Archive for February, 2010

A short diatribe on Social Media pitfalls and pet peeves

Posted by on Friday, 19 February, 2010

You all know I am active in the social media world, both personally and professionally. You also know I have opinions and I am not shy about them. I’d like to take some time here to discuss a few missteps I often see in the various social networks which may cause you more harm than good if you are trying to build or maintain relationships in these spaces:

1. Don’t shout… converse! Social networks are not your personal advertising stream, they are ways to connect with others of similar interest and build relationships which you may not have otherwise had the opportunity for. This means engaging in conversations with your network; listening AND speaking. Twitter is not a bullhorn, Facebook is not a one way street. If you are looking to use these sites to their advantage, you MUST stop shouting your message and take the time to listen to your audience; begin engaging in conversations around your space, and soon you will find that perfect cadence which your audience is looking for.

What does this mean in more concrete terms?
For Twitter, it means you need to watch your follow list and absorb what is being talked about. It means putting out your opinion and ideas about other’s updates. It means taking a look at your own feed and not seeing one way posts just pushing out your message, but rather seeing @replies and discussions occurring.

For Facebook, it means replying to comments left on your updates. It means commenting on other’s updates. I am sure you can extrapolate this all for other networks as well… the key is to engage in dialog; after all, networking is a two way street.

2. Provide context to your updates! Without any context, many updates lose all their value. Imagine an update that only says “Wow, what a busy day!”, where’s the value there? Ok, I can surmise that you are having a busy day and may not have time to talk to me about something trivial. But imagine how much more value that update would have carried had some context been applied like “BUSY DAY! Working on new social media strategies”. Now I can see that you are indeed busy, but more importantly your project may be something I can help with or would be interested in seeing the results from, even reusing it if appropriate; so I may tweet back “@you Hey! I’d love to help or see what you come up with, let’s collaborate!”… and bingo, now we’ve got a conversation and possibly even lightened our collective workloads by collaborating.

Too many times have I seen Facebook status updates similar to: “worst day EVER!” or “Not sure I can handle this”, with no further context. Not surprisingly, there are often somewhere between 5 and 20 comments on that status, all effectually asking the same question back: “What’s going on?”. Rarely, however, do I see the original poster reply back with any explanation of the context surrounding the first update. This leaves all their friends in the lurch, so to speak, reaching out to try and help, but without context there is no way to know what anyone could do. Now imagine that same update as”Not sure I can handle changing my tire on the freeway”. Immediately friends can identify something tangible to assist with, and the poster may even see a comment come back like “tell us where you are and we’ll pick you up” or “I have AAA, and will call a truck for you”.

Context, my friends, is important. It can mean the difference between radio silence from your followers, and an overwhelming flow of support helping you do things you never knew you could accomplish. Really, the line between the two is so small, it may just be the difference of a single word in your update that opens the floodgates of conversation or assistance.

3. When someone asks a question; reply. I hit on this in number two, but it bears repeating and being called out on its own. If someone comments on your update or @replies to one of your tweets, do the courtesy of replying. Even if the reply is “I don’t know”, at least you will be engaging in conversation and showing that you are listening to your friends and followers. This also goes back to number one as well, where if you aren’t replying, you are in that paradigm of shouting your message and telling your followers that you’re not listening to them. By not replying, your followers will begin to think that you aren’t interested in conversation, that you’re only interested in pushing out your message. If your followers get to that point, you’ve just lost any benefit you may see from playing in the social media spaces, and even worse, will likely begin losing followers to the point where the audience for your message has dwindled to completely ineffectual levels.
The net result of this: if you ignore your followers, they’ll ignore you.

Social Media; Who’s doing it right? Forrester? The BBC?

Posted by on Wednesday, 10 February, 2010

How about neither?

This week has been fairly busy in the Social Media world when it comes to shakeups. First it was the news that Forrester (an independent market research firm) began telling its analyst employees to either take down or redirect their personal blogs to the Forrester main site (as referenced in the article here: The idea Forrester was going with here is that market analysis is intellectual property owned by Forrester and that should be under the control of the company. We’ve seen this corporate behaviour before when ESPN cracked down on its employees in the same fashion, stating that “Personal websites and blogs that contain sports content are not permitted” (reference the BrandBuilder blog for more details).

