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12 Days of Digital – Day 12: The power of connectivity

I often refer to social media as my yellow pages to the world. It’s a place I can find people to share experiences, be inspired by, work with or learn from. I have made new connections, who I’ve defined by lists so I can listen to any given sector or geographical area. Does this mean I am connected, part of a network, a greater community?

Connectivity can mean a lot of things. It’s at this point people often respond, ‘ah, the wisdom of crowds’. It’s a pithy phrase that describes a breakthrough theory, however it actually relies on individuals not being connected. So for the purpose of this post I’m more interested in collective intelligence.

Collective intelligence is what underlies social capital and social capital will help define future success in business. For further background on the rivalry of the two definitions please see Henry Jenkins’ excellent article ‘Collective Intelligence vs The Wisdom of Crowds’.

Collective intelligence refers to a situation where nobody knows everything, everyone knows something, and what any given member knows is accessible to any other member upon request on an ad hoc basis.’ Henry Jenkins

Based on Jenkins’ definition social networks are prime hunting grounds for gathering collective intelligence. Signing up to online networks doesn’t automatically include you in a wider network or community or give you the pass to collect that intelligence. So how do we turn our presence into something more valuable? There are many articles about describing how to have conversations on Twitter, or other social networks to build relationships. Relationships built the next ‘must read’ is surely measuring social media influence.

Let’s take the conversation offline for a moment as I did shortly after I ‘met’ Ann Holman on Twitter. After putting the phone down, Ann sent me a white paper she’d written, ‘The Case for Building a Business Community’. The first paragraph struck a chord with the citywide innovation programme I was then delivering.

The difference between a network and a community is that a community is about participation, engagement, collaboration and co creation. Networking is about being connected around a common mutual interest. Communities want to achieve and build something together.’ Ann Holman

So it’s about realising the value in connections and the intelligence they bring. I have created personal ‘networks’ with my social media lists, but just because I have defined some of those I follow to be interested in health innovation or mobile technology it has little clout in the real world other than providing me with a 140 characters of insight and knowledge. Ann is now an associate of media140, working in our community to make things happen, using her expertise as she best knows how.

12 Days of Digital has focused on using social technologies as a tool to grow communities. The mix has been diverse from retaining the wealth of knowledge in internal structures to galvanising external networks towards a common goal. The posts have all been based on realising collective intelligence to boost your organisation’s social capital, or connectivity, to benefit business. I look forward to hearing how you make it work!

Former BBC producer Kate Pickering has worked in broadcast, innovation and digital media for 14 years. She is Director of media140 delivering events and workshops in the UK, mainland Europe and Australia on the transformation of business using social technologies. A collaborative innovation enthusiast and a firm believer the web is for good as well as play Kate is focused on what’s new and what’s next to better business. She has recently become Innovation Programme Leader at Co-operatives UK. Connect with Kate here.

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