What Does Your Social Media Say About Your Organisation?

Please for the love of God can we stop with the Digital by Default, the Digital by Design – It’s just life! – Amy Nettleton

There’s a danger we can overthink digital.

Whilst organisations grapple with the ‘cultural challenges’ of digital transformation, real people – the citizens, customers and users with more important things to worry about – are just getting on with life.

People are openly embracing technology in their personal lives – from ordering a pizza to choosing a holiday or buying a home, but it’s a different story when it comes to the workplace.

A new report finds that our own people are one of the biggest barriers for shifting to digital service delivery. Almost two thirds cite unwillingness by staff to adopt digital ways of working.

Last Monday a few of the guys from Bromford visited Aster Homes who are doing some very smart things, notably in the field of sales and marketing.

I’ve known Amy Nettleton for a few years on Twitter before meeting in person last year. What I find refreshing about her – and I hope she doesn’t take offence here – is that she’s anything but a digital expert. Despite that , or possibly because of it, she’s at the forefront of those redesigning services for the digital age.

What’s different about them?

They have recognised the profound shift in expectations from today’s hyper-connected customers:

  • That customers can spot broadcasting and filter out traditional marketing messages.
  • That they are no longer prepared to wait for your phone call, and that calls themselves are intrusive and an inconvenience.
  • That they are 24/7 mobile and they don’t need face to face to complete even a complex transaction. 
  • That they no longer place trust in brands or institutions but in ‘people like themselves’. 

Aster Sales are communicating in real time from based on customer preference, be that WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, whatever. They are basing their approach on developing a personalised approach that matches the lifestyle of their potential customers.

They have thrown away that last relic of the 20th Century – the 9-5 office based workday. Customers can expect to have their enquiries dealt with anytime from their sofa , weekends and bank holidays.

“I’ve learned that being digital isn’t a snazzy website” Amy told me, “Being digital is just what we do now, it’s how we all communicate. We manage the human angle perfectly fine when WhatsApping our friends & family so why do we shut down this part of us when talking to customers?”.

Welcome to the world of Social Customer Relationship Management. This is the use of social media services, techniques and technology to enable organizations to engage with customers.

As Grant Leboff explains, most traditional customer relationship management systems are complete rubbish. They only capture the information that you put in between you and your customer – mostly very narrow transactional interactions. “Nowadays, people are posting all sorts of information about themselves, their marital status, their favourite football team, the number of children they have, on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.”

A few years ago I asked the question Do You Love Your Customers Enough To Follow Them Back?

It was written about Zappos as an early adopting organisation recognising that social media presents an opportunity to stay connected and to help customers.

Rereading it reminded me of an example from Shirley Ayres where one ‘social organisation’  followed back just 1% of its followers.

Five years on and we can still only see a few organisations that have truly changed their behaviour.

Many companies still only see the opportunity of the social stream to promote themselves, broadcast and control the message.

It’s shows a missed opportunity and a profound misunderstanding of social networks.

What does your online behaviour say about your customer engagement?

Redefining Trust In A Digital Age

Trust is not coming back. Scepticism reigns, as it should. – Gerry McGovern

Since the industrial revolution,  a trusting relationship between individuals and organisations has been the norm.

This has shaped the way we communicate – both internally and externally. It has resulted in the issuing of corporate annual reports, press releases , customer satisfaction scores and benchmarking results. All designed to tell a positive, on-message story.

Those days have gone.

As Gerry McGovern writes – the game has profoundly changed. “Many organisations are still deluding themselves into thinking that if they can just get their marketing and PR right, they can control the message, control the future.”

I’m not a smoker, but I’m told that if you really want to get a view of what’s happening in an organisation you don’t look at the intranet. You go to the smoking shelter.  There hierarchy has no place. You get the real story behind the corporate version, and you get the stories that the corporate machine hasn’t yet realised are happening.

In 2017 we all have our version of the smoking shelter. Our news and gossip travels through the likes of Twitter and the backchannels of its direct messaging system. It thrives through end-to-end encrypted chats on WhatsApp and in peer-to-peer customer exchanges on our Facebook pages.

Institutional trust isn’t designed for the digital age. No government , never mind a single organisation, can control it. The official source is now secondary.

Screen Shot 2017-06-10 at 08.32.43

Over the past 17 years the Edelman Trust Barometer has surveyed tens of thousands of people about their level of trust in the sectors of business, media, government, and non-profits. This year was the first time the study found a decline in trust across all four.

It comes at a time of staggering lack of confidence in leadership: 71% of respondents said government officials are not at all or somewhat credible. 63% said the same about CEOs.

In a world where 76% of people trust leaked information over a press release, we have to rethink what trust means in a digital age.

As part of design work we are doing at Bromford – we’re beginning to redefine what we mean by organisational trust in both a colleague and customer context.

It’s easiest to think about trust in a personal relationship like marriage or a partnership. It’s built through four things:

  • A shared agreement on values, goals or ambitions
  • The behaviour that supports that agreement
  • An understanding of the implications and consequences of breaking it
  • Continued openness and honesty

Applying this to our relationship with organisations is subtly different.

We need to feel that organisations are competent and have the ability to fulfill their commitments. We need to believe they have the right motives, are benevolent, act fairly and honestly. We need to see they are transparent, that they are learning from mistakes and failure.

However, the digital age is disrupting the accepted rules of trust. No longer is a relationship solely between citizen and institution. What was once a fairly simple one to one relationship – with information limited to them directly – is now placed within a much wider context.

The network effect of technology has created a way for people to share experiences more quickly, and to more people with more detailed information than ever before.

The challenge for organisations is not for them to try to rebuild trust but to leverage the power of these new networks to do it for them. 

It means reducing the gap between organisational rhetoric and the reality.

That means it’s time to do less talking and more listening:

It means stopping saying how great your organisation is.

It means engaging rather than broadcasting.

It means defaulting to transparency.

It means people as your ambassadors rather than just the CEO.

Trust now lies in the hands of individuals, not in our organisations.


Making Sense of Social Media and Learning

 In 2017 not using social media as a leader is akin to sitting in a closed office with the door shut and the phone on divert – all day everyday.

However – there’s often a gap between social media and our ‘real’ work.

Despite the fact that we’ll spend about three years of our lives on social media many of our workplaces still block access or see it as ‘non-work’.

The question I posed during a webinar I presented this week was:

If you’re not using social media as part of your learning and development, what are you using?

The people who are shaping – and challenging – my work and thoughts are all active participants in interactive media. The leaders and emergent leaders I admire are all using a range of tools to communicate ideas. Not in a broadcast way, but as part of many-to-many conversations that they respond to in real time.

However I know that many current leaders think that time spent on social media is not real work. That it means you don’t have enough to do.

Traditional leadership distrusts social networks in the same way the mainstream media does.

People are rapidly migrating away from the old-school mainstream media, away from centrally controlled and managed models. Many of us are out there forging our own networks – making new connections and using our communities to bridge the gap between innovation and getting work done.

We can spot spin. We no longer need the push messages from organisations and government. We don’t need your leadership development programmes thanks – we can develop our own.

However we can help our organisations make sense of social media – by being more purposeful about how and where we spend our time.

