IMG_5607I was engaged in a conversation with a friend recently where we chatted about social business and some of the speed bumps they were encountering. I pushed for some specifics about what was keeping them from jumping in and really engaging, and they replied with some great feedback. I’m sure some of you also have the same or similar hesitations, so I figured I’d blog about my own personal (ie. I am not speaking on behalf of my company) answers and responses to their points:

Question: Do I really have to be social… at work?
My Answer: No, social participation isn’t a mandatory thing for most companies (unless it is specifically your job, like mine). I do, however, highly encourage participation in social business as I believe that it is greatly beneficial to your career to share your expertise… to really excel in this shifting economy, being social will help you stand out and distinguish yourself from others in your field both internally and externally. Being social provided this same benefit to your company, so you are adding value to yourself, your job, and and your company all at once.

Barrier: I didn’t use Twitter as I genuinely do not see the point of it. It appears to be a whole load of Facebook updates from individuals, and then when it comes to the corporate accounts, they just inundate you with too many.  I just want something to be found on Google and when I want it I’ll find it.
My Response: The benefit from Twitter (and any social network) is really seen when you curate your network to follow the people and brands that share the information you want and need. If brands inundate your stream with too much content, let them know and don’t follow them. If people only post mundane status updates with no value to you, don’t follow them. Only by managing your network will you find the real value in the channels. By sharing content you find across the internet (and when your network does the same) you are actually raising the visibility of that information and improving its SEO (search engine optimization) so it is more easily found on google. Sharing is a mutually beneficial activity which helps the good content bubble to the top.

Barrier: What do I write, now that I decided to use Twitter for professional purposes? I don’t feel that I know anything that someone else in my area of expertise isn’t in a better position to write about, and I am not sure that I have anything uniquely interesting to say. I have found that, if I remember, I’ll promote a URL that I like, or had relevance in a moment, but that’s it. In a corporate world – do I genuinely have something unique to blog/tweet?
My Response: This is a tough one. Best I can say is trust in your own skill and expertise. Write about your passions or just share content that you find interesting and add a little context explaining why. Of course, being social doesn’t necessarily mean you have to produce thousand of words in a blog post every day or week, being social in a business perspective could be as simple as sharing links to information you know your clients may find useful or interesting as well. The content you create doesn’t have to be unique, what is important in the social spaces is that it is your voice and authenticity when it comes to sharing the content you find or create. I know you, and everyone else reading this, has their own unique voice and can add value to anything you share.

Barrier: I am too scared to say too much on anything else, as usually I am deep in a customer issue. Wikis seem a better place than a blog or a tweet to put anything I want to write.
My Response: Social doesn’t require you to be accessible 24×7. Many of the most successful people in social business dedicate a small amount of scheduled time every day to engage in social sharing and conversation, which then allows them to move on and refocus on their job at hand. Additionally, updating a wiki page is a way of being social as you are publicly sharing your knowledge to the benefit of others. The key to all of this is similar to the “Working outside of the Inbox” project I blogged about last year, in that you just need to find the right channels for the right conversations. Wikis, blogs, tweets, G+ posts… they all have different strengths and weaknesses and are appropriate for different kinds of content and sharing.

Barrier: To me, especially as I am trying to be more mindful and only concentrate on the task in hand, I am actually leaning the other way: ignore social media and anything that is alerting me and just concentrate on the job in hand. I think that the Cloud discussion in the learning session was all about this too (in particular where kids were put in a group with a mission and they’ll achieve amazing things – – but they had much less distraction!).  Collaboration between a smaller group of people working on the same goal is, to me, more where I want to be looking towards. Shutting out the noise and focusing in on the task in hand. Then switching to the next small group and blasting that. At the moment there are so many things trying to grab your attention with little snippets that suck you in, I want someone else to be selecting must-read content and filtering the rest. I want to concentrate on my work and find things that are of interest when I want them… just make sure I can find it via Google.
My Response: This really digs into what I mentioned above in terms of dedicating some time to focus on social business, which allows you to refocus your attention when you need to. You don’t have to be immediately responsive, and in fact I’d recommend that if you are trying to focus on the particular job at hand, that you turn off any push notifications or other distraction and allow yourself to focus, then check in with your social channels when you have a moment to focus on them. Some people find that 15 minutes at the beginning and end of the day are all that’s needed to be successful in social business. By curating your networks with quality users, you will be consuming content through their filters, while also implementing your own filters by simple virtue of the people/accounts you follow, which of course improves Google results as well.

Barrier: This is also reflected in my personal life: where I am now paranoid about posting things even on Facebook.  I’ve got to the point of just diving into FB to look at family pictures and maybe wishing someone a good birthday, but that’s about it. Social media is dangerous enough in my personal life (look at people being arrested for what they thought was a quip to their mates), so I am ultra-conservative/paranoid about saying the wrong thing with work.
My Response: Ah, yes. I blogged about the fear of saying the wrong thing before, so I won’t rehash those details here. While ramifications of privacy do exist, there is indeed an assumption of exposure when participating in social business, as you should be identifiable in order to build your own reputation and digital eminence. I blogged about privacy implications somewhat a few weeks back, as well as tangentially a year or two ago when talking about the implications of stolen LinkedIn passwords. The social computing guidelines, when followed, should keep you out of any trouble or fire-able offense. Being conservative and a bit paranoid is a good thing, as those traits will keep you thinking about what and how you are sharing, thereby protecting yourself from any missteps. It really comes down to your own comfort level with sharing information about yourself and likewise your focus on managing your own brand/image online based on what you share. The benefits are there, but so are the drawbacks, so it comes down to your own risk assessment and choice on how to engage.

I’ll leave you with this: Social business isn’t a fad. It is a paradigm shift in the world economy in which we are all involved. We can either fight the change, or we can identify, embrace, and guide the change to our own desires and benefit. Learning how to navigate and drive this new world of information sharing is going to become more critical as time progresses. Social is, and will be a differentiator in the market place, for businesses and individuals alike and can mean the difference between a million dollar sale, a six digit salary job offer, or just scraping by. Expectations in the high-tech, cutting edge world have changed. Without a social presence, you risk obsolescence and irrelevance in your career. By using social business to your advantage, you can build that necessary credibility which is now essential to success.