What we are seeing here are corporations overly worried about governance, and looking for the easy way to control perceived property. Rather than embracing the employees who are displaying a passion for the industries they represent, allowing them to flourish, and drive forward as thought leaders in their space, these employees are now being constrained and stifled by corporate mandates; driven through the funnel of their governance into a single space where the company has its security blanket of control in full force.

It won’t take a genius to figure out how I feel about that. But that doesn’t mean I want the pendulum swinging to the other end either.

Take today’s news of the new BBC Director -mandating- that all journalists employed by the BBC begin using social media. See Mashable’s coverage here for the story and links to sources:

While I appreciate that Mr. Horrocks believes in at least using the content with attribution, I can’t imagine how his staff feel about being mandated to use social media now. Yes, I believe there IS a place for social media in the newsroom. Yes, I think journalists should be paying attention here and not ignoring the information trending through Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, etcetera. But I don’t believe that should warrant a mandate either.

Any policies which demand action on any side of the spectrum here are destined for failure; either you will fail at controlling your employees with a tight enough reign, or you will fail to ensure they are engaged in the spaces you want them to be paying attention.

I have said this before about other things (like tattoos, TV shows, or even working from home), but Social Media isn’t for everyone. That doesn’t mean Social Media is the devil either. People all learn differently, work differently, and consume information differently. When corporations adopt policies allowing their employees the freedom to engage in the venues and areas in which they as individuals find passion, THAT is when you will see great successes. Not everyone will be excited by social media outlets, just like others are not excited by more traditional avenues of content consumption. But when you allow those people with the passion to find their niche, your company will grow as the thought leaders in your industry, and as the communities grow and each individual you employ becomes those respected subject matter experts in their related fields… soon, your clients will see your brand as the knowledge experts.

THAT is something you can not force through policy or mandates. That is only something that can come from the social communities in a purely organic fashion, and only with proper care and cultivation over time. Stifling your employees on EITHER end of the spectrum will not empower them to excel in your controlled space or adopt new methods of working. Empowering your employees happens when you allow them to follow their passions and work in their own ways.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t call out my own company’s brilliant policies surrounding social media involvement. Yes, I work for IBM Rational Client Support as a knowledge manager with a focal role in social media/web2.0 initiatives, and yes IBM has what I consider to be one of the best social media guidelines around:

And others seem to share my respect for IBM’s progressive policies, like Olivier Blanchard from his BrandBuilder blog article referenced above, and Casey Hibbard in her article on the SocialMedia Examiner here.

I figure, if a company as large and diverse as IBM can successfully implement such open policies surrounding social media, why can’t yours?

And lastly, a disclaimer as is appropriate: The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions. The words I write are mine and mine alone, please don’t attribute them to any person or company other than me.

New Ink: I had an itch, so I scratched it.

Posted by on Tuesday, 9 February, 2010

It is true what they say; tattoos are addictive. Ever since my first ink back in February 1996, I’ve been constantly planning the next pieces I’ll get, always looking at least 3 designs in the future. Each design has shifted and changed as I have, up to the point where it is the perfect piece at the perfect time to have it set in ink. All my tattoos have been years in the making from concept to execution. And last night’s session at Adorn Body Art was no different.

For the past two year, I’d been contemplating a few concepts for more tattoos loosely based around how my life has changed since we left California and moved to Oregon. Part of that concept was realized in my Craftsman/Mission style number 13 house plague in black and gray on my upper inner forearm. For me, this was a great realization of the work Jean and I have done on our new home, as well as a celebration of 13 years of marriage (anniversary date is July 13th). But something about it left me wanting… it felt somehow incomplete, as if it needed more balance. So, I opted to add in another design I had been thinking about for the past two years: an Arts & Crafts stained glass design called the “Pasadena Rose”.

Both Jean and I fell in love with the design immediately after installing the two wall sconces which incorporate it in our living room. For me, the design connects the dots of our move from Southern California, to the “Rose City” of Portland. It also displays my love for the Arts&Crafts / Mission / Craftsman design movements which are popular in both  SoCal and Portland.

Like all my tattoos, this one has a deeper connection and meaning for me than I can adequately convey in plain words. The best way I can describe it is this: tattoos for me are stamps on the steamer trunk of my body; they tell the tale of my life in iconic form.

In this latest case, it is the stained glass “Pasadena Rose” on my forearm:

Click the picture for the larger view

Lastly, here is my Picasa gallery showing some of the tattoo work I’ve had done:

More work can be seen on the WaywardCelt gallery here: