All posts by Gerard

How To Build A Personal Brand Online

How to build a personal brand online

I have a question for you. Would you walk through your office or rock up to a business meeting with your shirt or blouse half hanging out?

I mean properly half tucked in, half tucked out styli...?!

I thought not.

Yet many of us do this every single day online. Our profiles half complete, unloved. Half tucked in, half tucked out styli...

This ultimate guide will hopefully convince you to sort out your online attire. What I have for you is a in-depth look at what a personal brand is, why you need one, and finally some techniques for managing and amplifying that personal brand.

Sound good? Cool, let's get started....

Feel free to jump to a section, but read the whole thing top to bottom if you're just starting out.​..


What is a personal brand?

Ok first up, what on earth is a personal brand...

The idea of creating your own personal brand was first introduced in 1937 in the book 'Think And Grow Rich' by Napoleon Hill.

The book talked about the benefits to be had from 'positioning strategy' to advance your own career.

Wikipedia calls a personal brand "the ongoing process of establishing a prescribed image or impression in the mind of others about an individual, group or organization".

A personal brand is first and foremost about creating a (positive) perception in the minds of others.

This quote from authors McNally and Speak captures it well:

Your brand is a perception or emotion, maintained by somebody other than you, that describes the total experience of having a relationship with you

Be Your Own Brand, McNally and Speak

The grand-daddy of personal branding has to be Tom Peters. He's the one who truly got the idea back on the map. 

In his now legendary article, first published back in 1997 on fastcompany.com, he argued:

Tom Peters

Regardless of age, position, or the business we happen to be in, we need to understand the importance of branding.

We each need to understand and manage our own brands, our 'personal brands', much as big companies understand the importance of their commercial or corporate brands.

We are, to quote Mr Peters, "CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc."

Or as the term was coined.... 'BrandYou'

In essence we are no different to commercial brands, he argues.

Think about the websites you visit, he says. How do you know which are worth visiting, which sites to bookmark, which sites are worth going to more than once? 

The answer: branding

The sites you go back to are the ones you trust. They're the ones where the brand name reassures you that your visit will be worth your time.

The same holds true for our personal brands. Think about email. How do you decide whose messages you're going to read and respond to first — and whose you're going to ignore for as long as you can, or worse send direct to the trash unread?

The answer: branding

The name of the email sender is every bit as important a commercial brand.

The "brand is a promise of the value you'll receive" - and if that promise, whether its a product or an individual, isn't a good one, you're not going to go back.

The "brand is a promise of the value you'll receive." Tom Peters

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Making the case for having a personal brand

It accepted by most people that companies don't manage your career as much as they once did. Where once corporations would take you, nurture your talents, give you a fulfilling career these stories are becoming rarer.

Because of this, coupled with the advent of social media where everyone is their own spokesperson, PR team and marketing manager rolled into one - the idea of a personal brand is more relevant today than it's ever been.

And really, the idea of a personal brand boils down to this: look out for your own development, manage your own career, take accountability for your own future.

It's very liberating when you look at it that way. 

So....

To recap...You are responsible. You are accountable. You are CEO of you!

And being that brand, same as any commercial brand, you need to be constantly asking yourself...

  • What is it that my product or service does that makes it different?
  • What's my Unique Selling Proposition (Your 'USP')?
  • Why would anyone choose me over the next person?

You are responsible. You are accountable. You are CEO of you!

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Why do I need a personal brand?

Let's look at 10 reasons why having a personal brand should matter to you as a professional...

1. Visible statement of professional authority

The internet is awash with claims about "I'm the best at X", "I'm an expert in Y", "I'm world class in Z" and so on.

Well I'm afraid all that is just talk, if you can't walk it.

Instead of claiming you are "expert in discombobulation" you need to demonstrate you are through your online activity.

Who you follow and interact with, the posts you share and retweet, the things you like - all help to reinforce what you stand for. Your personal brand. 

2. The majority of recruitment is done through the internet

Over the past 5 years we've seen a dramatic rise in social media.

This has led pretty much everyone and his gran being on social media in some shape or other.

When booking hotel rooms or ringing cabs is done via the internet, it's no surprise that hiring is being done via the online methods.

In 2015 a Jobvite survey polled recruiters about their online use of social media for hiring. Only 4% didn't use social media for hiring. 4%! 

The stronger your personal brand is when they do come looking, the better. 

3. Having more layers of online presence amplifies your multi-dimension characteristics

Linkedin is the beacon for recruiters to seek you out, but increasingly your online presence is being looked at as a whole.

Often recruiters will jump straight to google and check you out there.

The more well rounded your presence is online the better. Sure, you could just focus on LinkedIn. But if you do you're missing a trick.

As we saw above, recruiters will be looking for a well-rounded presence online. But this is bigger than just recruiters. With various layers of online presence you display you aren't just sprucing up your linkedin profile for your next job. 

  • Warning: remember not to spread yourself too thin. It's a good idea to be present on more than just one network, but it's equally important to get to grips with one before you move to the next.

4. Well networked, means well connected

Networks, and being networked, is more valuable and useful today than it's ever been. Having a personal brand makes it easier to network full stop, because it's more obvious what you stand for. 

Networks are like living organisms, and reward individuals who give first before they take.

You build your credibility and trust in a network by being generous with your knowledge and contributing.

Learn to give to the network without any promise of return is the way to go, then your network will be there for when you need it most (just like 'real' life, right) 

The power of networks

Networks are one of the most powerful assets you can have as a professional. Forget the corny 'networking events' you came across years ago. With the onset of the social web there are networks for everything and they are super powerful. 

It's imperative you find, join and contribute to these networks as they'll build up your professional credentials instantly.

You'll meet people, create valuable connections, and have a lot of fun along the way.

Networks within networks

LinkedIn and Facebook are both social networks, but within them there are thousands of 'mini networks' called groups. Hunt these down, join them and start interacting.

There are groups for just about everything imaginable. Can't find one that meets your needs? Start one yourself.

5. There's no hiding how well connected (or not) you are

We've seen that talk is cheap and that you have to walk the talk too. 

You can't claim to know about stuff without being able to back it up. 

And the scary thing is...the tools exist to back it up!

Applications such as foller.me let you analyse a person's Twitter account to see how connected they are to key influencers in their niche and how often they tweet about topics. 

These are being used by recruiters and whoever wishes to use them (they've mostly free) to understand ​what you're all about.

6. Increases the opportunity for referral and recommendations for your expertise

A personal brand leads to opportunity you never knew existed.

