It takes more than Math to design a social media collaboration system

Designing social media collaboration system

From a sociological and cognitive perspective, we human beings are social animals. We love to share and form groups.  Having said this, groups are formed so easily these days, thanks to the internet and the social media.

The use of social media has tripled over the years. A recent research done by Global Web Index shows that, there are 2.3 billion active social media users in the world. Social media systems have finally found its place and is well accepted by people all around the world. People have learned to share and express themselves through social media.

All of this sharing and interaction happens only on the consumer social media systems.  People love to share jokes, photos and videos for entertainment purposes and not much thought has been given to collaboration. Perhaps, serious collaboration has not struck the chord with many social media users.

There are terms like ‘social collaboration’ and “Enterprise social networking’ that are used within the industry. These terms are used for social software which is used within the corporate intranets of many organizations. These software cater exclusively for the enterprises and none for the general consumer use.

Social Interaction for collaboration gels well with online professional networking systems. Examples include: LinkedIn groups. But how much has penetrated into the minds of general users is still a question mark. Perhaps, the world is not ready yet. Social media systems need to evolve with the current trending work practices and work culture across the world.

This brings the discussion to the concept of social media collaboration. Social media collaboration is a synergy between social media and collaboration. Collaboration is all about shared understanding among people to accomplish mutually beneficial work. The idea here is that, social media can be put to good use to facilitate collaboration.

Social media is an attitude. It is self-organizing and continuously evolving. It is the technology with underlying social network embedded within it. It is the behavior of the social network, its ties and connections among members that determines the success of the social media as a whole.

Fundamental principles for designing social media collaboration system.

Designing with fundamental principles
Designing with fundamental principles

We are all well aware that no one person can have all the expertise and knowledge to the solve problems in the world. The adage “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” coined by Aristotle works so well in this context. We pool our resources, share our ideas and work together to produce a “Whole”, and this “Whole” is greater and far superior than one person working alone to solve to a problem.

The idea of social media collaboration is based on this fundamental synergy between collaboration and social media.

There are certain triggers that we need to pay attention to when designing social media collaboration systems. These triggers, act as pillars for strengthening collaboration and interaction among members in the system.

The first one is the structural trigger:

Structural triggers deals with the way the network is structured so as to facilitate the rapid spread of information. It asks the vital questions: who spreads the information and how do they spread it? For example: In Linkedin groups, people are densely connected or networked with each other. The information spreads among the members in a discrete manner quite fast. The way a network is structured, has a say in the success of collaboration in social media systems.

The second one is the cognitive trigger:

Cognitive trigger deals with the abilities of people within the network. Members with same the cognitive abilities and professional experience share and interact more than otherwise. It is a known fact that, like minds attract only other like minds.

The third one is the relational trigger:

Relational trigger deals with the trust, obligation and mutual reciprocity. It asks the question: why people share among members in a social network? It is important to build trust among people in the network. Where there is trust, there is interaction, sharing and collaboration.

The final word: what I would like to say

Even though, the above pillars strengthen the collaboration and interaction among members in a social network, it is important for the designers and the organization to foster a “Info-culture” among the members in the network. Technology is only an enabler and is secondary. Strict rules and controls cannot be put in place, as in an enterprise system.  Social media collaboration systems are constantly evolving and self-organizing. They evolve with time and the prevailing culture of the place and network.

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Ramkumar Yaragarla

I am 43 years old. Founder, Loving dad and Husband. Worked as an IT Business analyst and program manager in several Fortune 100 companies.Alumnus at the University of Warwick, UK. I love the WWW and write on Social aspects of information, Social collaboration, Digital Sociology, Digital Humanities and Work life balance. I enjoy playing on the beach with my 9 year old daughter. I am open to your suggestions and comments.
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