A question I often get asked from business people is ‘why do I need to bother with Twitter?’
What’s the point, they ask.
Maybe you are that leader, and maybe you have the same question. I’m busy enough as it is. I understand why the company has a presence on social media, but me?
If that is you, you might want to read on. The intention of this article is to spell out, once and for all, why Twitter is great for business leaders
1. Staying in tune with your industry’s thought leaders
If I were to ask you to list 10 people in your area of expertise or industry who are thought leaders, who you respect, who you would gladly listen to – it wouldn’t be hard, right? So for example if you work in Sustainable Development – it wouldn’t be hard to list them…Susan McPherson, Rohit Bhargava, Niall Dunne. You’d quickly rack up a ton of names if you were to make a list. Now, how many of those people are using Twitter to communicate. The answer: most, if not all of them. So the question is really…do you want to know what the thought leaders in your industry are saying? Most professionals would say erm…yes! Which leads me on to my next point…
2. Building your personal brand
Another reason why Twitter is great for business leaders is it allows you to build a personal brand. Most people have something, usually a variety of things, they are passionate about. Social media gives you a voice, a channel, to get your word out – to create your personal brand. Of course not a lot of thought leadership can happen in the 140 characters that Twitter gives you (Twitter is a signposting tool to content on the web. It helps you make sense of the web, it isn’t where the content lives really).
Thought leadership comes from curating and signposting content. Sorting the wheat from the chaff for your followers. Making sense of the world for your followers. We are each of us becoming one person news outlets. Which bring us to a vital point…
3. Growing your sphere of influence
Ever felt like no one listens to you? You have ideas, great ideas, but it’s like shouting in a cave. The only voice you hear is your own echo. Well social media, specifically Twitter, gives you that platform to express yourself. You can build your own audience. An audience is nurtured, not acquired however – so in the same way that any brand works, the consumer needs to identify with the product (i.e. you). Sound scary? It isn’t. You just need to start becoming the news outlet, the curator, the thought leader, the whatever-you-want-to-be.
It’s liberating, and like any good audience the performer learns from the audience reaction, the laughs, the heckles even. Authority, or influence, comes from what you say, what you share, not your social status or rank.
4. Becoming an advocate for your company
Employees are generally not paid to have a voice. They are paid to do their jobs well, nowhere in their job description does it say ‘become an active exponent and advocate of our company in the public arena’. With the internet everyone, and increasingly everything, is becoming connected. People have at their fingertips the power of the printing press and the post office. Anyone can publish and create a following as big as any news outlet or PR agency can muster.
The smart companies are those that tap into this, encourage it, in a measured and mature way, rather than ignore it’s happening. This means actually encouraging employees to become the company’s brand spokespeople. A company’s employees are (or at least should be) the company’s best brand advocates. It’s also a great way to attract top talent. Employees waxing lyrical about the company…what a dream!
This holds up a mirror to the organisation. Are your people passionate and proud about working for you? Or not?
Of course, it helps if you work for a purpose led company. The best and most inspiring businesses to work for are those that have purpose. Jeremy Waite says in his book From Survival to Significance “Significant brands are run by companies whose intentions lie beyond profits. They want to make profit with purpose…”. The businesses are the ones that are purpose-led and have bold ambitions. Going boldly, to quote space explorer Captain James T Kirk.
5. For inspiration
You may have come across the phrase ‘we are the average of the five people we spend most of our time with’. Well Twitter is your 6th friend. Like friends, if you choose the right ones, you’ll be absorbed in conversation that resonates with you.
Back to our example above, if you are following 100 sustainability thought leaders you will end up with an unrivalled source of ‘trails’ to follow up on. To borrow a quote from Michael Hyatt’s article Slay your dragons before breakfast he says ‘Leaders read and readers lead’. Stick to this and you’ll have a ton of things to read, all from trusted sources that serve as inspiration.
So…convinced? Still on the fence? Would love to know why….drop me a line below. How else, on a daily basis, can you connect with thought leaders, build your personal brand, become a thought leader yourself and an advocate for your company?
It’s also rather fun
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When was the last time you felt that you – the whole you – showed up to work?
We spend more time at work than anywhere else. More time than with our families. Than with our friends. More than we even sleep!
Fortunately, this is all set to change. Technology is, rather ironically, making us more human at work.
In her research paper ‘Organisations in the Digital Age – 10 Key Findings’ Jane McConnell calls out ‘Digital Humanizes and Energizes Organizations by Making Work Personal’ as the number one finding. Over the past seven years an individual’s capability to co-create content, communicate in real time and share information without having to go through ‘official publishers’ (which I assume means via a company’s communications department) has gone through the roof.