Establishing yourself as a prominent person in your field will inevitably lead to invitations to connect, to speak, contribute to articles, be interviewed, the possibilities are endless. 

7. A demonstration of being 'natural to digital' increases hire-ability

Most businesses large or small are going through an immense amount of change due to what's been coined 'digital transformation'.

The digital revolution is touching every part of the organisation, from hiring (as we've seen) to manufacturing, marketing, supply chain and so on.

​Having a strong online personal brand is a sure-fire statement to the world that you understand and have embraced digital.

8. Social platform algorithms work that the more you put in, the more you get seen 

The more active you are online with your personal brand, the more the search engines will thank you for it and shoot you up their rankings. 

Google's algorithm is made up of over 200 factors, which together determine whether you appear at the top of page 1 on Google or end up in the weeds at the bottom of page 25.

Being active online won't instantly get you results on search engines, but over time if you remain consistent you will inevitably gain prominence for your field and you'll rise up the ranking. Leading to an abundance of opportunity.

9. Networks make you smarter

Why depend on just one brain? 

Networks are groups (sometime huge groups) of people with a common interest, hanging out together. 

Imagine for a second. You are struggling with something - you've racked your brain but still no idea. In pre-social web days, you'd be pretty much stuck. However, social networks allow you to draw on the 'wisdom of the crowd'.

A bit like 'Ask The Audience' in Who Wants To Be A Millionaire!

10. You already have a personal brand (you just might not know what it is)

I've saved the best point till last.

You already have a personal brand online, whether you like it or not!

You are giving out signals all the time about who you are. A half-thought through LinkedIn profile, a slapdash Twitter account with a blurred profile shot you took on your last hols - is all sending a signal.

Everything we do is positioning our brand - but until now we've not really thought about ourselves like a brand, so we've been pretty les au faire about the whole thing.

The brand with no brand manager or CEO has been left to grow organically. Now it's time to take the reigns. ​

But first we need to understand one key thing....

What is my (current) personal brand?

So how do you know what your current personal brand says about you? 

Take a moment and in 15 words capture your signature strengths. What do you excel at? What are you an A lister in? Where are you an authority? 

And don't just rely on what you think your competitive advantage is. In that echo chamber of your own head, you can make out you're great at pretty much anything.

Now ask respected peers, friends, colleagues the same question.

You may feel a bit awkward, but better a little bit of feeling silly than a lifetime of second guessing.

Ask the question: what am I good at?

How do they perceive your brand? Your is most noteworthy personal trait?

Once you've consolidated all the feedback, it's time to give yourself a good hard look in the mirror and ask yourself these questions:

  • Is it the brand you want?
  • Does it need to change?
  • Is your online brand consistent with your offline brand?
  • Does it differentiate you from the rest?
  • Warning: As you're doing this, don't fall into the trap of thinking any of this is set in stone. You should continually be self-reflecting to understand what drives you. Defining your core strengths, passions and virtues is a continual act of self-discovery.

(Re)building your personal brand

If your brand isn't want you want it to be, lets look at how to rebuild it.

You personal brand is made up of the 5 Ps - these are Purpose, Personality, Presence, People and Performance. 

Purpose - your purpose needs to shine through and is key to your personal brand. Often we find ourselves doing jobs out of convenience, rather than passion. Two good questions to unearth what you'd really like to be doing is to ask yourself is 'what advice would I give my younger self?' then ask your older self – 'what regrets do you have?'. This is work out where you currently are.

Personality - there's only one you, and that needs to come through in your personal brand. "You may as well be you, because everyone else is taken" Oscar Wilde famously said. Adding authenticity to your personal brand is key - the more the real you shines through the better. 

Presence - This is pretty obvious, but it gets it's own place in the 'P's' because if you aren't present, then however good everything else is, you won't be seen, heard, or noticed. You need to build strategies for staying front of mind among your target audience. 

People - networks are made up of people at the end of the day, and it's people that count. You need to be generous with your time and help people where you can. "The currency of networks is generosity" Keith Ferazzi

Performance - you need to perform in accordance with the above. You need to be consistent. 

Thanks to Jay Shetty for sharing these 5 Ps.

How to amplify your personal brand

Ok let's look at some tactics for optimising and amplifying your online personal brand.

Whenever I'm coaching people on social media, I'm astounded how they haven't even got to first base. That is, they've invested zero time in making their profile look decent. 

Basic things like good profile pics, punchy descriptions and background images are all but missing. It's the equivalent of having your shirt half hanging out while walking through the office!

1. Profile picture 

Is it good resolution? Is it clear? 

Are you looking at the camera? Are you smiling? Does it capture the essence of you?

2. Description

Writing a good description on Twitter and Facebook is like writing a Japanese Haiku. You're limited by characters, and they're hard to get right.

Persist with getting it right until you're happy. And look at how others write theirs. 

Hillary Clinton's as an example is clever: concise, but also funny (hair icon, pantsuit aficionado!)

3. Strategic use of keywords

One element I often find beginners completely overlooking is optimising their profile descriptions or summaries for search.

Want to come to the top of the list when someone type in 'digital marketing exec' - make sure you're profile is optimised for that keyword.

How do you optimise your profile?

Simple, you strategically use that keyword throughout your profile so that when Linkedin (and for that matter any search engine, i.e. Google) index your profile, it's obvious to the 'bots' what your profile majors in.  

See in this example how Julie has included her specialisms (blogger, personal trainer) and included a hashtag (#FitFluential) in her profile. Her line about peanut butter adds a bit of humour too.

  • Warning: Don't go keyword stuffing your profile or it will read like a piece of spam mail.

4. Background images

Pretty much every social network allows you to add a background image to your profile. Its surprising how many people don't bother using them. Adding a background is a great way to add a bit of 'pazzaz' to a profile. It's also a way of emphasising your brand values.

Not everyone has a TED picture to add, but anything is better than the default ones.​

There are plenty of places to find free images to use too. Check out Unsplash or Death to the Stock Photo for a great collection of completely free to use images.

Learn how to engage

Where do you start with building your influence online?

Simple: You start by doing. Experimenting. Seeing what works.

Step 1: dip into your networks regularly and see what people are sharing. Make a list of 10 people in your industry that you respect. Only 10. Look them up, and follow them.

Notice what they are saying. What they are sharing. How they are doing it. Watch what works. Watch what gets a reaction.​

Step 2: Like, retweet and share things you like. Consume content and share it with a one liner that grabbed you.  

Use an @mention to notify someone you think may also like to see it. Tag companies, people, call people out.

Step 3: Find your own content: Set up a google alerts for keywords in your field. Sing up to newsletter in your industry.

When you see something of relevance that aligns with your personal brand, share it.

Use scheduling tools like Buffer.com so you can queue up your posts and do so directly from your browser.

Try to always share a post with an image - they get more attention. Use Canva.com to create your own for free.

Use hashtags - use Hashtagify.me to find the most popular ones

Make social media part of your daily workflow. Make it a habit. Block out 15 minutes once or twice a day to go into your networks and engage. Take moments when you're on the train, in a queue, on hold, to dive into your networks and engage.

Summary

If you read the entire article, well done! I sincerely hope it's inspired you to think differently about your personal brand. And you are one of the ones with the online equivalent of a half tucked in shirt, I hope it's convinced you to look in the mirror :-)

I'd be thrilled if you drop me a line to share your thoughts, questions or observations. Thanks again for stopping by.

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6 Corporate Communications Trends for 2016

6 Corporate Communication Trends for 2016

Communications in large Corporates is undergoing massive change due to an ever increasing amount of ways to communicate in the online space.

2016 will be a big year. I predict we’ll see a surge in companies building in-house content production engines, more akin to media companies than traditional Corporates. We’ll also witness the continued growth of internal social networks - and with that a realisation of the importance of great community management.

Here are my 6 predictions for Corporate Communications in 2016...

1. Increasing convergence of internal and external communications

In 2016 we’re going to see a continuation of a trend that is long overdue: the joining up of internal and external communications efforts. Many businesses have traditionally kept internal and external comms separate, or within the same organisation bucket, but to all intent and purpose pretty much left to their own devices. 2016 will see a radical shift in many Corporates to a more joined up approach, where both groups create a coherent plan. The benefits are clear: inside goes out, outside comes in. I witnessed a wonderful example of this at SABMiller where a story about a retired brewer by the name of Don Fausto that started out as an internal post on their internal social network ended up across all their external media channels, becoming one of their hit stories for the year.

2. Rise of in house ‘media style’ content production engines

Many Corporate Communication teams are realising that content is king and are setting up their own in-house content production engines (that straddle internal and external comms – see above). Where Corporate news has historically been somewhat dry, focused largely on financial performance, Corporates are realising to get any degree of cut through, they need to create content that counts. Content that resonates with people and has impact – more similar to how media outlets work rather than Corporates. Smart measurement will be used to ascertain what has worked and what hasn’t. Long gone are the days of throwing stuff at the wall, irrespective of what sticks or what doesn’t. In 2016 we’ll see a focus on Corporates understanding their audience and serving them accordingly.

3. Corporates will publish more on ‘rented’ vs owned channels

In 2016 we’ll see a surge of companies who are willing to publish on third party channels (such as Medium or LinkedIn Pulse) rather than solely on channels owned by them (i.e. their website). Corporate Communication teams are often cautious about publishing on any platform that is not strictly part of their digital ‘real estate’. However, with the push to create content that counts which serves their audiences better (see point 2 above) corporates will share their content on a range of emerging new channels. Their owned platforms will serve as a home for their content, serving for reference and continuity, but the content will often be shared over a wider array of channels – to serve their audiences where they happen to be, rather than dragging eyeballs to their website.

4. Internal social networks will continue to grow

The integration of enterprise social networks into how businesses operate will continue to gain traction into 2016 with Facebook at Work joining the ESN fold, as well as more companies adopting Microsoft’s latest Office iteration (with Yammer baked in already) called Office365. Leaders will increasingly realise social networks are a great way to demonstrate leadership, while many late adopters will realise social networking inside the business is actually fruitful and even dare I say it, fun! With the increase, there’ll be greater visibility at senior level of the network, greater chance that leadership will get involved (a good thing), and with that interest will come greater scrutiny of how the network is performing at board level (another good thing).

5. Digital skills on the up – addressing a crucial capability gap

Digital literacy will finally get the boost it needs. Many employees at large organisations are in a state of denial when it comes to their own lack of digital savviness, preferring to tout the familiar line ‘I’ve no idea when it comes to computers’. We’ll see a tide of digital literacy programs that address this gap, offering people training and skills development to get their ‘digital passport’ in topics such as how to build your online profile, how to self-publish, and how to build thought leadership on the web. These programmes will often be spearheading by Corporate Communication teams.

6. Internal community management will become more prevalent

In 2016 we’ll see an upwards spike in Corporates seeking to understand and implement best in class community management for internal social networks. With the rise in internal social networks (see point 4 above) the role of the community manager will become defined within companies, with the realisation that good community management underpins good social networks. Similarly Corporate Communication professionals will need to add community management to their arsernal of skills.

Now over to you. Which would you add? Post them below...

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The 5 Hats of the ESN Community Manager

The 5 hats of the ESN Community Manager

So I'm no fashion expert. Especially not when it comes to hats! One person who does know a thing or two about hats is the ESN Community Manager.

Why?

They have to swap and change 'hats' in the metaphorical sense all the time.

By my reckoning there are five hats that the 'Rockstar Community Manager' needs to wear...take a read and see if you agree!

The 5 Hats of the ESN Community Manager

ESN Community Manager Hat 1
#1: The Referee Hat

So the first hat is the referee hat. The community manager is looked upon to maintain the standards of the network, create and communicate those standards, and enforce them when necessary. Pretty much like a referee. Whistle optional.

Disputes won't be frequent, but at times you have to remind people about the rules. Those 'rules' will differ from company to company, but they could be things such as use of profane language, inappropriate content, etc.

I asked Marc Wright at Simply Communicate how much control one needs. His answer is rather illuminating...

Marc Wright Publisher, Simply Communicate

As a referee or moderator be aware that the more senior the colleague the more they are likely to screw up on your ESN.

When even the CFO of twitter gets it wrong as Anthony Noto (below) did when he meant to send a Direct Message about an acquisition to a colleague but instead inadvertently broadcast it on the public network, it is pretty clear that social media is a minefield for senior staff.


So worry far more about the executive suite getting it wrong - front-line staff rarely do anything online that is this embarrassing - either internally or externally on social media.

So worry more about the senior leaders...makes sense! It's still a good idea to have some ground rules in place as a reference for newbies. If you need an Etiquette Guide to get you started, grab the one I use below....

ESN Etiquette Guide Example

Grab this two page Etiquette Guide to give to your colleagues and stick somewhere visible in your ESN - its important to encourage the right behaviours,                      

ESN Community Manager Hat 2
#2: The Thought Leader Hat

Second up we have the thought leader hat. The ESN Community Manager needs to have their own views on the area of business they are in. A common misconception is that the role is for a junior member of staff.

