015) Social Media as Social Lubricant: How Ambient Awareness Eases Knowledge Transfer. American Behavioral Scientist 59, pp.10-34. DOI: 10.1177/0002764214540509

My place of work has an internal Facebook like thingy but it wasn't originally built and supported by IT. With all of the competing priorities, it wasn't clear at all that some social software should get their limited funding and attention. So a bunch of researchers set up Elgg on their own on a surplus computer running under someone's desk. Use took off. Eventually it was taken over by IT who now manages and supports it.

I immediately saw it as a place to advertise library services and resources, troll for questions that needed answering, and blog about things that can't go here. Later, 3 of us won a mini grant to create an add-on that allowed users to list what books they had on their bookshelves that they would be willing to lend out and to track to whom the books were lent.

But selling social media (beyond SharePoint) in the workplace might still be difficult.

This article finds the somewhat obvious, but has a nice lit review and it might be persuasive to some.

From the lit review:

Internal knowledge sharing in organizations is good because

  • increases efficiency
  • increases innovation
  • decreases mistakes
  • makes the organization as a whole more competitive

Internal knowledge sharing is difficult because knowledge is "sticky"

  • takes work to share (individual)
  • people believe they might lose power or status by sharing (individual)
  • knowledge is too complex to transfer
  • it might be hard to find people with whom to share knowledge (technology)
  • knowledge from outside the immediate group in the organization might be devalued (culture)

So the idea of the article is that people need to look around a bit - sort of like jumping in in jump rope - before knowing how to ask a question and to whom to direct a question.  Using social media not necessarily to ask the question but to find sources and figure out how to approach them should help mitigate the stickiness issues.

They did a survey in a large telecommunications company and only worked with people who used their internal social networking site.

Unexpectedly, initial tie strength and complexity of the question impact if the seeker will ask the question immediately.  Asking right away when it's complex leads to less satisfaction. But, they found that even when the question isn't ambiguous, waiting to ask it made the knowledge transfer more satisfactory. This bit from page 27 is interesting:

for the sample of knowledge seekers who did not ask for knowledge right away, of the five media we tested (phone, email, instant message, face-to-face, and enterprise social network site), only enterprise social network site was significant and positive. This suggests that, in support of H3, the enterprise social networking site was the only medium—when used in the short time between when the knowledge seeker identified the knowledge source and when he or she asked for the knowledge—that increased the likelihood that the knowledge seeker was satisfied with transfer. Furthermore, neither identify tie strength nor knowledge complexity had a significant impact on the likelihood of satisfactory knowledge transfer.

(H3 is exactly that - using social networking to gain more information about the source will increase satisfaction with the answer)

The authors emphasize again that they found that it's the "awareness of ambient communication" aspect of social networking that helps, not just using it as a direct channel through which to direct the communication.

Back to my post title. What does this mean for special librarians in corporate, government, or research settings (not academic or public)? It reinforces the idea that maintaining an active presence on your intranet social networking site is a good idea so that your potential users can check you out, get to know you, and better ask you questions. Of course, try not to sound like an idiot on there because then they'll know that, too 🙂

Also, if your organization is interested in KM, has an intranet, AND you have enough people to get to some sort of critical mass (what might that be?), setting up one of these social networking services is probably a good idea.

Leonardi, P., & Meyer, S. (2014). Social Media as Social Lubricant: How Ambient Awareness Eases Knowledge Transfer American Behavioral Scientist, 59 (1), 10-34 DOI: 10.1177/0002764214540509

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