We’ve had many recent conversations with organizations about the potential value of using various social media, including Twitter and Facebook. Often we use these two technologies as examples because, of all the popular technologies/communities, they are two that seem the least likely to produce real value – especially for organizations. We often hear very real fears that social media will be a waste of time, or that it has no purpose except to placate employees who need it as a break from their actual work. While i agree that these things are true in some situations, i vehemently disagree that they are true in all situations. Here is why:
One of the least understood forms of value (especially for organizations) is low-cost serendipity – which refers to the state of having found something valuable when you were not even looking for anything. I have experienced this on more than one occasion as a result of using Twitter and Facebook, but a recent serendipitous event turned into $1,100 for about 30 seconds’ worth of effort, which puts its gross profit at somewhere around $36.60 per second per person (i’m not going to bother calculating the cost of using the media – you get the idea). With this in mind, it seems worth considering for organizations who would love to see similar sorts of numbers on their balance sheets. Here’s how it happened:
In July of 2009, i spent $1,100 to replace the ECM (electronic control module) on my Nissan. After returning home from the dealer, i posted the following joke on Twitter:
Through a third-party service, this message was also posted to my Facebook profile.
In just over one hour, an old friend with whom i haven’t spoken in at least 4 years posted a comment on my Facebook wall, suggesting that the repair may be covered by a recall.
As it turns out he was right, and we were refunded $1,100, the full amount for the repair!
While the extra cash was nice in and of itself, the ease and way that the cash was acquired is interesting to consider:
- i took 30 seconds to post a joke comment for no other reason than that i overestimated my ability to be funny (i had zero intentions of recouping money as a result of this tweet)
- the post instantly reached an audience of between 250 and 500 people
- one of those 500 happened to be watching and happened to have the answer, which was correct
There are thousands of these sorts of missed serendipitous moments going on daily within organizations who do not use social media. Some of these moments might provide co-workers with a simple, surprise personal connection or the knowledge that a co-worker possesses a previously unknown skill. Others, though, may be the link to the next million-dollar channel partner, or a revolutionary product idea that would otherwise remain buried in someone’s head.