I’ve posted before about developing your own personal social media policy – but I took the opportunity during the webinar to refresh it.

My current five rules are:

Clarity of purpose is increasingly important to me in deciding how I spend time online. If we can articulate this to our organisations – and can demonstrate how social learning translates into work outcomes – we’ll bridge the gap.

If we are going to spend three-to-four years with our thumbs on our smartphones we owe it to ourselves and our employers to be more purposeful.

Using the idea exchange of social media to transform the workplace would be a good place to start.

Standing Out and Keeping Attention in the Digital Age


24hrs before Donald Trump – who communicates almost exclusively via Twitter and YouTube – became President Elect I was in conversation with Grant Leboff at the first Comms Hero event in Cardiff.

“He’ll win” said Grant. “He’s changed the narrative. He had the balls to take a position and make an emotional connection with people.”

I’m not sure if we are in a Post-Truth era, but we are certainly moving Post-Comms.

The idea of a communications team as keepers of organisational truth and protectors of brand seems very quaint these days.

The communication revolution is:

Everyone has a channel that they can exploit -and it’s coming down to who’s the best listener and who’s the best at keeping attention.

At Comms Hero I was lucky enough to speak alongside people like Grant, Helen Reynolds, Nick Atkin and Tim Scott – all of whom are great, but very different, communicators. The following is a mixture of my thoughts and their wisdom.


Let’s be honest – how many of us would follow our own organisational media channels if we weren’t paid to do it?

In the social age it’s all about build audience/retain attention – and that’s increasingly difficult in a crowded social space.

In this perma-connected society where we ALL have attention deficit disorder how can organisations hope to stand out?


Most comms fail as organisations don’t dare to fail. They don’t have the balls to take a position, and if you have no position you won’t keep attention.

As Grant said – the currency of media is storytelling. During the EU referendum we all said we wanted the facts, but we lied. Our behaviour shows  the narrative and story is more interesting to us.


Nick Atkin is CEO of an organisation who have taken a position and told a story. Under his leadership Halton Housing has become one of the most recognisable brands in their sector – despite the fact they are relatively small. They’ve used digital media to leverage more attention than organisations with 20 times their resources.

There’s a similarity between Nick and Donald Trump in that both have refused to conform to pre-conceptions of how a CEO or President should communicate. The similarity ends there, but nonetheless they both offer compelling examples of what leadership in a digital age can look like.


So given these opportunities to redefine comms – why are organisations failing to take advantage?

As  said – there is a lot of risk averse advice on social media being pushed out to HR people. No one wants to be the next test case. Tim advised that we can soon expect to see employers looking for social media skills in the same way they currently look for Microsoft Office skills. I agree – but we are currently a long way from this.

Arguably there has been too much resource and power invested in traditional communications teams and too little democratisation.

Digital comms within organisations is still largely seen as the preserve of the few. Indeed, prefixing everything we do with digital is no longer helpful. Almost every aspect of our lives has an online component, whether we like it or not.  Worklife and communication styles have yet to evolve to reflect this openess and transparency.

After this years round of Comms Hero events I came away cautiously positive that change is finally happening. With its superheroes, in your face marketing and hyper-enthusiasm Comms Hero as a brand excites many and leaves some stone cold. However the guys practice what they preach – they’ve dared to fail and taken a position against traditional comms.

My takeaway:

The only thing not expanding today is our time.  Every time we put something out we need to ask “what’s the story?”

And it better be a good one.


Disclosure and Credits: I have no commercial relationship with Comms Hero. Asif has bought me a couple of drinks, a few free tickets and a couple of T-Shirts – that’s about it!

Thanks to the fantastic Fran O’Hara for the wonderful sketches

The deck of my final Comms Hero Slot is available here

Five Ways Social Media Can Inspire Creativity


Can Twitter make employees more innovative? In our study, Twitter users and non-users generally submitted the same number of ideas at work. However the ideas of Twitter users were rated significantly more positively by other employees and experts than the ideas of non-users. – Salvatore Parise, Eoin Whelan and Steve Todd 

Last week I was speaking to one of those people we rarely hear from anymore: someone working for an employer that still blocks social media at work.

In 2016 it’s difficult to accept these companies still exist. As if anyone can control people’s access to information as we all walk around with powerful computers in our pockets.

They asked me whether I would send them a few words in an email that they could distribute to their management team. Happy to help – I agreed.

Here’s what I wrote:


There are probably many reasons why you are blocking social media – and it could be for perfectly legitimate reasons. What I want to share is what your company could be missing out on.

Firstly, I think blocking is an ineffective approach,  77% of people use social media at work regardless of company policy.  Rather than blocking,  I think enlightened organisations should be encouraging all employees to use social media as part of their personal development.

Basically – your future could depend on it.

We live in a networked age – and having people who can put their network to work will be a differentiator for organisations.  

I think social media could be one of the best – and cheapest – ways to prepare people for that world.  

Social media gives you access to people who behave and think differently.  Use it wisely -encourage people to break out of your sector.  Actively follow people you don’t agree with. Your people will become less prone to groupthink. If you’re only surrounding your people with those who think like them – you are limiting your companies capacity and capability for innovation.  

The more diverse a person’s social network, the more likely that person is to be innovative. One study has even found that having a greater diversity of virtual Twitter connections means that good ideas are more likely to surface in the workplace. Get your people to make 50 new connections and ask them to submit an idea based on what they learned. 

Social media will help your people crowdsource opinion from others. I often find myself thinking out loud- my blog is essentially a brain diary to see if what I’m thinking connects with others. Learning out loud in our networks helps to seek new opinions and share our own with a wider group. It allows us to take half-baked ideas and test them out in public, with low risk.

You can make contacts without permission. I follow thousands of accounts on Twitter and use lists to organise them into themes. Some of these are private and some public. Twitter is chaotic but you can easily navigate away from the more toxic accounts. In fact I’d encourage people to embrace the chaos. 

You can turn weak online relationships into stronger ones in real life. I’d say you can pick up better ideas and insight in two hours on Twitter than you can during a full day conference. Increasingly people are using conferences as ways to enhance their online relationships – with attendees networking before and after the event. If your colleagues are not being exposed to that they are at a serious disadvantage. 

Far from being a way to share what you’ve had for breakfast,  social media has made it easier for people to meet and collaborate than ever before in human history.

How could you let your staff miss out on that?




I haven’t had a response yet – but if they give me permission I’ll share it!

On subject of comms and innovation I’m out on the road in November on the Comms Hero tour. You can book here for:

8th November – Cardiff

16th November – London

29th November – Manchester

Hope to see you there!

My Five Most Popular Posts of 2014


It’s the time of year to reflect on the past 12 months and consider where next – personally and professionally. 

To that we also need to add our online profiles and give consideration to how we spend our digital time. The temptation with social is to spread yourself across every available platform – and I can’t be the only one nearing digital burnout. 

I closed several accounts this year and am starting to withdraw from the seemingly endless discussion groups. “Let’s set up a Yammer group to continue this debate”.  No, let’s not! Social media going forward is about developing social layers rather than siloed networks.