Enterprise social networks are playing a large role in bringing about this change. Here are five practical ways they do that:
1. Random meet ups
Here’s the thing. Many of us are sheepish about meeting new people. We stay in our departmental teams and only venture outside the team if we really have to. The functional badges we give ourselves – I’m in HR, I’m in IT, I’m in Marketing – is a classic piece of tribalism. The problems come when HR and IT feel like exclusive ‘functional clubs’, and barely act like they’re from the same company. A great solution is to set up ‘random meet ups’. Names are put into a hat and random pairings made. Based purely on chance. I could be paired up with the head of IT, or the janitor. Its completely random. Announce the pairings in your social network (X you are paired with Y this month). The network has a funny way of holding the two people to account for meeting up, Now here’s the key: they both need to feedback on the network what they learnt, however profound or banal. Random Meet Ups are ‘comfort-zone smashers’ and attract serendipity like nothing else.
2. Sharing passion
We all have interests outside of work. Things we are passionate about. Subjects that your colleagues are pleasantly surprised to find out….’really, you do that? I never knew’. I always remember when a colleague told me in passing how he spends his Saturdays coaching disadvantaged children – I had no idea, why would I? Works work right? But boy did my perception of him change. Well social networks can be a way to channel some of these passion area of ours. They can encourage a real outpouring of emotion in a company that may reel back from outward signs of emotion. I saw a great example of this for International Women’s Day – a fantastic global event which encourages equal rights for women. We ran an ‘ESN takeover’ for the day, had guest bloggers, encouraged conversation around the major themes. The ESN became a hot-bed of passionate and emotional posts about the role women play in our society. I was especially touched by the outpouring of men celebrating their mothers as a leading light in their lives – me included 🙂 There are dozens of special days you could celebrate this way, and your colleagues will love them.
3. Geeking out on Hobbies
Hobbies I hear you say? By jove, this is work! I disagree. The more you humanise the workplace, the more connected and fulfilled your workforce will be. Humanising the workplace means creating a place where it’s ok to share gardening tips, geek out on photography or gorging on World of Warcraft. A great way to encourage this is to identify the conversations in your network which sound like potential hobby groups. Then pounce! Choose the person who appears to be the most vocal on a given topic and help that person set up their own discussion group, private or public, whichever they prefer. Light as many fires as you can.
4. Narrating work
I often get the question ‘I don’t know what to say on the network’. I agree, it’s often bewildering where to even start. Many of us have no time or inclination to become active on external networks such as Twitter outside of work, so why would we suddenly be adept at social networking inside the company. We are not digital natives, we tell ourselves. One great way to counter this is the following: We all have lightbulb moments during our days. Some profound, others more of a dim flicker. But thoughts all the same, and some for sure will be of interest to others. We are all on some kind of learning journey. We have thoughtful ideas, exchanges, challenges…. why not share those? Narrate them? Treat your social network like a live journal where you can share with your followers how your day is going. Your followers have already chosen to follow you so they will be interested. I have seen countless people start this exercise, and great things happen as a result. It doesn’t happen overnight, but a steady trickle of narration gradually builds up an online audience who will respect and listen to you. For more inspiration on this topic check out John Stepper’s Working Out Loud blog.
5. Posting your cat
Often cited as a pet peev (‘scuse the pun) of many a community manager is the ‘cat photo’. Many people try to discourage this kind of silliness, stating that the social network should be a ‘place for business’. If your whole feed starts to resemble a Lynley Dodd book, then yes, I agree, something needs to be done. But a light sprinkle of pets, birthday cake pics, Halloween outfits and novelty xmas trees from around the world (to sight some real life examples I’ve seen!) can go a long way to humanize your network.
6. Praising others
We all know how it feels to be praised for doing some worthwhile. Great right. And we all know we don’t do it enough, at work or at home. Gratefulness is a hugely underappreciated habit, which, like kindness often gets overlooked in the cut and thrust of working life. Promote a praising culture in your social network – how? Like everything, do it yourself. Make a pact with yourself that you’ll praise someone every week, out the blue, for something worthwhile they have done. A couple of killer insider tips: Choose one day a week, e.g. #ThankYouThursday and make it a weekly thing with the support of your champions. Secondly, if your social network allows for it, set up a keyword alert for ‘thanks’. You’ll quickly see who’s helping who out and then go praise them!