They are young and 'they get social' right. Wrong. Age is no indication of digital competence. 

​The best ESN Community Managers are the ones whose views are respected, who have a certain degree of gravitas. Who are thought leaders in their field.

Great #ESN Community Managers are thought leaders in their field who their community respect

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ESN Community Manager Hat 3
#3: The Project Manager Hat

And so to hat number three, the PM hat. It's very easy to get carried away with the immediate and focus your time buried deep in the ESN 'doing stuff'.

But remember you need to plan future activities, campaigns, etc. This is where a touch of the 'PM's rigour' helps you out big time.

Try and treat every campaign in your ESN like a mini project with clearly defined deliverables (e.g. increase engagement by 20%) and have key milestones, much as you would any other project. 

I asked Rachel Miller at All Things IC what proportion of planning vs execution is required for a great ESN...

Rachel Miller Founder, All Things IC

If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

Invest time planning what you're doing, you can't overdo thinking about it.

But make sure you allow room and time for creativity and fresh ideas to emerge.

ESN Community Manager Hat 4
#4: The Change Driver Hat

So, the change driver hat. One thing is clear, the ESN Community Manager needs a thick skin! - you will face a barrage of questions, quizzical looks, even complaints! What on earth is the point of social network for work many will ask you.

Remember that you are implementing a new way of working - resistance is normal, to be expected in fact!

New employees are a great way to infiltrate some of that 'old school thinking'. Over to blogger and author Virpi Oinonen to expand on this...

Virpi Oinonen Author of 'Internal Social Networks The Smart Way'

New employees are great potential change agents for new ways of working. When they join the organisation their minds are more or less a blank slate as far as your company culture is concerned.

If you manage to create for them a positive enterprise social experience early on, they will be in a better position to resist peer pressure from older employees who may try and get them to use old communication methods like email.

ESN Community Manager Hat 5
#5: The Spokesperson Hat

Finally, the spokesperson hat. As the ESN Community Manager, you are the internal megaphone for your community. 

You will build relationships with people from parts of the business you would never normally have any dealings with. 

With that power comes great responsibility. Don't abuse it, use your influence sparingly. Remember a key objective of any Rockstar Community Manager is to be present but not seen.  

Nick Crawford Co-founder / Director at BetterWorking

It's simple, the more you put in, the more you get out, just like the host at a party.

Put in a little extra effort to connect people, focus on their needs and how your community can help, then recognise their contributions, and you will reap the rewards that only a thriving community will bring.

So there you have it, the five hats. Do you agree? Which am I missing? Drop me a comment below.

PS. I am working on an online course to equip you with everything you need to become an ESN Community Manager Pro! Register your interest below to get early bird discounts...

Coming soon...Community Management Mastery Program

community management mastery program

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How to Become a Community Manager Rockstar

How to become a Community Manager Rockstar

The one ingredient any social network needs is great community management.

So what do you need to be a rockstar community manager?

How do you become the Keith Richards of this community management malarky?

[By the way, this is about community management inside a business in enterprise social networks, but much of it relates to external too]

Grab your axe and read on....​

The make-up of the Community Manager Rockstar (CMR)

The glue that binds
The CMR is the glue that holds the community together. The 'glue that binds' if you like. They build the community, they nurture the people and the conversations, they make sure things are moving in the right direction. What's the right direction? Well, that's for the CMR to figure out! You see, as well as being the eyes and ears on the ground, they also need a strong idea of where the community needs to get to.

Business acumen
The CMR understands the company culture and is super-knowledgeable about strategic business initiatives in the company. They are not only the effective 'glue' in the team but they have business acumen too. They understand what the company is trying to do. They don't side themselves with departmental silos.

Aside: When the Rolling Stones needed a replacement guitarist in the early 70's they were stumped at first. Who on earth could sit in with the biggest rock band in the world? There were tons of proficient guitarists out there who knew all the right chops. But what set aside the one they went for in the end was that he had a deep appreciation for the blues. He knew where their brand of rock music originated from and where it was heading. The CMR is no different. They not only knows the chops, they know about the business on a deep level. They appreciate where the business has come from and where it's heading. Not necessary for your average community manager, but who wants average. We are talking Rockstar proportions here.

Goal generator
They identify goals for the community. They don't just do. They think strategically - then do. But they don't stick to their plans at the mercy of common sense. They are willing to tweak their direction as the community grows.

Champion wrangler
They are super connectors and are constantly scouting new champions in the organisation to spread the word. They wrangle the best talent, the people who are genuinely passionate about social, and get them all gee'ed up to help out.

Undetered warrior
The CMR gets pushed back all the time. They are sometimes seen as big time wasters. Are they put off? Hell no! This just gets them even more pumped! You see the CMR is on a mission to change how people think. This is personal, baby. The CMR isn't 'rolling out yet another IT platform' they are changing how companies work from the inside, like some stealth ninja

Constant gardener
If you've ever tried your hand at gardening, you'll know that nothing is instantaneous. The rewards come with the passing of time. The clematis that never did much last year will bloom this year. The honeysuckle you over pruned never amounted to much. That thing you thought was a weed turned out the be the pride of your crop. The CMR knows community management is the same, and is suitably patient. The rewards come in time, when you least expect them. 

Trailblazer
The CMR role is not for the faint-hearted. You need courage and plenty of guts to stay the course. In the same way that Odysseus on his great return was tempted by the Sirens, but strapped himself to the mast, the CMR must also realise they'll be tempted by false dawns. By mirages. They'll be lured into taking the easy path. But they're in it for the long haul. They're world changers. 

Now what's more rock n roll than that?!!​

Coming soon...Community Management Mastery Program

I am working on a course about this community management that is coming very soon. It's going to be awesome (if I do say so myself!). Register your interest below to get early bird discounts...

community management mastery program


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9 Ninja Moves For Your Intranet Social Network

9 Ninja Moves for your Intranet Social Network

Ask anyone who's introduced social networking to a company and they'll have a whole list of do's and don'ts, and a fair few war wounds.

Here are my 9 stealth 'Ninja Moves' for getting your social network rocking and a reeling. They're taken from my new book How to Ignite your Enterprise Social Network which you can grab for free.

Which Ninja Moves would you add? Add them in the comments...

BONUS: Check out the list of remarkably silly but amusing Ninja Facts below the article called  'everything you ever wanted to know about Ninjas, but were too afraid to ask'. 

Ninja Move #1: Get leadership buy in

Go to senior leadership to ask for their support. Sounds simple? It may not be, but know this: without their support your chance of making the ESN a success is seriously tricky.

