Author, Consultant, Executive Coach - Helping people and organizations grow into desired results

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Social media is good for you (when done well!)

Today as I set out to share some highlights from my past two days at the Melcrum Social Media conference in Sydney, I notice that I've still got a nice buzz...not from the networking cocktail session but from the interaction, both face-to-face and on twitter during the day. Read on to find out why social media is good for you, some ideas on how to do it well - and don't miss your TOP TIP at the end!

Social Media conference highlights

During the conference there was a particularly active tweetstream and there have already been a few great blog posts about the conference; I particularly like the insights of Emma McCleary:
Social media is about long-term engagement; creating things that people want to use and growing spaces online that encourage people to work communally.
We’re all a copy and paste away from inside to outside so there’s no reason to categorise social media as a risk to your organisation or check every post, status update or tweet happening if   you’re not also checking emails or USB sticks that carry files in and out of your workplace.

and Alison Pignon:
...if you don’t trust your workforce, then you have a management issue, not a communication issue. Meanwhile, encouraging free and open discussion (based on a good social media policy and user guidelines) can only help to demonstrate the trust you do have in them. 
Rather than feeling that it’s absolutely necessary to first build a social media strategy and get buy-in from the whole senior team before launching a new tool, sometimes it’s just best to go out there and try it.
Here are a few of the thought-provoking gems provided by Euan Semple's report of the state of social media (for now...):
  • Social Media is about "Globally distributed, near instant, person to person conversations" from Cluetrain Manifesto
  • Online the Customer really is King/Queen: “If you don't want me to criticize your product, don't have a shit product."~Dave Weinberger
  • "In a knowledge economy there are no conscripts, only volunteers (but we train managers to manage conscripts!)"~Peter Drucker
  • Paradox of corporate cultures: going to useless, time-wasting, pointless meetings = good, but having useful conversations with people via social media = bad(?!?)
  • What's it say about corp culture that staff are unwilling to enter things about themselves on company databases/intranets that they will freely put on web via FB, etc? Dramatically low levels of trust...
  • "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it." ~Sinclair Lewis
  • How to run social media at your organization: Just do it! "Keep moving, stay in touch, head for the high ground" (from US Marines)
  • When confronted by resistance (see "fear of losing control" below) and asked to "prove" the "ROI of social media?" Simply reply "what's ROI of not doing it?" Or, better still, "what's the COI?" (cost of inaction) of continuing to do nothing to engage with our own people?
  • Beware of trying to "manage" online communities - they will grow organically, or not at all
  • If you build it, they might or might not come... "It's easier to build a tool for the community than a community for the tool."
  • And always remember: "No matter what you are trying to achieve social media adoption happens one person at a time and for their reasons not yours."
FEAR OF LOSING CONTROL (Hint: you never had it)
  • People worry about "losing control". You don't have control anyway! What you DO have w. social media tools is the chance to influence
  • "How do I control the msg?" - Try instead "management by being interested": seed existing conversations w. good questions (influence-not-control)
  • These technologies surface what's going on in your organization (culture, behaviour, etc.) -->Agreed!:
  • "Social media in organizations is great for surfacing morons"(!) - yes people will initially have a whinge, but they didn't start whingeing just because social media appeared; it's already happening around the watercoolers. Providing a forum surfaces problems that want fixing and (for those people who never stop whingeing) identify mis-matches in the organization that need addressing for everyone's benefit
  • Good tweets (that build trust & relationships), including those by staff on a corporate twitter account, need to be human and not corporate drone-speak; even inane tweets have a place if they are authentic and create connections
  • Sadly, "Watching big corporations trying to get into 'this social media stuff' is a bit like watching your dad dancing at a disco" (LOL!)  
  • The most tragic example lately: "BP's biggest failure wasn't only mechanical or engineering, it was in not actively building trusted social networks and not giving straight answers when given the chance
  • "Even if no one read my blog, I'd still write it...makes me more thoughtful, more aware, notice more things" 
  • Online media won't replace face-to-face interaction; a great use of online collaboration is to improve the quality of the face-to-face you DO have (e.g. by brainstorming ideas in an online forum before meeting face-to-face to arrive at a final decision, or getting a sense of someone's interests and areas of potential collaboration from their LinkedIn profile before meeting for a cafe-chat)
  • A few answers: it helps unlock the knowledge the exists in many people's heads throughout the organization/network, so people can find answers and information faster and easier - and get stuff done; it helps break down silos by encouraging interaction; it gives a place to have the conversations (they're already having) in a way that can be entered and influenced by managers and leaders - as equals and colleagues...
Finally, the thing I liked most about the conference was the sense that no one really has all the answers now. Like speaker Helene Bradley-Ritt put it, "implementing [social media] is a change journey" and on that journey we're all fellow travellers, so it was great to be a part of an event designed to help each other along the way to do great things!

Warm, twuzzy feelings...

What explains the need of our BlackBerry-bearing, Twitter-tweeting Facebook friends for constant connectivity? Are we biologically hardwired to do it? Do our brains react to tweeting just as they do to our physical engagement with people we trust and enjoy?

So how come I'm still buzzing today...? The answer to that question and the ones just above is found in this Fast Company article about research by Neuroeconomist Paul Zak (aka "Dr Love"), showing that social media can help spike oxytocin levels in the brain and reduce stress hormones cortisol and ACTH.

"Social networking might reduce cardiovascular risks, like heart attack and stroke, associated with lack of social support" because our brains interpret activities like tweeting as if we were directly interacting with people we have empathy for and care about: "E-connection is processed in the brain like an in-person connection."

Perhaps this is why so many Gen-Y's, whose lives are increasingly shaped by social media, expect to be able to maintain those important connections in the workplace - so much so that one source indicates "for 20 percent of Millennials, or Generation Y-ers (those born from 1980 onwards) a ban on social media in the workplace is often a deal breaker" when deciding whether or not to take a job. 

So here's your TOP TIP: don't just sit there - apply all these great ideas and get connected like your life depended on just might! And please, allow me do my small part to promote your health: in just 10 seconds you can connect yourself with upcoming blog posts - enter your email address in the "Get blog updates sent to your email" box in the top-right side of this page or click on the "Get blog updates by RSS feed" button. (Wondering how RSS works? Watch this video.)


Robin Crumby said...

Great summary of the conference Todd. Thanks for chairing. You did an outstanding job of keeping our collective social media 'awesomeness' in check.

Mark said...

Todd great comments I particulary like "if you don’t trust your workforce, then you have a management issue, not a communication issue."

Here is a post on my blog of similiar theme
"Social Media a New Management Philosophy – Not Facebook"