This year I’ve spent more time on Instagram and SlideShare than before and Twitter continues to provide great value. 

It’s been a pretty good year for this blog. It’s had a significant increase in hits and , much more importantly, a big spike in the number of comments and contributors. 

I think with blogging most of us start out posting what we think other people would want to hear before finding our true voice. The organic nature of social media means you end up in the hands of people who share the same passions – and you connect with fascinating people from all over the world. 

Whatever anyone says, blogging isn’t easy. Just like any form of social media the more you give the more you get out.

I know a lot of people who’ve started blogging in a professional capacity only to give up when their first few posts receive minimal attention. 

It’s time to wake up folks. 

Social media is an increasingly crowded space and no-one is waiting on your latest pronouncement! Just because you are a big organisation or successful CEO you have absolutely no right to command attention. 

Social is about relationships – they take time to build and need effort to truly nurture. 

It’s no coincidence that the 5 most popular posts on here have either featured other people’s work , started a debate , or were collaborations.

Here they are – in reverse order of course: 

5 – We need less talk about innovation and more about mediocrity

My attempted takedown of the innovation naysayers generated lots of comment. The war on mediocrity needs to intensify in 2015. 

4 – Managers are waste: five organisations saying goodbye to the boss

As public service cuts deepen it’s only natural that enlightened organisations will embark on a cull of their most expendable and expensive resource – the manager.

3 – The Top 50 Digital #PowerPlayers14 in #UKhousing 

The second year of the online influencer list for people working in and around social housing sent my Twitter into meltdown. This time we introduced a public nominations system (thanks Shirley Ayres for that idea!) which received hundreds of votes – showing that people love the interactive elements of social.

2 – Three things we should learn from Benefits Street

I was in Vietnam when my UK timeline erupted in fury at the latest Channel 4 docu-soap. Intrigued as to whether the haters had actually watched it , I came back and viewed it back to back. They clearly hadn’t. Poverty porn, much like real porn I guess , comes in varying degrees of quality and this series was pretty damn good. It had a better narrative about hope and aspiration than the social housing sector has ever managed. 

1 – Why the death of the office can’t come too soon

My most popular post (ever) detailed how 90% of work is a waste of time and money. It split the comments section , but I guarantee we’ll see some big UK organisations rationalising their offices in 2015. 

My blogging resolution next year is to be more diligent with the regularity of posts. With the exception of powerplayers , all these were written very quickly indeed.

I mess about with posts too much and perhaps worry about offending people. On social media someone somewhere gets upset about anything and everything.

I’m going to hang a a little looser this year and maybe publish some of my 100+ draft posts. 

Happy New Year to you and your loved ones. Thanks for your support! 

Five Things We Learned From Doing A Twitter Only Recruitment

About five or six years ago I applied for another job. It would have been a significant promotion – nearly doubling what I earned at the time.

I went through the usual shenanigans that come with this type of recruitment. The huge application form. The CV. The covering letter. The telephone interview. The online assessment. The endless psychometric tests.

I don’t think I got to speak to a human employed by the actual company until I was at the final stage interviews.

What I remember about the culture was in the five hours I was there no-one offered me a cup of tea. And no-one in the offices laughed.

I never got the job in the end (I had a message left on my voicemail telling me so) so I’ll never know whether I’d have sacrificed my principles for a payslip.

But I know that someone wasted an awful lot of money on recruitment when we could have just started with a social conversation.


Two weeks ago we started a new experiment to mark the launch of our Innovation Lab. What if we literally crowdsourced the people we would work with?

What if we only recruited via Twitter?

This is still a work in progress – we are still having conversations. But in the spirit of capturing learning as you go – here’s my top five:

Your networks network for you

The buzz that has been created has been tremendous. Each of the role profiles on Slideshare has been viewed over 2000 times – with combined views of nearly 9000. That’s way above the normal hits we’d get on a conventional recruitment.

But –note to excited recruiters reading this – don’t think that just by tweeting your job openings you’ll get the same results. That interest has been generated by getting the support from people like Dominic Campbell, Immy Kaur, Mervyn Dinnen and Helen Reynolds. And the other 200 people who have tweeted about it. Build up an engaged social support network. You get interaction through building relationships – not broadcasting or posting flashy slide decks.

You can react in real time

Recruiting via social gives you constant feedback. The first stage took place over 10 days meaning we could adapt to feedback and amend the process as we went along. So , for example, I picked up very early on that the inclusion of Klout as an indicator of social influence was putting people off. I was able to remove this from the application criteria and feedback publicly. This helped boost interest as well as build rapport.

Similarly – a conversation about the “geekiness” of the slides led to comments about the lack of interest from women. We were able to amend this and call specifically for more female interest highlighting the flexibility.

It reduces waste

A couple of people have already dropped out of the process. They’ve been googling me. I’ve been googling them. We’ve had a couple of conversations about the way the Lab will work and we’ve agreed we’ve got different ideas but can perhaps collaborate in another way. Ever been in the first 5 minutes of an 45 minute interview knowing this is wrong for both parties? Yep – a huge waste of everyones time.

A couple of people from HR and legal backgrounds have suggested that we are potentially breaking employment law here as we could discriminate against applicants based upon what we find on Google.

Come on.

We are just trying something different. If you think you’ve got sexist,homophobic,racist,ageist managers I’d suggest you’ve got bigger things to worry about than Twitter. Thanks Jacqui Mortimer for supporting me here – every HR team needs someone like you!

People are shaping our thinking

Already the nature of the conversations , and the wonderful diversity of interest , has led us to start making amends to the way the Lab will work. It’s become less about how people fit into our boxes and more about tearing those boxes apart and building around people. It’s more organic and is evolving day by day.

Who knows. Your next restructure might well be crowdsourced.

It’s 24/7 and global

Imagine the talent you might miss out on because people are on holiday or travelling. That doesn’t happen on social media. Word gets around. I’ve had interest from Europe , the USA and South America. Right now whilst writing this post I’m messaging someone in South East Asia.

I haven’t had a lot of naysayers but probably the biggest misconception is that this approach would only work for these type of roles.

I don’t get that. It’s 2014 and perfectly conceivable that a Housing Association could employ someone based in Indonesia. Geography is less important than broadband speed.

Maybe we need to stop thinking about what our organisations are today and start imagining what they could be.

Hope you find this interesting – I’ll update you soon.  Thanks for the support from everyone – I can’t name check you all!

Be great to hear your views.



Social conversations: time to move beyond broadcasting


Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human – Aristotle

That’s the intellectual stuff out of the way.

Let’s talk about Instagram and social conversations.

People sharing their passions and interests is what social is all about for me. Whether it’s a love of food , dancing , dogs or a desire to change the world, most of us connect better when we see the person behind the brand.

Far from being a modern phenomenon these passions have been shared between people for thousands of years. The fact we are now sharing them through digital media is a change in the tools available to us – not our human behaviour.

Earlier in the year I went on a trip to Vietnam. I didn’t think I tweeted much but it was enough to prompt the following in Inside Housing – the social housing magazine.

Screenshot 2014-05-05 12.48.41

I thought it was pretty funny and shared it online.

The responses were interesting and split three ways.

Some thought it was amusing. It annoyed others who saw the call for ‘disconnecting’ as missing the point of social.

But some people agreed with it – and suggested I keep my holiday updates to myself. They’d followed me for insights on innovation and customer experience – and now they were getting photographs of my breakfast.

I was initially dismissive of this. I even playfully reminded them that social networks are subscription services – if you don’t like a persons updates you can always switch them off.

Indeed a couple of people took me up on this advice and promptly unfollowed me! This , on reflection, was short sighted of me , it’s important to try to understand the expectations of your community.

In ‘It’s complicated – the social lives of networked teens’ , danah boyd explores changing attitudes to digital identity from the point of view of young people.

The book articulates how teens are becoming increasingly sophisticated in adapting their identity according to the audience they are addressing. Or the audience they imagine they are addressing.

Digital communication is different.

In face-to-face communication we carefully assess the context of the interaction in order to decide how we will act, what we will say, and how we present ourselves.

But social media technologies collapse multiple audiences into single contexts. And every blog you write , every photo you share , every message you tweet can be transported anywhere in the world and interpreted in an infinite number of ways.

This excites many of us and scares others.

A girls message left on Facebook with an intended audience of her close friends is sometimes misunderstood , usually by adults, who have no clue as to how it fits into the context of a larger conversation.

This is why many organisations have such an uneasy relationship with social media. They obsess about how their output has to be “on message” and not be capable of being misinterpreted. They are trying to put a set of rules around social media that simply doesn’t work.

As Mark Schaefer has said – internal process is usually optimised for “campaigns,” not “relationships.”

Rewiring our organisations for building relationships through conversations is one of our great challenges.

Clearly many will struggle to adapt to a more connected culture. This need for digital leadership was discussed last week with Mark Brown and Shirley Ayres. The highlights are in this slide deck.

We are moving beyond broadcasting.

And if social media can lead to social good it requires us to build relationships with others who share our passions and interests . These relationships are no longer restrained by physical location , our immediate peer group, our employers, or our sectors.

We have an opportunity to say this is who I am and this is what I want to achieve. A opportunity of following and being followed by people who believe in your cause.

And that conversation may start with what you had for breakfast. And it might annoy a minority of your followers.

I reckon Aristotle would have loved Instagram , our emerging digital intimacy , and our very social conversations.


Your Own Personal Social Media Policy: 10 Top Tips

“Companies often want this one single voice but when you have thousands of employees there’s no way you can have a single voice and be authentic,”  – Professor Joonas Rokka

One of the best links I saw last week was about how employees active on social media play a crucial role in corporate brand management. According to the article there is now evidence that social media empowers employees. It recommends companies need to spend more time nurturing people to harness this new and unexpected form of marketing.

But despite this research , which hints at the incredible possibilities of a highly engaged and massively social workplace, another survey tells us that 47% of senior managers believe social media is the biggest threat they face.

Yes – the single biggest tech threat to organisations isn’t an impending cyber attack.  It’s what people are saying on Facebook.

It’s increasingly obvious that there’s a huge fault line between organisations who are on the social business journey and those who want to try and hold back a digital tsunami.

How can we bridge it?

I think this article by Joe Ross contains a really good idea. Everyone take the time to create a personal social media policy. 

Let’s relieve employers of the responsibility for social media (It’s clearly keeping 47% awake at night!). Let’s devolve everything to the employee!

OK I exaggerate. But It made me realise that I do have a personal social media policy. Just mine has not been written down and is constantly developing based upon my learning.

Company social media policies are written at a point in time and can be restrictive – whereas writing one for yourself is hugely empowering.

  • A personal policy is you taking ownership and setting out your own rules and objectives.
  • It’s you saying I’m an adult and I’m capable of representing myself online both personally and professionally.
  • It’s about owning your digital identity in a way an employer simply can’t.

So here’s my personal social media policy:

1: Have a clear strategy for what you want to be known for

For me – it’s at the header of this blog: Customer Experience , Innovation , Social Business. I can still post pictures of funny cats , but that’s the top three subjects I share content on. What are yours?

2: Never say anything online you wouldn’t say to your boss’s face

Assume that anything you post could be published to the whole world and can never be removed. Even things you private message. It’s safer that way

3: Don’t be afraid to be provocative 

This might seem to contradict the previous tip but there’s a difference between being provocative and being stupid and offensive. If your employer doesn’t get that I’d really start looking for somewhere else to spend your days.

4: Don’t talk about yourself all the time

Social media is partly about ego. Having a blog is about ego. But don’t let your ego get too big. Always share others content more than you share your own. Ideally at a ratio of 80:20. Look at most corporate feeds. They usually only ever talk about themselves.

5: Don’t argue with idiots

I’ve done it. I’ve tried to engage trolls. You almost always come off worse. It’s great to see a spat break out online. But just like playground fights – it’s far more entertaining for the crowd than the participants. And when you’re online the bruises last longer.

6: Be clear on how you follow back

Personal choice. But if you follow everyone you might be accused of trying to game your follower count. If you follow just a few you might appear arrogant and self-obsessed. My personal rule?  If you look like the sort of person I’d talk to in a pub – I’ll follow back.

7: Don’t be a robot

It’s fine to automate posts. But just don’t over do it. I did once – posting pretty much 24 hours a day. A few of my friends pointed out that it looked robotic. I listened. I learnt.

8: Share the love – share your sources 

This can be difficult ,especially on Twitter with the punishing character limit, but attributing your sources is the pinnacle of social media etiquette. It’s also the fastest legitimate way to build a tribe. People love a sharer. Sharers get followed.

9: Be clear on mixing personal and private

There’s no correct rule here other than your own. But whether you post 100% work related content or share every Foursquare check-in – you can still add personality to your posts. Write tweets that only you could write.

10: Wash your mouth out

Don’t swear – unless you are funny with it. Like Charlie Brooker – who once said that a social media policy should really be written in four words: Don’t be a dick

Over to you…..

I’d love to hear some of your personal social media rules in the comments box!

Social Media Training: Don’t Mention #Socialmedia


Everything good in life , a cool business , a great romance , a powerful social movement – begins with a conversationDaniel H. Pink  

Part of the reason for starting this blog was to share the journey Bromford are on towards becoming a social business. Two years in – what have we learned?

A social business attracts people who are passionate about what they do.

Passionate people like to talk about the difference they make.

A social business isn’t afraid about those people taking centre stage.

The experiences they create for customers result in conversations.

The conversations become the brand.

So , if Dan Pink is right , and I believe he is , why when it comes to social media do we often talk about the medium itself and not the conversation?

Let’s face it – you wouldn’t teach a child to read by explaining about the apostrophe , the semicolon and the paragraph. You’d start with the compelling story.

One of the questions I’m asked the most is “How do Bromford train people on Social Media?”

And that brings me to Immy Kaur and #MyStory.

Immy is the strangest of creatures – a genuine evangelist for the power of social media for social good. But she never talks about social media.

Indeed the approach to her #MyStory workshops – which have been sweeping across Bromford Support – is unique: train people on social media without actually mentioning it.

#MyStory is built all around the person and the conversation. Who are they? What do they care about?