Why? Because leaders set the tone for the business. If they aren’t involved (or at the very least know about the intranet social network and are vocally supportive about it) the people who work for them won’t see it as a worthwhile thing.

Does this mean you need to take this to your executive committee? No, not necessarily. You can pick leaders off one by one.

Even having just one leader who is vocal and supportive is a huge start.

Ninja Move #2: Focus on the low hanging fruit

Don’t go big bang with your social network. Pick off areas of the organisation that are crying out for a social network to help them do x?

But what is that x? It’s your job to find out. Speak to the team and understand what’s not working well and answer this: How will using a social network help them?

Don’t fall into the trap of not being entirely clear yourself and peddle the "oh, a social network can help you in lots of ways". No. Be specific.

Understand a pain point, think of how the social network can help them, then apply the band aid (the social network is the band aid, yes, poor analogy I know).

See if it works? If it does, well done. You've just got your first success story.

Ninja Move #3: Create a kick ass training guide

An absolutely killer training guide for how to use your intranet social network is priceless.

All those ‘how do I…?’ questions can be covered here, saving you a ton of time repeating the same old answers.

Better still, as new questions come about you can add them to the guide and re-issue it regularly, keeping it nice and up-to-date.

Whenever you spot someone in trouble, direct them to the guide.

Pin the guide in a really prominent place on the front of your social network, reference it in training guides, print off a few copies and leave them by the water cooler.

Ninja Move #4: Create a help group

You want to create a place where community members can help each other.

So create a help group / community and make it the home for questions.

Reference it throughout your training guide, at the beginning, middle and end, making sure people know if they have questions about the social network to make the help group their first port of call.

Ninja Move #5: Provide ace customer service

You know the experience of calling a helpdesk, being put on hold and finally getting through to someone who can’t help you anyway. Frustrating? You bet.

So when someone in need of help goes to your help group and asks a question, make sure you’re on it.

Most intranet social networks allow you to set up alerts for specific groups, so you can jump right in there with a helping hand.

Another way to be the first to know when someone needs help is to set up keyword tracking. Sounds complicated but it isn’t. Find out if your social network lets you track certain words such as ‘help’ and ‘please’. Once someone posts something using one of those words, it gets flagged to you, and you’re in there like a knight in shining armour.

It creates exceptional customer service when you do it right.

Ninja Move #6: Create a nerve centre

To be the eyes and ears of your social network, you need to pick up what’s happening as soon as it is. Therefore as well as the above, it’s a great idea to have a secondary screen showing an all company feed.

Use a secondary desktop monitor, a tablet or whatever you have to hand to show a ‘pinterest style’ feed of all your networks activity as it happens. You’ll be amazed at how much you pick up what’s going on.

Check out a couple of apps built solely for this purpose: feedfall and streaming it out loud.

Ninja Move #7: Build a network of community managers

The more expert users, also known as community managers, you have in your social network the better.

Community Managers are people who:

  • Understand company culture & strategic business initiatives
  • Know how to support their teams with setting up and managing the network
  • Model great behaviours

Depending on the size of your business, the number of community managers could be counted on one hand to into the hundreds for really large organisations.

Not everyone is a born community manager.

I have seen many people have the community manager role thrust upon them and be utterly useless at doing it.

Some companies focus in on community management skills and offer training and even certification. A VERY smart move.

Ninja Move #8: Build a network of fellow ninjas

What’s the difference between community managers and champions?

Lots.

Champion are your brand advocates - they are other ninjas like you. They are people who understand the power of social networking and who freely advocate the role and purpose of the social network for the business.

They are the person, often senior leader (but not always) who has influence (often an opinion former and thought leader) and who people listen to.

It's vital you identify these Champions, nurture their interest, listen to them, and solicit their support as often as you can.

Champions can open doors and opportunities for your network like no other.

Ninja Move #9: Don’t over plan

While this may sound counter-intuitive, you’ll never know what will really work in your intranet social network until you try it.

You may be surprised with what does take off.

Much better to adopt the ‘lean start up’ model. Which means get a minimum viable product, test it, see what works, and rapidly re-iterate.

So try numerous activities, build on the ones that work, move on from the ones that don’t, and focus your time on promoting the good ones.

Most of all….Get stuck in! Build momentum, convince one team, or even one person, at a time and keep at it – your social network will flourish when you persevere. Your energy will be infectious.

What else have you seen work? Do you agree with these ninja moves?

For some activation examples I’ve seen work well, grab a copy of my free book here

BONUS: Everything you ever wanted to know about Ninjas, but were too afraid to ask...

During the writing of this article I came across a lot of random Ninja literature, and being a bit of closet Kung Fu nerd, l lapped it up! Here's a list of incredibly silly Ninja Facts...

Ninjas don't sweat.

Bullets can't kill a ninja.

Only a ninja can kill a ninja. Regular humans are useless.

Ninjas never wear headbands with the word "ninja" printed on them.

Ninjas can change clothes in less than 1 second.

Ninjas can crush golfballs with 2 fingers, any two fingers.

Fight skillfully with any object

Live in your house secretly for days

Can remove their shadow if needed

Go anywhere they want instantly

Catch bullets in their teeth

Kill themselves if they make a noise

Can run 100 miles on their hands

Train 20 hours/day starting from age 2

Are masters of disguise

Can hover for hours

Are completely self-sufficient

Can hide in incense smoke

Ninjas are the best guitar players. Ever.

Ninjas do NOT wear spandex.

A Samurai is NOT a ninja.

Courtesy of Sam Paulin's Urban Dictionary

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5 Top Enterprise Social Networks to Consider for Your Business [Expert Review]

Too much noise, not enough collaboration, too many emails flying about the place...

So you figure your company would benefit from using a social network. Great idea - there are tons of benefits for your employees. But where do you start in choosing one?

To help you out I’ve chosen five of the top enterprise social networks you should consider, and I've asked experts in the field (practitioners, not vendors) for their thoughts on the pros and cons of each one.

Without further ado, let's dive straight into our first, IBM's Connections.

1. Connections

According to the sales copy on their product page, IBM's Connections is a social network that helps empower and engage people in an organisation, inspiring innovation and engendering trust. 

Connections Standout Features

  • Connections is a SaaS system that runs on your mobile or desktop computer
  • The software has a homepage function with a social activity stream, profiles, communities, mail, bookmarks, file-sharing and discussion forums
  • Blogs and wiki pages also make it very easy to share and collaborate with co-workers.
  • Connections integrates with Microsoft applications, such as SharePoint, Windows Explorer, Outlook and Office.

