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The Difference Between Expertise and General Knowledge

1/14/16 1:22 PM

There is tremendous value in understanding social influence within the enterprise.

The idea around measuring social influence is not exactly new -- companies like Klout, Kred, PeerIndex and others have been around for some time, with varying degrees of success and acceptance. While these tools have largely been for consumers, there is most definitely science behind the efforts -- and application within the enterprise. No single company "owns" this category, with many people questioning the algorithms used and the subjective nature of the methods for capturing their data and the results they share. But the value that these concepts can provide within corporate collaboration and knowledge management platforms is a key indicator of where technology (such as Office 365 and Microsoft's Office Graph) is headed.

The Difference Between Knowledge and Expertise

In an article on the topic a couple years back (Yammer & Klout: An intranet game too far) when these social influence technologies first came onto the scene, author Jonathan Phillips provided some insights into the mechanics of Klout, and -- more importantly -- the value of these tools to the enterprise. He also touched on the role of social influence in tracking and measuring outputs through system gamification, which is an important social collaboration capability.

Tracking influence within the enterprise could impact how end users act on the information received - prioritizing signals coming from the experts within the organization, helping increase the speed of decision-making while decreasing risk.

Of course, the problem with the rise of tools like Klout is not whether or not the tool accurately measures actual subject matter expertise (which is not really their purpose), but that people quickly embrace any new analytical tool or data point as if they somehow hold all of the answers (they don't). As with most analytical tools that looks to parse human behavior and correlate with content and conversation, the results are highly subjective -- and at the same time can provide powerful insights to support your other collaboration measurements.

What makes social influence measurement useful is how it helps an organization begin to understand the depth of our social interactions (how far our message is amplified), not just the volume of our activities.

Volume of content produced does not equal expertise.

Like most stats, the value is not about measuring a specific point in time, but in identifying movement and trends over time. But none of that is in any way connected to the *quality* of those interactions -- such as what you'd expect from someone with deep subject matter expertise (SME) knowledge. As an example, think about some of your best internal developers. On the surface, the typical SME may not be the most vocal within your internal collaboration environment. Because they're not uploading as much content and being as interactive as someone from, say, the marketing department, you might label them as a low-influence employee through standard activity-based metrics. The reality is that this developer may be the leading expert on certain topics, even with his or her low participation. The true potential of social influence measurement are realized only when combined with other activity and engagement metrics, providing another dimension to the data and allowing teams to better understand how content and ideas are amplified in real-time.

We have not even scratched the surface of how these tools might be utilized for internal systems. The leading tools have business platforms, but what we really need is to have integration with Microsoft's Office Graph and similar efforts which, I believe, will lead to widespread adoption across the enterprise.

Social influence measurement is all about amplification -- how many people hear your message, and take action on it. As social influence becomes more of a factor within the enterprise, and teams look to better leverage connected networks within the organization, filtering and prioritizing content, conversations and ideas based on subject-matter expertise will become increasingly important to our decision-making processes.

At Beezy, we are passionate about improving the business value of social collaboration, and are constantly looking at how we can extend and enhance SharePoint and Office 365 to give our customers the greatest ROI. For more information on how we can help improve collaboration within your business, contact us at

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