The medium is irrelevant. The conversation is everything.


Immy has written a brilliant post on the approach– which I urge you to read.  But I want to pick out a couple of things that I think we can all learn from.

1-   “Don’t be an Egg”

One of the first things #MyStory teaches is to express yourself as a person. So start with your bio. Why should someone follow you? Don’t waste time with all that guff about “these opinions are mine and not my employers” – say something useful about yourself. Here is profile of someone who has the #MyStory treatment. They make me want to know more about the person. They make me want to connect.

Screen Shot 2013-05-24 at 06.59.09

2 – “Don’t be Corporate”

Trying to get people to adopt a corporate tone of voice on SM is what scares people off. It would be like me trying to talk in a Welsh accent. I’d find it uncomfortable. I’d probably get it wrong. And I’d feel a bit silly.

Let people be themselves.  If you don’t it will come across as less than authentic. But , as Immy said to me , ” you have to be brave , you have to step out of your comfort zone. As management you are allowing people freedom, cultivating creativity and ultimately opening colleagues to a whole new world, you have to trust your culture and your colleagues to let it thrive.”

2 – Stop thinking social media and start thinking people

I asked Immy for her take on People Powered Social Media. This is what she said:

“In order to get a great wave of communicators, you have to tap into their passions, why they come to work, what they care about inside and outside. Once you look at the person, invest in their development, care about what they care about and then put social into the mix, you will have engaged colleagues that are content creators – inspiring others in the world around them. It’s self sustainable like this, they will get it, they will look at new innovations themselves, they won’t need to be spoon fed, they won’t need top down instructions about how they should talk about their work and their stories. They will engage with the world around them and ensure they are relevant to what people are talking about.”

There a million and one self proclaimed Social Media experts out there but I don’t think you will come across much wiser advice than that.

Immy has provided a wonderful list of Bromford Support Colleagues who are all telling #MyStory. Over 160 of them. That sounds like the start of a powerful social movement.

Maybe if Dan Pink did social media training – it would be #MyStory

20 Things They Never Told Us About Going Social

 ‘Pecha Kucha’ (literally – “Chit Chat” in Japanese) is a short presentation of 20 slides shown for 20 seconds each. The 20×20 format allows the presenter to talk for six minutes and 40 seconds – no more, no less – on a personal passion, project or interest of their choice. 

I was recently asked to present the Top 20 things I’d learned about Social Media in the past year.  I could talk about this for hours. So I imposed a self-limiting Pecha Kucha. It was great fun as I struggled to keep up with the auto-timed slides.

Try it – it can turn that boring 40 minute presentation into double espresso.

The orginal slideshare is available below. But please read on and see my extended remix of the Top 20 Things They Never Told Us About Going Social.

20 – They Never Told Us It Would Be This Fast: It’s perfectly acceptable not to be able to keep up with Social Media. In fact , you can’t keep up. So stop trying to.

19 – Don’t DO social , BE Social: If it feels like an effort – you aren’t doing it right. It should be fun to keep your community engaged. If it’s not , it won’t be much fun for your community either.

18 – Don’t just follow friends , follow people you’d cross the road to avoid: Embrace diversity. Get your opinions challenged. It’s fun to exchange views with people you’d never go for a pint with. Just don’t fall out.

17 – It’s 9 parts about others , 1 part about you: Share the content of others generously rather than talk about yourself. People will love you for it. Think: Every 10th post can be about me.

16 – Social Media is just an extension of your personality: Do it badly and it reflects on only one person. You.

15 – Online is as good as offline – sometimes better: Don’t listen to the snobs who say you can’t form “real” relationships online. You can. And online meetings are just as good as offline. Just a lot cheaper.

14- Prune your followers – it’s essential to growing a tribe: Sometimes you need a trim to allow the new roots to show through. Relationships don’t have to be forever.

13 – Digital Exclusion – There are as many staff who lack digital literacy as social tenants: Line all the housing association residents in the UK up against the HA staff. See who is more internet savvy. I reckon the residents will win.

12 – Wifi is like electricity – people need it to do their jobs properly: A social business is not a desktop business. People need Wifi. No employer can expect staff to eat into their data plans for the good of the company.

11 – It can take over your life – balance it: Look , my other half is glaring at me even as I type this. We all need a break sometime.

10 – The organisations that do it well have one thing in common – TRUST: forget size, forget money, forget resources. The leaders in social media trust their people not to **** up. That is all.

9 – The longer your policy on Social Media the fewer people will ever take part: The Bromford policy is essentially “If you wouldn’t say it out loud in the Cafe area – don’t post it online”. We have hundreds of users. I know an organisation that has an 87 page policy. Only one person uses it.

8 – We all have a Social CV. The worst ones are blank: Google yourself. It’s better you do it before your next employer does. Your online footprint matters. And a digital shadow is worse than any footprint.

7 – It’s not about followers. It’s about relationships: That difficult first month on social media? 10 friends or followers? It’s not about numbers. It’s about interaction and engagement. Always.

6 – Conferences without a hashtag are no longer worth booking: It’s not just about who you meet there – It’s about who you connect with – online – while you are there. Conferences that fail to utilise social to engage the crowd will not exist within a year. It’s like the Premiership – the real money is the audience who are watching around the world – not just the people in your stadium.

5 – People make mistakes online, don’t beat them up: We are all human. We are all learning to deal with this social web. Forgive people for their mistakes. You will need forgiveness yourself someday soon.

4 – If your CEO gets it – great. If they don’t and won’t – leave: Leadership matters. If you have given your all and tried to change attitudes to being a social collaborative business and they just won’t buy it – it’s time to look elsewhere. Other people will snap you up.

3 – You can make social part of the fabric of work: The argument about not having time for it disappears when it becomes ingrained in what you do. Encourage a social workplace. Integrate it. As long as you are still “in the room” – it’s OK to  tweet in meetings

2 – Social Media is the first new leadership responsibility of the 21st Century: The question I get asked most is “how do you manage it?” It’s the first leadership skill that there isn’t a “How To” guide written for. You can’t manage social , you can only be a social leader.

1 – It never stops.


(Image via @fondalo. Pecha Kucha originally presented at #HGD13)

The Top 50 Power Players In Housing [Klout Edition]


“The list doesn’t destroy culture; it creates it. Wherever you look in cultural history, you will find lists. In fact, there is a dizzying array. We like lists because we don’t want to die.” – Umberto Eco

We all love a good list.

You know – The top 500 movies of all time. The best albums ever recorded. The 50 funniest comedians.

The only reason we don’t like lists are if we disagree with them. Or worse – if we are not featured in them.

I had both reactions when reading The Top 50 Power Players In Housing – recently featured in 24Housing Magazine. It’s a list of the supposed great and the good within the Social Housing sector in the UK. The full list is featured here.

First of all – I’m joking. I think lists like this are a bit of fun – no more , no less. I don’t think being featured in 24Housing Magazine guarantees immortality. It’s just interesting to see who your peers rate as influential. And it would be unnatural if we didn’t get a frisson of anticipation as we wait to find out whether our colleagues have been noted for their achievements.