Here is a video introducing Connections…

I asked Jenni Field who heads up Communications at SSP Group for her take on the pros and cons of IBM connections...

Jenni Field Group Head of Communications at SSP Group


What rocks about Connections?
The file sharing is the best part of Connections for our business. Being global we often use free file sharing services to share large presentations and commercial information which isn’t secure. Connections gives us a secure place to store all our documents and share them throughout the business. As the business culture and organisational design has shifted the role of Connections has also changed – so I think what rocks now will probably be different in 12 months as the business evolves. Having something that can do so much gives you the ability to support many different areas of business process

What, if anything, could be improved? 
The ability to cut through the noise. It is very 'social' so it's difficult to push through the likes and comments to get news out. It is a regular annoyance from the end user who would prefer a daily update of news, not daily updates of the social side of the tool

Second in line is Jive, another popular choice...

2. Jive

Jive’s mission is to empower people and organizations to work better together by improving the way they connect, communicate and collaborate and is a relative new kid on the block. 

According to their sales page Jive helps your employees, customers and partners work better together. In fact Jive goes as far to say that new communication tools increase productivity by 15% when social collaboration tools are adopted – ‘think outside the mailbox’ (see below excerpt from their infographic)
Jive - think outside the mailbox

Let's look at Jive's key features...

Jive Standout Features

  • Jive is a mobile-ready ESN with similar profile functions.
  • One of Jive's most unique features is "Recommendations." It's similar to Facebook's "People You May Know," but instead, suggests profiles of people you should get to know in your company, based on shared interests and related areas of expertise.
  • Its "Structured Outcomes" feature also makes it easy to tell co-workers which tasks are complete, and which still need to be finished.

Here’s an intro video to give you a flavour of Jive:

I asked Tony Stewart, International Internal Community Manager at NBCUniversal and avid user of Jive…

Tony Stewart International Internal Community Manager at NBCUniversal


What rocks about Jive?
It does so much! A really complete ESN, with everything you want from Social Sharing as you’d expect – video, photos, status updates, blogs – but dig deeper and there’s an incredibly rich collaboration toolset that allows you to sync and share files, collaborate in projects, set milestones and a host of other ‘getting work done’ tools. I think this really differentiates it from the other platforms in the market.

What, if anything, could be improved? 
It does so much! This can be quite an intimidating barrier for those new to ESNs in the workplace or trying to explain how the platform operates, especially for someone who’s visiting the site without handholding. Also there are times that some functionality doesn’t work as well as it could, spread a little thin you could say. But with proper education, onboarding, and an enthusiastic Community Manager (!) these can be overcome.

Third up we have Socialcast...

3. Socialcast

Socialcast is another feature packed platform allowing employees to freely converse, share files, and get notifications - and all this possible on the go from a mobile app. They also cite some pretty amazing ‘productivity gains’ to be had from ESN…

Socialcast

Socialcast Standout Features

  • SocialCast is another ESN optimized for mobile or desktop
  • It provides a centralized workplace and communication center for employees.
  • You can create public or private groups, share documents and manage your projects via SocialCast.
  • A notable feature is the "Task Timeline," which displays which tasks you need to do today, and which are queued up for tomorrow.
  • The Socialcast Org Chart also helps employees keep track of company hierarchy

Here’s an intro video to help you familiarise yourself with Socialcast…

Lets hear from an expert. Over to Jeff Ross, Community Strategist/Manager at Humana…

Jeff Ross Community Strategist/Manager at Humana


What rocks about Socialcast?
Socialcast continuously improves their platform and pushes out updates nearly every quarter on everything from major new features to nice tweaks in existing functionality. They are very responsive to customer suggestions for improvements, having implemented many of the changes we have suggested in our 5+ years of using the platform. I couldn’t be happier with their product growth and customer service responsiveness from a product development/improvement perspective.

What, if anything, could be improved? 
There is room for improvement in the administrative reporting available. While many reports are included, it would be better to have highly customizable reports based on selected data captured rather than reliance on the various canned reports. Also, the tech support since being purchased by VMware has increased the time to issue resolution with reliance on slow email conversations across time zones rather than calls with tech support to identify and resolve issues quickly.

Fourth up we have Yammer...

4. Yammer

Yammer was one of the first ESNs to hit the scene back in 2008 and sold to Microsoft in 2012. As well as all the functionality you’d expect for connecting and sharing with colleagues, Yammer also has a vibrant app eco-system and great mobile connectivity.

With Microsoft now at the helm, Yammer is becoming embedded into their latest cloud based Office offering (called "Office 365"), meaning you’ll able to seamlessly work across office mainstays PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook with Yammer.

Yammer Standout Features

  • Optimized for desktop and mobile use
  • Company networks are private, so you must have a verified company email in order to join.
  • The user interface is similar to Facebook, with status updates, pages and "follow" capabilities.
  • "Notes" functionality allows co-workers to produce content on the fly in a simple format
  • Able to annotate documents within the browser

Here’s an intro video to give you a feel for Yammer…

Let’s hear what Melanie Hohertz, Online Communications Lead at Cargill, has to say about using Yammer…

Melanie Hohertz Online Communications Lead at Cargill


What rocks about Yammer?
Yammer has the promise of integration with the power of the Office stack powered by the Office Graph. Multi-user collaborative editing of files native in the tool is imminent. Mobile apps are robust, and companies have options for external networks, and external-participant conversations and groups.

What, if anything, could be improved? 
Other tools can and have eclipsed current stand-alone Yammer functionality and even Yammer-SharePoint functionality. A lot depends on whether Microsoft integrates integrates Yammer well in the O365 ecosystem, such as quickly connecting the platform with the new Outlook Groups.

And finally Chatter, another popular choice.  

5. Chatter

Chatter is owned by Salesforce, one of the biggest cloud computing companies in the world. Chatter is their social network product which can be used integrated through their other IT offerings or as a standalone product. 

Chatter Standout Features

  • Chatter is optimized for mobile and desktop use
  • Chatter Connect provides a social network experience, while Chatter in Apex allows creates custom Chatter experiences in Salesforce.
  • Able to create separate communities in a centralized location for streamlined communication.
  • Connections allows for painless integration with Microsoft applications, such as SharePoint, Windows Explorer, Outlook and Office.

Here’s an intro video to give you a feel for Chatter…

Now let's look at a business application of Chatter. 

GE (General Electric) have really benefited from using Chatter, adding deep levels of collaboration to GE Aviation’s sales efforts. Sales reps use Chatter to share documents, answer questions, and get instantaneous feedback. 

Check out GE's 'Social Story' below...