I recently met up with Euan Semple, self professed digital cage-rattler and author of the book Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do. Among the many things discussed, one that fascinated me was that of ‘permission’. In a subservient world we wait for permission to be granted, in a networked ‘exponential’ world we bestow permission upon ourselves. We give ourselves the go ahead. Over to you Euan…
Permission by Euan Semple
Is authority more important to those who wield it – or those who defer to it?
Sometimes it seems simpler to give others permission to think for us, to tell us what to do, to take responsibility for our happiness. Life seemed so much easier when our parents did this for us and we long to return to that feeling of comfort and safety. We are attracted by the seductive ease of giving others permission to make sense of the world for us through the news, to industrialise story telling in film. We are drawn to the apparent safety of a job where we allow others to tell us what to do in return for what seems like stability. It is all so easy.
But we fell asleep. We stopped thinking for ourselves. We gave up responsibility. And now the world around is changing faster than ever before. Our fictionally safe lives are starting to fall apart and we don’t know what to do.
But we can give ourselves permission to take back our sense making. We can reach out to each other through our online networks to tell each other stories, to collectively work things out. We can do this at home and at work. We can use our new found skills to take back responsibility and have agency.
We can give ourselves permission to wake up.
Read more Euan Semple writings on his blog ‘the obvious’ here
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There is an assumption, because of the prevalence of Twitter, Facebook and the like, that all you need to do is plug one into a company’s mainframe and away you go.
I call this ‘plug and pray’.
You’d be forgiven for thinking they are the same. Internal social networks have all the same accoutrements you find on external ones, lulling us into a false sense of familiarity. Follow buttons, like buttons, activity streams, groups. Heaps of similarities.
There is one killer, and I mean absolute humdinger of a reason, why they are different though.
Everyone knows what Facebook is for. Love it or hate it, it’s purpose is baked into its very fabric. Same goes for LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter and so on.
Now take your company’s internal social network. What’s it’s purpose? Is it ‘to improve collaboration’? to ‘break down silos’? To create ‘a great place to work’? No, these can’t be it’s purpose – they are desirable outcomes – not the reason you use it.
Not defining the purpose of your internal social network is the single biggest rookie mistake. How do you avoid making it?
Simple. Ask yourself Why you need it in the first place.
The next time a colleague asks you for an ‘internal Facebook for their team’. Ask them Why as well. Why do they want a social network in the first place? What are they trying to achieve?
Here’s what I call ‘The Five Whys‘ for using an enterprise social network:
1. For projects. Set up a group, community, whatever your ESN of choice offers you, for a specific project team. Use the group as a virtual meeting place. Use it as the place to ask questions, reserving email only for one to few communications. And tell people that. More, get your leaders to live by that code. When you see group email, go direct to sender and ask that next time they post the question in the social network. Hold a webjam in the group every month. Could be ask a senior leader webjam, could be a round table discussion one – it doesn’t matter. Mix it up. Share agendas, killer documents that people always need, videos, whatever is most viral in your group.
2. For communicating. Every company has an internal communications department. How do they communicate? By email. Problem is people are swamped by emails. How do you ensure your message has the right cut-through? Well, you can’t. Why not channel the majority of your communication through your social network? Set up a generic account for ‘yourcompanyinternalcomms’ and post from that. Encourage others to follow it. Then your communications pop up in their activity feed. Yes maybe they’ll ignore, just as would ignore your email. But within the network there is one key difference = people can respond. Or like. Something! With email the most intel you can get is open rates. Communicators want to know what people think. Social networks encourage that.
3. For generating ‘themed’ discussions. What’s one of those? A ‘themed’ discussion is a particular interest / passion that a given group of people in the company have. The more specific the niche the better the outcome. Too broad and there’s too much leg room. Keep it tight, and people who are passionate about a given topic will come in droves. And it doesn’t need to be high-brow, intellectual themes. Some of the best themed discussions can be around trivial things.
4. For campaigns. The next time a department wants to run an internal campaign, lets say you’re a car manufacturer and you want to run a safety campaign for your assembly lines, use your social network to do it. Don’t just push out messages. Use the power of social to grow interest around a topic. Create online competitions, scavenger hunts, quizzes – use gamification techniques to bring the subject to life. Make it fun, relevant, vital. Enlist support from your biggest advocates across your network, ask your champions for support.
5. For events. For your next conference use your social network as the back channel. Lets say you have 60 people in a room with 1000 people not there. They could be dotted around the globe. They would love to be there. Well they can be. In the room with you. How? Make a big call out to everyone…this is how we’re going to do this. Make the leaders commit to commentating throughout the sessions. Make the 60 people in the room commit to sharing their thoughts. You’ll find some of the best conversations in the room are happening in the network, with people in the room. Why? Because a heap of people are not comfortable taking the mic and riffing on a topic, but they are in written format. You’re catering for those guys too. As well as creating an awesome broadcast of what’s going on. What’s more, you’ve got a record of the event in those conversations. Sweet.
It’s easy to be duped into thinking that your company’s social network is an internal Facebook. Don’t be. In large corporate environments if you don’t define Why you want to use it, the only thing you’ll see is organisational tumbleweed blowing through your network. Define the Why first.
If you’d like to read more about how to ignite your social network, grab my free ebook below…
Rookie Cop images used by kind permission of mycomicshop.comContinue reading
Life is messy. The world of work is messy. Platforms are messy.
Despite this, we try and categorise everything. Ambiguity is bad, order and structure are good.
Interesting then, and hardly surprising, that companies often have lofty ambitions to categorise their information.
Every company wants to be more efficient, of course they do, creating what Bill Gates called in his 1990's book (Business @ the Speed of Thought) 'a world-class digital nervous system...so that information can easily flow through their companies for maximum and constant learning”.
Fast forward 20 years. How far have we come?
Well, take a look outside the company walls and we see a ton of innovation in every shape and form - we have Uber reimagining the taxi industry, AirBnB giving us an alternative to hotels, Netflix instead of cable, Spotify replacing our music collections...the list is inexhaustable.
How are businesses getting on? Have they created the digital nervous system that Bill envisioned above?
Not really. What's the closest thing we've come to?
The company intranet. Oh dear.
Despite grand intentions, intranets often fail miserably. Unrealistic expectations. Lack of strategy and direction. A shortage of people with the right skills. Zero engagement and 'taking it serious' at the top which trickles down throughout the organisation. Poor tech (I put this last as paradoxically its the least important - some of the best intranets I've seen have been built on the oldest tech).
Intranets are also commandeered by communications departments who are not custodians of information for the business. The intranet is a means to delivering a news article, a new campaign, an emerging strategy. This results in a lot of 'vanity pages' that serve no-one except the ego of the leader whose mug-shot adorns the page.
So back to Bill's point, is this digital nervous system implausible? Will companies ever crack this nut? Yes, I believe they can. Moreover, the way to do this already exists - the enterprise social network. What follows are 8 of the main arguments for how social networks beat intranets as tools for sharing knowledge, expertise and helping us communicate as people in our organisations.
1. social networks are people-centric. We forget that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn have only been around a few years. Their existence has brought into being a whole new level of peer to peer interaction. I have witnessed how this transforms a business when it happens on the inside, its hugely powerful. The social network humanises the business.
2. social networks help you filter out the signal from the noise. You will never make sense of everything on the internet, as you will never make sense of everything in your organisation. Choose your followers well and they help you filter the good stuff from the chaff.
3. social networks create community. Unlike the typical file repository you find on an intranet, members of the community help each other in solving problems. A huge amount of time and effort goes into creating structured hierarchies for finding information, often leading to an information cul-de-sac for the person looking, who quickly gives up. Much simpler for that person to ask the community 'can anyone help with this?' and get an up-to-date response.
4. social networks are a truer reflection of life. They are spontaneous, unpredictable, frantic. In real life people resort to asking other people anyway when they need help - the real knowledge of the company lives in people's heads. Social networks create a place for people to ask for stuff and get answers. Not in search of the holy grail of documents.
5. social networks have energy. The network can build momentum and create talking points at lightening speed. Because it's a network of people and their ideas - and ideas can travel at an unbelievable pace.
6. social networks do not have hierarchy. An individual's worth is judged on his or her contribution to the network, regardless of whether that person is a production operative or senior vice president. The most followed person is not the most senior. The most followed is he or she who serves the network most.
7. social networks have an inherent sense of trust. Trust is implicit in all interactions. The network is very quick to disenfranchise the person who it can't trust. See a great example of this in Don Tapscott's TED talk 'Four principals for the open world' (minute 14:35) where he talks about how birds repel work in unison to repel enemies.
8. social networks are substance over style. The interface is relatively simple. No time is spent creating vanity pages. It's all about communicating.
We feel the urge to compartmentalise knowledge, to put it in boxes, in virtual filing cabinets. This desire misses something blindingly obvious = People. In any organisation every person has a heap of knowledge locked away which will never be labelled, categorised and stored away. Ask that person a question though, and most will be only too happy to help. The social network provides the means of doing this but is boundless with regards to geography, language, even time.
Yes they can be messy, and no not everything is neatly labelled and categorised - but when set up properly the benefits are staggering.