But my main thought on reading the list and hence the reason for writing this post was – “What would Generation Y think of this?”

And what about the new social media super-connectors who have emerged since the walls came down between sectors like housing , health, care and technology.

How many of these people would they honestly recognise? For example – 5 of the Top 10 Power Players have no meaningful social media profile. Surely that is worth some debate?

So I started thinking about what the list would look like if we ranked people according to their digital footprint. How different would the list look if it was voted for by users of social media? And what if Klout, Kred or PeerIndex had created it?

So I’ve produced an alternative. And I’ve used Klout – simply because it’s the most well known social scoring platform.

Now – we could argue all day about the methodology that Klout uses. And we could do the same over the methodology that 24Housing used as well. The point here is not to say Klout is anything more than a vanity metric – I’m just comparing two approaches to measuring perceived influence.

If you want my views on the concept of social scoring or more information about what it is – you can read it in my post The Delicate Balance of Online and Offline Influence.

So how have I approached this?

  • I’ve used exactly the same process as 24Housing. So all the people on the original list were included in my sample.
  • I’ve then checked the Klout scores of the people on the list and other people that I know have an online presence within Social Housing. If their Klout score was higher they replaced one of the original Power Players.
  • I have also – similar to the original – added in people who don’t work directly in housing but who Klout says influence people. So for example, neither Alistair Somerville or John Popham work within the sector – but they are noted as online influencers. I have also included people who frequently share housing related information or take part in debates.

So here you go – the alternative Power Players……

[You are best viewing it in full screen mode or if you have trouble click on this Power Players link.]
So , first thoughts?

Astonishingly – only 14 of the original Power Players remain on the list. This shows divergent views of online as opposed to real world influence.

I’m also struck by the apparent democratising effect of social media. CEOs disappear almost completely and are replaced by people with less seniority – in the traditional sense at least. There is also a higher number of women. I don’t know everybody’s ages but at least 3 of the top 10 influencers are under the age of 30.

If you remove politicians and civil servants only five people remain on both lists – Nick Atkin , Julia Unwin , Matt Leach, Jules Birch and Lara Oyedale.

Is that acceptable in a world where digital presence and engagement are more important than ever? Perhaps it is.

Perhaps we are seeing the emergence of online and offline worlds with different movers and shakers. Or perhaps one represents the present and one represents the more connected and inclusive future of the sector.

Looking forward to your thoughts!

How Social Is Your CEO?

Last week I ran a workshop for a number of Chief Executives. Whilst preparing my slidedeck (which is featured above) I spoke to a friend who is the Managing Director of a medium sized business.

They have a very basic website. No media links.

When I asked why he doesn’t use social media , he answered simply:

Paul , I don’t have the time you have. My customers don’t use it. There is no reason for me to waste any time on it. I’ve asked my staff on many occasions what the business case is and all they say is – everyone else is doing it, we should too….

You know what? If I was him I would be exactly the same. If people can’t articulate a compelling reason for social why would a very busy person waste their time on it?

If your CEO isn’t using social, or doesn’t see that embedding it in your organisation is important, maybe you need to have a different conversation? Perhaps you need to make it more relevant to them as senior leaders.

These are my tips for why it makes business sense to be a Social CEO:

1: Forget social media – it’s about being a social business

If your conversation with your CEO starts with why you need a Facebook account you have probably lost them already. The real leadership benefit of using social tools is that used well they can reinforce the purpose and values of your organisation. If you are just pushing product and you don’t need to engage customers then maybe social isn’t for you.  But if you are about more than business then it can amplify your social and ethical goals.

2:  It will make you more visible, people will like you more

A CEO loves to be visible. (If they don’t I suggest you have another , more serious, problem). Internal enterprise networks , such as  Yammer , boost executive visibility. They can also democratise the organisation and destroy hierarchy. That’s a good thing by the way.

3: You are missing out on recruiting the best people

A Gen Y colleague told me the other day that they “couldn’t work for a leader who wasn’t visible on social”. It’s an increasing trend for talented people seeking work to check out the social profile of the company – but also that of the recruiting managers.  I do not believe any CEO would knowingly miss out on adding the very best talent to their organisation. If a competitor is recruiting and they are social and you are not – it’s pretty much a certainty that the better talent is going their way.

4: Customers will trust your organisation more

Leadership visibility promotes an open and transparent culture to customers and stakeholders. In the same way that an internal social presence removes hierarchy – showing your visibility to customers gives you a human face. You are no longer the person on a big salary behind the closed door in an office a long way away. You are in reach.

5:  You are missing out on vital market intelligence

A CEO who doesn’t promote a digital presence runs the risk of marginalising their organisation. New relationships and business propositions form minute by minute today. They cross sectors and they can even cross continents. Those annual conferences you go to are becoming an irrelevance. The social digital organisation is more connected, aware and adaptive.

This is the advice I would give a CEO about going social – but I’m sure there are other benefits. Please add any thoughts in the comments box they are hugely appreciated.

Why Social Recruitment Is Disrupting How We Apply For Jobs


What if your next employer spent ten minutes searching your online profile? Are you happy with everything they would find?

Last week I posted about how social media could land you your next job and the dangers of online professional invisibility. But having a badly curated profile can be even more damaging when it comes to job search.

But should recruiters be looking anyway?

In his thought provoking post “The Application Of Social Media – Using #SM in HR” Phil Lyons raises issues of potential discrimination against job applicants, and the dangers of unfair judgements about candidate suitability. Phil recounts advice he was given rather than presenting his own views. This included the suggestion of a ban on the use of social media during an application process. Essentially a hiring manager was NOT to check someone’s online activities.

But do the people who are giving this advice really understand how SM is used in practice?

In response to the post John Popham questioned whether recruitment may be one of those areas in which the current rules have been overtaken by the pace of change. That “the concept of infringing privacy can’t apply to social media because content is, by definition, in the public sphere.”

I think he could be right.

If I were to recuit a role on my team the first place you will hear about it is on SM. And rightly or wrongly , I’m going to make an initial judgement about a candidate based upon their digital profile. I would expect that if I was applying for a job. I think we have to accept that initial opinions will be formed about you online rather than face to face.

Of course – this is problematic. It could be argued that your online presence is more real than the image you choose to present when you walk into an interview room. Generally it won’t be as polished and you are more likely to see someone’s true opinions. And – social media is all about opinions. Unless you only post pictures of kittens, it’s likely that someone may take exception to one of your posts.

Interviewing someone begins the moment you connect online.

Old recruitment went something like this:


But isn’t modern recruitment more akin to this?


OK , I exaggerate for effect. But the normal rules of recruitment are being disrupted.

Just this week we have seen another new approach. Pizza Hut stated that interviews for a new post would take place in 140 seconds. Follow up interviews will take place via a Google Hangout. Your application is being made public and crowdsourced. Of course a lot of this is about brands gaining valuable PR by using unconventional approaches – but the point is that social recruiting is happening.

So – do we need new rules? I don’t think we can expect them just yet – this is still an emerging area. Both recruiters and applicants have got to adjust to the online world and find an approach that is both ethical and fair. Jobseekers need to be sensible , curate their profile and search themselves on a regular basis.

