Is your organization good at multiplexing ?

Summary : Knowing who should drive and own social media in the organization is a recurring question. Experience shows that when the project falls to a “central department”, this latter often struggles to spread adoption outside of its own range, what causes the system to be underused or the emergence of internal competing projects. In the end, it’s a costly and counter-productive situation. New approaches a needed that rely on new methodologies and attitudes : those who own the platform need to learn to share it with others, involve them from the early stage, listen to their needs and let them use it the way they want to meet their own needs.

This post is a synthesis of many discussions that followed what I wrote on the use of social platforms both for external communication and intranet purposes.

Such projects are often owned by a department that drives them. That’s the reason why many organizations start by wondering which department should own social media.

When one owns something, he uses it for his own purposes. There are many reasons to that. Most of all because one does not know anything about others’ needs, because some uses are counter-cultural to the DNA of a given department or because internal power games and politics makes it logical to keep one’s projects for oneself.

Consequence : a communication department that drives an internal social network struggle at making the most out of its collaborative potential. Sometimes because they don’t want but, most of times because it’s out of their competence field for obvious reasons. Replace communication with HR, IT, Innovation or business unit, the result is the same. It’s no use to blame the people in question because the situation is often caused by the lack of means and the irrelevance of some uses regarding to their mission and not by unwillingness. In fact, most of time you can hear them say “We’d like to but don’t know to”.

Whatever the owner, a social networks serves for communication, collaboration, innovation, expert location, talent management, supports some processes. If each of these needs rely on a different tool and project, there are lots of chances everything fails.

That’s the same for external facing projects. Marketing, communication, innovation, customer care etc…should be able to use the system, whatever the official owner is.

That’s why we can see more and more competing projects that, in the end, cause unproductivity and waste resources, those needed to drive them, to implement them and, last but not least, employee’s attention.

As one of my readers said, these are only channels, channels that can convey many kinds of signals, of flows. I usually use the pipe metaphor. One can own the pipe but it does not mean that it can be used to convey lots of things, for several purposes, from and to third part people.

Organization will have to embrace the culture of multiplexing. What’s multiplexing ? To make the story short, it’s about using one single wire to convey many different signals. The system was first used into aircrafts and is now very common in cars and lots of other things. The purpose is to use a single wire to convey signals for many devices, for different uses.

As said in Wikipedia :

In telecommunications and computer networks, multiplexing (also known as muxing) is a method by which multiple analog message signals or digital data streams are combined into one signal over a shared medium.

Applied to our matters, it means :

• Understanding that what I’m implementing will be used by other people for their own uses.

• Understanding I have to give up control on the use they’ll have

• Understanding that I need to teach them how to use my system for their own needs, accompany them, be a service provider for them

• Understanding that I have to involve them in my project from the early beginning, to understand all the needs and design things accordingly.

If things are done in another way, social networks will follow the same path as intranets in the past. Each unit or department will have his own one and users will have to manage by themselves waiting for the day someone wakes up and realizes that hundreds of projects will have to merge into one. Until then, many opportunities will be lost, resources wasted and failure will happen with no other cause than confusion, lack of critical mass and, in the end, lack of coherence and relevance for end users.

If some of our employees are members of at least two social platforms, if your working on a new rich directory disconnected from social networks, if your marketing department thinks that customer care has nothing to do on “their” twitter account or Facebook page, you’re facing the first symptoms of the absence of a culture of multiplexing.

In the end, as Wikipedia says

The aim is to share an expensive resource

It’s as simple as that.


Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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