I have a colleague who’s interested in bringing some of our organization’s knowledge management efforts into the Web 2.0 world, and she wanted to know how to get started. My advice was, before getting an organizational blog or setting up a wiki or something like that, that she — or ideally everyone on her team — get involved on a personal level. Because I don’t think you can get Web 2.0 — and therefore your organization can’t get Web 2.0 — unless you’re doing it. It’s all about participation and collaboration, and that means you have to dive in.
So here are my suggestions for the steps you should take before you even think about setting up an organizational blog or wiki or anything like that.
1. Start bookmarking. You are soon going to be touring all over the web, and you need a way to remember the best blogs, videos and other stuff you find. You can use your browser’s bookmarks feature, but the Web 2.0 way is to share. So I suggest getting an account on a social bookmarking site. I recommend Delicious because it is so clean and easy to use, but StumbleUpon is also a good option. Both provide toolbar buttons so you can bookmark as you surf. Get in the habit of bookmarking the sites that interest you and tagging them in meaningful ways.
2. Read some blogs. Blogs are the heart of the social web. Somewhere out there, someone is writing about something you’re interested in or working on. Use Google’s blog search to find 5-10 blogs on those subjects and start reading them. Take a look at their blogrolls or the blogs they cite often, and start reading them too. Of course, there’s an upper limit to the number of blogs you can read, but you do want to be keeping up with at least 20, probably more if you can handle it.
RSS feed readers make it a lot easier to keep up with all those blogs, because they deliver new content to you, instead of you having to go out on the web to get it. I like Google Reader myself, but there are many other choices. Both Firefox and Internet Explorer have RSS feed readers built in, as well. To find the feed, look for the orange RSS feed icon and click on it:
The most important thing, though, when reading blogs is to comment on what you read and like. Web 2.0 is all about participation, and commenting is one of the main ways to join in. Once you start commenting on blogs in your niche, you’ll meet the bloggers and other commenters and begin getting to know the community that you’re joining.
3. Jump into Twitter. It’s time to up the interaction a notch, and Twitter is a good way to do it. You can start out small and build up as your confidence increases. Find a few people to follow; first check the blogs you’re reading, as bloggers are typically on Twitter too. See who they are following and follow any of those people who seem interesting, as well. There are plenty of Twitter applications that make following tweets easier.
Why are you on Twitter? You will get in the habit of sharing: what you’re working on, what you’re reading, links, whatever. And you will have a ready-made community to ask questions and get feedback from. What’s more, it’s fun.
4. Get a blog. It’s now time to join the conversation. And I don’t mean starting an organizational blog. That should come later. First, you should start your own personal blog where you can write in your own voice. You may choose to write about your work or about some other passion. What matters is that you’re adding your voice to the conversation.
Starting a blog is easy and takes less than five minutes. I recommend WordPress.com as the best free blogging platform, because even if you don’t know the software, it’s easy to learn and get started on right away. If you’re intimidated by having a full-fledged blog or don’t have the time, you can start a “micro-blog” on Tumblr and share interesting links, video, quotes and other short snippets. Remember to keep commenting on other blogs and leave a link to your blog when you do. You’ll soon find that folks who read your comments are stopping by your blog and commenting on what you’re writing.
And before you know it, you’re part of Web 2.0.
If you follow these steps, more or less, and get involved in the online community on a personal level, you’ll probably find it much easier to think of creative and worthwhile ways your organization can get involved.