Recruiters need to respect that people have a life. Someone who has been on that weekend in Magaluf and posted some very embarrassing photo’s has made a mistake. But is also human.

And personally I’d rather recruit someone who shows they are a real human being – flaws and all – over someone who has zero digital footprint.

What do you think? Does there need to be more control over what employers can use in an application process?

The Social CV: How Social Media Could Get You Your Next Job


I often joke with a friend of mine that if they ever lost their job they would be unemployable. Because they have a great CV but zero digital footprint. No LinkedIn , no Twitter , no Facebook. Nothing.

I ask them to imagine a future where you don’t have a CV or resume. A future where your talent and achievements are broken down into tweetable chunks. Your professional life , and a good bit of your personal too, is available online for all to see. You are scored according to your worth and the value of your followers. Your score can determine whether you get that job interview.

And they laugh at me. ‘Paul , you are such a geek.’ As if that is ever going to happen.

Except it has happened. In 2013. At least if you are applying for a job at Enterasys Networks.

As many of you will already know the web was set alight when Vala Afshar pronounced the death of the CV.   “The Web is your résumé” he said “Social networks are your mass references”.

Enterasys have just broken new ground with their latest job advertisement. The minimum requirements for which are:

  • A Klout score above 60
  • A Kred influence score of 725
  • 1,000 active Twitter followers

This has made a lot of people start frothing at the mouth at the absurdity of it all. It’s a natural reaction when someone proposes a completely new way of doing something.

But I’m more interested in the opportunities this presents than its flaws. I think Vala is right for trying to disrupt the way companies recruit people. Why shouldn’t we start using social influence and the Social CV as part of recruitment?

Most minimum job requirements are based on what people achieved in school. If I were to apply for a job tomorrow the first thing it will ask me after my name and address is what I did 20 years ago. A time when jobs required completely different skills.

But we are still hung up about educational attainment. Even when it has no practical relevance to what we are applying for.

Don’t believe me?

A former colleague of mine recently applied for a job and was told that because a GCSE didn’t meet the required grade they were an unsuitable candidate. They came with my full endorsement – someone I’d employ again in a heartbeat.  The qualification that scuppered their job chances was 15 years old –  everything they had done since was irrelevant to the employer. And this wasn’t some blue chip city firm – it was a housing association- a business supposedly founded on the principle of giving people a second chance.

15 years of achievement and all it comes down to is what’s written on a piece of paper.

How absurd.

What I like about the idea of a Social CV is it is a genuine meritocracy. Anyone , anywhere can become influential on social media. Regardless of educational performance you can reinvent yourself online. Whatever their faults – Kred and Klout have something that educational qualifications will never have – they are bang up to date.

  • Go on holiday and your Klout score declines
  • People stop finding you engaging? You lose Kred.

Surely something like RebelMouse , that creates a Social front page based on your digital presence , paints a more relevant picture of you than the conventional CV?

Social Media has changed recruitment forever. HR teams and employers must change their practices to adapt to it , not expect social media to adapt to them.

I would agree that the concept of the Social CV has got a lot of maturing to do. But it will become accepted as employers realise that social media skills are becoming a necessity.

But what do you think? Could the Social CV replace the traditional approach?

5 Social Media Policies That You Can Love

saint-valentines-day-social-icons-full (1)
I posted last week about How Your Social Media Policy Could Kill Your Culture. It was about the “control creep” that’s affecting some organisations as they try to protect themselves from a social media firestorm.

In this post I want to look at a few organisations whose policies and guidance acknowledge the risks but see far greater benefit in their colleagues being digitally active. Here are five of the approaches I like – together with a link to their policy or guidance. Hope you like them too.

1 – The Police Service

For my money no public service has embraced social media as well as the Police. If you doubt this I would recommend you subscribe to the excellent blog from Russell Webster – who frequently highlights best practice in police digital engagement Each authority has its own policy but I want to draw your attention to the superlative guide put together by Gordon Scobbie and his colleagues. Called Engage: Digital and Social Media Engagement For The Police Service it’s the very best demystification of the professional use of social media I have seen.

Best Bit:

I love the mythbusting that is incorporated into the guidance. Here’s an example:

Screen Shot 2013-02-21 at 19.19.072 – Gap

Unfortunately the Gap guidance is not available for the public – but the main points are here. The policy itself is issued to all employees in a handy iPhone-size brochure. Entitled “OMG you will never guess what happened at work today!!” it’s written in an entirely conversational style.

Even the warnings are written as you would say them:

Screen Shot 2013-02-21 at 20.55.11

Best Bit:

I love this bit of advice for when you realise you have posted something you shouldn’t have:

“If you !%@# up? Correct it immediately and be clear about what you’ve done to fix it.”

3 – Bromford Group

Look , I know I work for them. But even if I didn’t I would say that Bromford have one of the most enlightened approaches to social media around. Like Gap – the Bromford social media guidance is written in a very conversational style – and it sets out very clearly the difference between what it calls a business , sponsored and personal account.

Best Bit:

I love the fact the guidance is very visual. This is an inspired way to sum up your advice:

Screen Shot 2013-02-21 at 19.37.01

4 – Kirklees Council

Kirklees treat social media really seriously. So seriously their policy and guidance has it’s own website. It’s jam packed full of advice , case studies , forums and useful tips. This is an organisation who who have applied a huge amount of thought to how they are going to support colleagues and stakeholders.

Best Bit:

I love the 3 Steps to Using Social Media. I think many organisations could learn from this Listen , Participate , Transform approach to going social:

Screen Shot 2013-02-21 at 19.45.26

5 – Southwest Airlines

Southwest are masters in using digital to engage with customers and tell the story of their brand. I’ve never flown with them so I have no idea if the reality matches the sheer brilliance of their customer engagement. If you haven’t seen their community and , especially , their blog – you should have a look.

Their guidelines are more prescriptive than the others – but I like the way it’s just 8 points on one page in clear language.

Best Bit:

It’s straight-talking. I like this……

Screen Shot 2013-02-21 at 19.51.28

These are five of my favourites – but which others have you seen? I’d love to hear…..

5 (More) Social Media Mistakes To Avoid


Earlier this week I shared the post ‘Five Social Media Mistakes To Avoid’ by Heather-Anne Maclean. The following mistakes were chosen as her Top 5:

1.  Failing to use a photo or avatar for your profile

2.  Not completing your bio

3.  Having too many networks

4.  Not writing professionally

5.  Failing to be human.

I pretty much agree with all of them – especially 1,2 and 5.  Immediately after I shared it Heather-Anne thanked me and asked what I would add to her list. I liked that –  it showed great social media manners –  a willingness to reach out and engage further with your audience. We don’t always have time to leave a comment on a blog so it’s good to prompt people into thinking further about your post.

So here I am adding to her list. Here are my 5 (More) Social Media Mistakes To Avoid:

1: True Twit and Protected Tweets

As annoying as spam is , it’s nowhere near as annoying as TrueTwit and private accounts.  In case you don’t know, this is where you are asked to go through an account verification before you are allowed to follow someone. I just don’t get it. If you don’t want to be followed why are you using Twitter?