Beth Comstock CMO, GE


Talking about Chatter...
What might've taken a team—in the best case—a week, can now be done in minutes

The immediacy and the touch points of Chatter change commercial business as we know it

Social networks give you continual real-time feedback, unlike anything you can get from a focus group, plus, they are a great source for ideas for future inventions

Source: http://www.salesforce.com/uk/customers/stories/ge.jsp


Summary

I hope this article has given you plenty of food for thought. 

Each of the products we've looked at have their own merits.

The big players such as Yammer, IBM and Chatter have great integration with other desktop systems, so it depends to some extent on how important that integration is to your business.

As standalone ESNs, Jive and Socialcast have raving fans, and plenty more new players are coming to the scene every year.

Remember with most of these products offer some kind of freemium product for you to test-drive.

Which ESN looks the best to you? Drop a comment below...

Many more ESN case studies can also be found on allthingsic

Did you enjoy this article? Was it useful? Please hit 'Click to Tweet' below to share it with your network...

5 top enterprise social networks to consider for your business

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Beginners Guide to Tweet Chats

At a recent Digital & Social Media Leadership Forum meeting in London, speaker Steve Crompton put it nicely when he said 'we don't suffer from information overload, we suffer from filter failure'.

Twitter is a classic case in point. You could be forgiven for thinking there is too much information on Twitter. And you'd be right. Trying to absorb all that happens on Twitter by reading your activity stream is, for want of a better analogy, like trying to read the destination plate on a Japanese Bullet Train while you're stood on the platform...a bit of blur and headache inducing!

So what's one tactic for making sense of this information soup?

Answer: Twitter or 'Tweet Chats'.

This article lifts the lid on what Tweet Chats are, how you participate in one and if you're feeling really brave...how you set up your own. Let's crack on...

What are Tweet Chats?

At their most basic level, Tweet Chats are organized conversations.

They are, as Razor Social founder Ian Cleary puts it 'chats on Twitter around a specific hashtag at a specific time'.

To date, the closest thing we've had for organizing conversations in Twitter is the humble #hashtag. These have become the very fabric of Twitter and are used everywhere to act as a filter on all that information.

Tweet Chats are an advancement, still using the hashtag, but a step up in terms of 'organisation'. They organize a group of 'Twerps' (i.e. you and me) around a given topic. But crucially at an agreed time.​ Tweet Chats are bound by time, a hashtag can live on indefinitely.

At their most basic level, Tweet Chats are organized conversations.

Tweet This!

OK, so far so good. What are the broader benefits of Tweet Chats?

Social Media expert Pam Moore and host of the massively popular Tweet Chat '#GetRealChat' gave a wonderful session on Twitter Marketing at this years Social Media Success Summit.

She called out the benefits of Tweet Chats as the following:

Pam Moore Social Media Influencer
  • Meet new people with similar interests
  • Build your business and personal brand
  • Create and foster community
  • Humanize your brand
  • Enhance relationships
  • Generate leads
  • Have fun

How many Tweet Chats are there?

There are literally dozens of Tweet Chats happening every hour of the day.

For trekkies we have #StarTrekHour, for foodies we have #VeganFoodChat, gamers we have #BoardGamersAsk to #ChocLitSaturdays for what I assume is for weekend chocoholics! 

Follow this link to see many of the chats taking place. Nurph, who also provide a platform for Tweet Chats, offer up a list which is worth checking out here.

How can I participate in a Tweet Chat?

Step 1: Pick one you like the sound of. Set a reminder as you would any other meeting and make sure you rock up on time. The format of Tweet Chats usually follow a numbering format, so being there from the very beginning helps.

Step 2: When it's time, go to a free application called Tweet Deck and sign in with your Twitter account. This interface makes engaging in the Tweet Chat a lot easier.

Step 3: Take the #hashtag and stick it in the box at the top. Use this tool throughout your Tweet Chat. It will help you massively in following the conversation and not getting distracted by the information soup!

Ok, so you're all fired up and want to try one. Try the following steps to get started:

How can I set up a Tweet Chat?

Ok how do I start? You need to build a plan. It may go without saying, but creating a plan for your Tweet Chat is vital. Here are some steps:

Step 1: Know your objectives. Why are you doing this? Why should people join in the first place? What do they have to gain from joining? It's a good idea to sound out possible discussion ideas first with a small group beforehand.

Step 2: Identify your participants. Who will participate in the chat? Think about your subject area and think about who would be a good fit. Once you have a list of no less than five, reach out to them with a simple @person tweet (you could direct message them, but why the secrecy? Keeping it public may allow someone else you hadn’t thought of get in touch)

Step 3: Decide your format. Which type of format should it be? Will your chat be 30 mins, 60 mins, or a short burst for 15 mins to begin with? Will you be the chairperson or will you alternate the chair every week? (which incidentally isn’t a bad idea to share ownership). How often will you run the chat, and on which day and time? Which continents have most of your prospective participants? Or decide to run a couple on the same day to cover off all timezones. Do some research on your hashtag, you need something relatively short and memorable so it’s not too burdensome to type or takes up precious characters!

Step 4: Plan your structure. No you can’t plan a chat. The very nature of chatting is spontaneous, right. Nevertheless you need to create a structure for where you’d like the conversation to go, even if it gets completely side-tracked during the chat. The trick is to structure your tweets with Q1, Q2, etc (usually about five or so) then participants answer with A1, A2, in their tweets. While it may seem a but contrived, it works pretty well. The trick here is to NOT to use the twitter interface to follow the chat. Yes, you heard me correctly. Don’t use Twitter! There is a great tool called TweetChat which basically filters all the other Twitter noise out for you. Add the hashtag, authorise your account, and you’ll see a bespoke interface for your chat.

Step 5: Pre-event communication. How will people know it’s on in the first place? You need to ‘put it out there’. You should schedule tweets with a tool such as Buffer or Hootsuite, a couple of times a day, in the run up to the event. Send some @person tweets to key individuals you want there. Encourage them to put it in their diaries (I’m sure there’s a clever way to create a calendar invite file or using Meet Up or something similar to manage this). If you have a blog, attach a couple of lines to the bottom of your most popular posts telling people to join. You could even write a new post about the subjects you’ll be discussing, including a schedule for the next handful of chats so people can forward plan.

Step 6: You're all set!

Bonus tip: It’s a good idea to have a couple of people ‘on the ground’ with you. I like to dial them in or have them in the same room as you. Having someone there with you to say ‘hey, you need to up the pace’, ‘this person needs help’, ‘this is going well!’ can really help to give you another impression of how it’s going, and also settle your nerves!

