Every now and then the question of critical mass pops up when discussing the uses of social media in companies and organizations. “How many users should we have before social media is useful?” IMHO there is no absolute answer to the question, as it depends entirely on what you use social media for. A wiki can be very useful for a project team of 4 people to produce project documentation – especially if they happen to reside in different countries. A board of directors consisting of 6 people can save time by having agendas and and meeting minutes stored in a shared workspace and edited by all members.
Social media is inherently social, so instead of defining critical mass one could say that the minimum mass for social media is 2 people. If writing a blog saves you a couple of emails, that is already good. Now, I am not against email per se (although my inbox is a disaster, and I never remember which folder I stored that email containg a really good link). It is just that email was never intended to be either a teamwork or an information management tool, although it is often used as such.
Tomorrow I will be talking about business opportunities in multilingual social media here in Helsinki. It should be an interesting event – more about it tomorrow. As for now, I want to conclude this entry by referring to the fact that lack of time is often mentioned as one of the main obstacles to using social media. This can well be a generational issue. The younger generation uses IM and Facebook and is almost constantly online. I still seem to spend a lot of time in meetings, or writing and preparing materials, or reading and evaluating a lot of stuff. And despite of coming from the land of mobile phones I prefer calling people to sending SMS or Twitter messages. A good friend of mine has done a lot of research on learning, and has pointed out that learning requires long enough quiet time to absorb and understand new topics and ideas. In an environment with constant instant messaging, where do we find that quiet time for learning?