Posts Tagged thought leadership

Stop talking, start doing.

Posted by on Thursday, 6 March, 2014

IMG_0562“How do we get employees engaged in social business?”

That is one of the top questions I am asked directly inside and outside of my present company. While the strategic and logistic answers to this question can be rather complex, it is also based in simplicity: stop talking about it, just start doing it.

When it comes to social business engagement, there comes a time when, as strategists, we talk about it all far too much and don’t follow up with any action… and when individual contributors need to stop just listening and start learning while doing. Enablement sessions, slide decks, conference calls, and email threads won’t get us any closer to being socially engaged. So, instead of talking about what we need to do, we need to just start doing it. Leading by example is the first step in driving this kind of organizational change.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Oddly enough, it is. Now, don’t get me wrong, it also takes quite a bit of work, but ultimately getting started and continuing is easy enough. There is no social channel out there that is so complex that you can’t learn it in an afternoon and master it within a week of using it once daily. Even GooglePlus, the most lamented and derided social channel out there takes relatively little effort to understand and maybe an afternoon of reading blog posts to master.

Now, I’m not urging you to get started here. I am telling you this is a necessity to survive. This isn’t just a nice to have anymore; this is the new way of business. As a company, you need to be engaged and involved in dialog with your customers. As individuals we need to be visible, professionally, to stand out and build our careers. I’m sure you’ve noticed the change in tone this blog has taken over the past few years, moving from a personal journal to more of a professional platform; I can assure you this has directly and positively impacted my own career in social business to great effect.

I’ve spoken before on some of the fears that keep people from engaging in social business. Rather than re-addressing those, I’ll put forth this Call to Action, this simple challenge to help you become more social:

  • Create your own GooglePlus account.
  • Circle me.
  • Say hello.
  • Begin sharing like you would on Facebook (interesting articles, opinion/commentary).
  • Circle more of your friends and colleagues as you find them and as they join.

If you take the above steps, I will promise you this: I will engage with you and help you master G+ within a week, you will begin to have more engaged conversations, and your network will continue to grow organically after that week. All of this will result in helping you become more confident and at ease with being active within the social business atmosphere.

But why GooglePlus, I hear you ask? Many people see G+ as a ghost town, an empty social channel where only Googlers are talking to themselves. Well, if we assume that is the case, then what better place to take those first steps where no one will be around to see you falter? You can post to your heart’s content without fear of saying the wrongs things since “no one” will really see it….
That’s a misconception, of course, as there is a LOT of activity on G+; so much so that my own streams have as much content shared in them as I see on Facebook now…. Where G+ shines in this case, however, is for new users who may be wary of becoming social in a professional realm, is in the use of circles. With GooglePlus circles you can share content with only select people, thus reducing the chance that something you say may be seen by the “wrong” people. It allows you to ease into social sharing until you’re comfortable enough with posting publicly so your posts can have far greater visibility.

Of course, once you’re comfortable on G+ and start your own blog, you can easily enable your Google Authorship to help increase your blog’s SEO (search engine optimization) and connect your profile with the content you create. It is a beautiful, organic win that will help build your own eminence in the digital spaces as you grow in social business expertise and skills.

A year from now, you’ll look back and be happy you started today. Keep putting it off and you’ll have wished you’d started ten years ago…. Don’t miss this opportunity to begin building your own influence. Culture change through leading by example; that  is how you drive deeper engagement among all levels of your organization.

 

Two tenets for a successful social business program

Posted by on Thursday, 13 February, 2014

Guiding LightOwnership, and focus of vision. Those are the two recurring themes I’ve seen these past few years which are necessary to run a successful social business program; both of these will be your guiding light moving forward with any social business strategies or activities.

First up is the idea of ownership. What I mean by this is the transfer of control from a department or project lead to the individuals contributing to social engagement. In most cases this revolves around subject matter experts being enabled and encouraged to participate in their own ways, with their own voices, and around things for which they have passion. Of course, giving people this ownership is easier said than done…. What I have found to be effective is to work directly with people who want to become involved in social business and work with them to define their own vision and purpose. Sometimes that can be a single conversation, from which comes a clarity and inherent ownership over their participation.

Which, of course, leads me into the focus of vision. This discussion of focus actually plays tightly with ownership as the conversations around vision will serve to increase an individual’s personal ownership of their efforts, moving them from an attitude of “additional work” to one of passion and exuberance for engaging in conversation. But what do I mean when I say “focus of vision”? This is a multi-fold idea which can be encapsulated in a few questions posed to anyone who asks me what they should do to become more involved:

Question one: What is your purpose for engaging in social business?
This may sound simple, but the answers can be rather complex. Recall that social business is not an end state, it isn’t a goal in itself, and it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Rather it is a tool that can help you achieve defined business goals or address identified business problems. Once you are able to identify and verbalize the goals you are working to achieve, you will be able to begin looking to see how social business as a tool can work to your benefit. With these goals understood, the clarity of vision, you purpose will begin to permeate your engagement as a framework for everything you do, say, and share. A guiding light, if you will, that keeps you on track and on course to see the results you need.

Question two: Who is your audience?
Your clarity of purpose should help to answer this question as it will narrow your view and begin focusing in on the right people to engage with in order to achieve your goals. If your goal is to improve client satisfaction, then your audience may only be your existing post-sales client base and your efforts focused on helping them with product issues or education. If, however, your business goal is to increase sales, then you can see how your audience cap grows exponentially from post-sales clients to anyone who may be a potential client, as well as maintaining the client base you already have. Knowing with whom you want to engage with socially will go far in helping you to form the right messaging, the right tone, and the right conversations to build towards your end goals.

As an SME, an individual contributor, being able to answer these two questions will take you far in defining your own engagement in social business. With both an understanding of your audience and your vision/goals, you’ll be able to begin seeing the right steps to take, the right ways to engage, the right tone and timber of voice, and use that framework to guide your activities and conversations. More importantly, from a program manager perspective, being able to define those goals and understanding of audience will give your SMEs a deeper sense of ownership and responsibility to engaging in the right ways. It gives them control and over how they engage and serves to help them see their overarching reasons for engaging in the first place.

Of course, as social business program managers, these questions (and answers) should always be at the top of your mind, not only as you are engaging in social conversation, but especially as you are defining your social strategies and activities. They give you the frame-work to know if you should or shouldn’t engage in a particular way, or if a project being presented will be an effective use of your time and resources. If you take nothing else away from this post, let it be this: If someone asks you what they should be doing, or is asking you to take on a social project, make sure they can answer the two questions of goals and audience before going further.

Gamification is great, until it destroys us

Posted by on Tuesday, 28 January, 2014

sartre_gamification_ceaOr:  “On the ethical use of gamification.”

Gamification is the use of game theory in practical application to drive real world activities and behaviours. One of the most simple examples of this is the rewarding of badges on websites where users are encouraged to participate. This may be a television show’s site or a topical forum that promotes active discussion.

Implementation of game elements in various real world business applications has been proven to be an effective method of encouraging desired behaviours and is quickly becoming the solution de rigueur for increasing participation. Rajat Paharia’s article on Pando.com exemplifies why: “This is not a game: Why gamification is becoming a multi-billion dollar way to motivate people“. Clearly, there is money to be made by businesses implementing gamification concepts and structures to drive loyalty among its clients, or to improve operation efficiencies within its employee base.

Seems like the perfect solution, doesn’t it? But what if it had a dark-side to balance all of these benefits? What would that dark underbelly look like?

Without the rose-coloured glasses of increased profits, gamification can lead to a society that expects rewards for every action. Similar to the positive reinforcement ideologies which molded education changes in the 1980′s and subsequently created the entitlement generation (as outlined by Brian Moore‘s article in the NYPost: The worst generation?), gamification has the potential to condition us to expect  returns and benefits for every action we take, which previously wouldn’t have had any value or discernible impact in our lives. Worse yet, is how that entitlement to reward drives further selfishness and individual focus on benefit regardless of larger impact.

This is where the ethical implementation of gamification really comes in to play: as corporate entities, we must understand all the potential ramifications and long-term costs of doing business when implementing behaviour changing models. While proven to dramatically improve returns on investment, the longer term effects of gamification on culture are not yet fully understood. What was once a novelty and unexpected reward may soon become expectation. Imagine a day when a company rewards people for tweeting about a product; soon you’ll see people expecting to be compensated for those very same product focused tweets. Sure, it is an over simplified example, but one which we have already started to see emerging with the influx of articles about monetizing your twitter activity.

Lest I leave you with the idea that I detest gamification: I don’t. Game elements to help drive real business results are not only effective, but also valuable to both sides of the client/business relationship. When used properly they can drive true success in many differing aspects of business or simple community engagement across disciplines and industries. I do enjoy a well gamified site and am often myself caught up in getting more badges/mayorships/or achievements. FourSquare.com is a good example of gamification implemented in a way that helps to drive my own consumer behaviour to particular restaurants to maintain my mayor status (really more of a slight added benefit than an actual behaviour modifier, but still).

It is the over use  and permeation of gamification principles into every  aspect of daily life that can and will condition our behaviour and quickly lead us down this path of culture change driving entitlement and expectation. As social business professions we need to evaluate and understand our own motivations for implementing these elements, while as consumers we must be informed and understand how these varying tactics can play into our own psychology to motivate our actions. Only by ethical use and educated consumption can we keep ourselves from falling down this dark well of badges and unlocked achievements.

The long and short of it all: gamification is not a panacea. It can help solve some business problems, but should be implemented with thought and care to ensure its impact isn’t thwarted by the very nature of what makes it work.

 

image credit:  Some rights reserved by Cea.