Here's a quick reference guide to the above for you to take away:​

During the Tweet Chat

So you have your first Tweet Chat in the diary. What on earth do you do next? Read on dear friend, read on....

1

Kick things off

Kick things off promptly. You need a pre-written welcome message ready to paste in. Sounds ridiculous (how hard can it be to write a quick Tweet)but I guarantee in the moment you'll panic and end up missing out the hashtag, or something equally silly. Plan your first tweet. It will set the tone of the whole chat. You don't want to be all fingers and thumbs getting your intro message out.

2

Ask your first question

Once you've got your intro out the way, it's time to post your first question. Again, you need to have pre-prepped your questions so they are ready to paste in. The questions themselves need to simple to grasp, make sense and be unambiguous. You don't want people asking you 'how do you mean'?

3

Maintain a good pace

Managing the pace of the Tweet Chat is your responsibility, and this is where your judgement comes into play. Introduce too many questions too quickly and your participants will feel overwhelmed. Too few questions and they’re bored. Knowing when is a bit of an art, and may take one or two chats to get the knack. It's also not uncommon to change the order of the questions, add questions or omit them altogether. Having a stockpile of questions ready at your disposal helps in this regard. The ones you don't use are perfect fodder for your next Chat!

After the Tweet Chat

Summarising the outcome of the Chat is a great way to take stock of the conversation. It's also great to share back with the participants and a great advert to entice others to join the next one.

Here are some great tools to help you summarise what you did...

Twitter Analytics

Twitter Analytics is a bit of revelation the first time you see it, and it's completely free. It gives you a really intuitive dashboard to understand impressions, mentions and other relevant metrics. The only downside is that you are limited to the previous 28 days date range and unable to select specific days, so I suggest you jump into Twitter Analytics within a few days of your Tweet Chat to see the results. You are able to download the data as a CSV file and interrogate the information yourself.   

Hashtracker

If you want something a bit more advanced, this clever tool tracks campaigns and events and can give you a ton of information related to your Tweet Chat's hashtag. Among other things, Hashtracker will tell you the number of posts, comments, favourites, impressions etc you received in your Tweet Chat, aswell as influencer analysis and more advanced insight.

Storify

Hands down the best and quickest way to summarise your Tweet Chat is Storify. This great little application lets you pull together a story using your Tweets as the story. Here's a nice Storify of a Tweet Chat I helped set up recently with SABMiller and the World Wildlife Fund

Further reading / listening:

For more literature and ideas for Tweet Chats follow these links below. Hit me up in the comments below if you need help with anything. Buena Suerte!            

5 Steps to Hosting Successful Twitter Chats: Your Ultimate Guide
Why Twitter Chats are worth your time
[Podcast] How to create a successful Tweet Chat with Pam Moore (Social Media Examiner)

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Supercharge your virtual team’s performance with an enterprise social network

Different time-zones...languages...cultures. Different ways of behaving.

Working in virtual teams can be a challenge to say the least, and all large global organisations have them.

How do many virtual teams get around these challenges? Well, often they don't. They struggle with old tech and even older ways of working.

The enterprise social network, or ‘ESN’ for short, is the new kid on the block. When used to the maximum effect, it can supercharge a team’s virtual performance.

Here’s how...

How a virtual team can use an enterprise social network

Communicating. Team members can share project updates, useful or inspirational link, meeting minutes, basically anything they like – without inundating everybody’s inboxes via a group email. With email, when someone replies all just to say ‘thanks’, the whole team needs to delete the message individually. Pleasantries can be done as simply as hitting ‘like’ to a comment in a social network. Much easier

Sharing files and media. Members can share documents via the ESN without having to attach them to an email. People will be thankful for not having their email storage quota maxed out (some orgs have as little as 500Mb for the storage). All types of rich media can be shared easily – videos, audio files, info-graphics, etc – and done in a relatively simple ‘one hit’ fashion.

Seeking help. Members can ask for assistance from the team on any given matter. Anyone within the team is free to respond. Compare this to the email model, where only the people that the sender thinks can help would be included. Why not make the request open to everyone in the team? Email encourages far too much thinking into who gets added to the TO and CC field.

Creating a record for future reference. The team’s activity is captured and can be used as a reference source in the future. This is especially useful for new recruits who can delve into historical conversations and quickly familiarize themselves with the key discussions. Conversations that take place in long email threads are inaccessible to anyone NOT on the original email distribution. This democratizes the teams intellectual property.

Helps team morale. The success of a virtual team hinges on how well team members communicate with each other. A social network helps to bind the team in subtle ways. Remember this is a ‘social’ network after all. . Members can ask for assistance from the team on a given matter. Anyone within the team is free to respond. Compare this to the email model, where only those that the sender thinks can help are included.

Let’s look at some of the things to consider when setting up a network for a virtual team.

Basic steps for setting up a virtual team network

  • For the team to embrace the social network you need leadership endorsement and involvement from day one. While some networks may survive without the boss’ involvement, the ones that do far out-perform the ones that don’t. So step one is to engage the leadership around why the team would benefit from using a social network. You need to be articulate the benefits for the team – what would they be getting out of it on a day to day basis?
  • The next step is to engage the team. How? Craft an email message to come from your leadership setting out the rationale and benefits of using the social network, and have it come from his of her email account (with their permission of course!). This helps to legitimize the social network in the eyes of the team members.
  • Assign a community manager to manage the running of the network (or it could be you?). Either way, there is an art to effectively community managing a team, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. The success of the group often comes down to competency of the community manager.
  • Hold a meeting to demonstrate to the team how to use the social network. This should be a practical session to walk people through basic set-up / navigation so they know which buttons to press. You should also give them practical things for them to do in the network to get them started. Don’t assume people know what to do, often they don’t and the whole thing will quickly grind to a halt.
  • Encourage the right ‘social behaviors’. Narrating your work, being helpful to colleagues, praising each other for good work done, helping each other out, being thoughtful, being kind. You need to encourage your leaders to live by that code too. They need to be active and visible in the group, and setting the tone for the rest.

Summary

I hope this article has given you some solid understanding for why social networks help virtual teamwork, as well as some practical ideas for setting one up. Now it’s over to you…

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Why Twitter is great for business leaders

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?

Really? Why?

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

5 reasons 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.

Summary
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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6 ways that enterprise social networks are humanizing the workplace

Station

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:

6 ways that enterprise social networks are humanizing the workplace:

1. Random meet ups 
feetTNHere’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
People-fieldWe 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
cookTNHobbies 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
TypeTN
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
CatTN
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
PraiseTN
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!

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