2: Passing off others content as your own

Have your ever posted an update and then seen THE EXACT SAME post from one of your followers or friends? And it’s not just coincidental. It’s your words, your links – minus your name. It’s really bad practice. Please try and credit your source with a HT  or a Via. It’s just the decent thing to do. You will be appreciated for it.

3: Trying to sell to me by Twitter DM.

Here is a tip. If I want to like your Facebook page or subscribe to your blog I will do it in my own time. Get to know me before you try to sell to me. Private messaging is a great way to ask for help , suggest a phone call or meet-up – NOT to sell people stuff. Especially when you haven’t even tried to engage with me. New Rule: Anyone who sends me an auto DM with sell stuff gets unfollowed. If we all do that – they will stop.

4: Broadcasting not engaging.

Regular blog readers will know how much I love broadcasters. Those accounts who only ever talk about themselves or their products and services. They rarely acknowledge others and never highlight the great things that others are sharing. They are the social media version of the person at the party who tells you about their great car, wonderful house, exotic holidays and high achieving kids. Avoid.

Try to share more of other peoples work than you do of your own. It’s nice. People will like you.

5: Being present without having presence.

We’ve all seen the corporate account with 3 posts per week. And the account that was last posted from 163 days ago. They are accounts where someone has clearly being told that they need to be using social media. You don’t. Being present without showing you love being there is actually worse than not being there at all. If you have dormant or under fed accounts – do the humane thing – put them out of their misery.

These are my 5 additions. Do you agree or disagree? And I’d love to hear if anyone has any more….

Why Your Social Media Should Follow The Customer – Not Your Opening Hours

Open All Hours

Can you imagine launching a business in 2013 whose opening hours are Monday to Friday between the hours of 9.00am to 5.00pm?

I’d love to see THAT pitch on Dragons Den. It would be insane. I can’t think of any successful business model still in existence that operates in this way.

In the years following the Sunday Trading Act – through to the internet boom of the late 90’s right up to our “always on” present  – the idea of customers only operating in “office hours” has become increasingly archaic.

So why is it that many brands social media presence says hello at 9 and goodbye at 5? 

A few weeks ago I was asked advice from an organisation who were at the early stages of using social to engage with customers. Their main fear was that people might contact them at weekends as “they were a 9-5 business”.

I challenged this. I asked them whether their website disappeared from search engines at 5.00pm. I suggested that if it doesn’t – your customers will still expect service , whether or not you choose to provide it. So – through the eyes of the customer – you are essentially a 24 hour business who only provides service for 8 hours.

66% rubbish.

I wasn’t trying to be clever – just pointing out that in a connected world many of us have stopped thinking about whether something is open or closed. It just exists.

An article this week made the point that many brands are still using social media “as a publishing channel rather than an engagement channel” and that this includes pushing content in the hours where customers would be less likely to engage.

I agree.

The issue is that most organisations have carried their old world analogue behaviours – communicating within “office hours” – into the digital world. But the digital world doesn’t work in the same way. Here the customer is truly king, we are open all hours. And there is nothing you or I can do about it.

If we think about our own behaviours we know this to be true.

Using my Twitter account as an example  – the most engagement I get is between the hours of 6am-8.30am and 7pm-10pm on weekdays. And on weekends 8-11am and 7-11pm. This will be different for all of us and according to social media channel.

But 9-5 is certainly not the primetime when it comes to engaging customers.

I’ve worked in customer engagement for many years – and I would suggest that the very best conversations , the real relationship building conversations – do not occur within these hours. They never did offline and they certainly won’t online.

And that’s why some brands are struggling to engage.  They are broadcasting to people who are not listening. They are attempting engagement on their terms and not the terms of the customer.

3 tips:

  • Think about when you personally are most likely to engage in conversations online. It might be when you are watching TV or waiting for a bus.
  • Now think about who else is competing for your customers attention in those times. If it’s too busy – avoid it and pick another time slot.  
  • Now start posting some interesting content and begin some conversations around that content. Repeat 3 times each week.

Sounds like really obvious advice. But if it’s that obvious , why are so few of us doing it?

Please add any of your engagement tips in the comments box. I’d love to hear them.

10 Myths From The Year We Went Social

2012 was the year in which the Housing Association sector went social. It’s very positive that so many of us have recognised the clear customer service and business benefits that social and digital engagement can bring.

This was year we went social. And these are 10 things we have learned not to be true:

1: Social Media Is Simple

It’s easy to set up an account, but it’s not easy to make it work. Having worked in customer engagement for over 10 years I feel it is harder to effectively engage online than it is offline. In real life you can look into a customers eyes and read their reaction. In the social stream – you can’t. And our customers are becoming increasingly fragmented and harder to find. To engage with customers we used to knock doors.  In the virtual world they could be anywhere, anytime. It’s hard work.

2: Our Customers Are Not Online

I knew this to be false when a Customer Board Member emailed me to say they didn’t have internet access. People are online,  but they often choose not to tell their landlord. And sometimes they don’t even realise they are online. A customer recently told me they didn’t need broadband as they only ever used Facebook. Although I don’t deny that exclusion exists – the emerging issue is digital literacy and confidence rather than lack of access.

3: Social Media is Free

It is at first. And then you realise you need content. And content takes time to find, and longer to create. Too many organisations are making the mistake of thinking social media equals no printing and no advertising  – so it will be cheaper. But you are going to have to invest in new skills and new technology. It’s an investment in a completely different customer relationship.

4: Policy Can Protect Your Brand.

Whether you have a one page social media policy or hundreds of pages , your success or failure will be defined by just two things: leadership and common sense. In my experience the shorter the policy and the more visible the leadership , the greater the common sense.

5: We Are Ready For Generation Z.

Generally we are not. My challenge? Offer up your web and online services up to any 15 year old used to managing an account with Xbox Live or Playstation Network. Then ask them what they think. Most of our organisations are in the dark ages when it comes to intuitive online user experiences. It should be a concern that many of the people we involve in implementing new services have never heard of , let alone used , Xbox Live or Playstation Network.

6: Digital Will Lead To Better Customer Service.

You can make your service worse if you are just present without having presence. When people used to leave the phone ringing the only person who knew about it was the customer on the other end of the line. I just looked at an account by a large organisation. Last tweet 12th October. Last Facebook post 15th November. Website last updated in July. It’s there for the whole world to see.

7: Digital Is Slowing Down.

Marc Prensky has said slowdown in the digital age is a “myth,” as innovation will only press forward “faster… And faster and faster.” I love his quote: “We are not going through a transition to another phase of stability. People will always be behind now and that will be a stress they have to cope with.” Our companies , our people , our websites – always behind. Get used to it.

8: People Will Follow You And Like Your Page

Only if you are Justin Bieber or One Direction. Otherwise you are going to have to make it worth peoples time. You must post interesting content that is relevant to your audience and engage them in conversations around it. If you are looking at the slides you will see I referenced Bagpuss. It’s a reminder to Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers that we have a different medium but the rules are essentially the same. Every episode of Bagpuss was about the telling of a story and the engagement and contribution of the community to the telling of it. Nobody remembers how the ship got in that bottle. But everyone remembers how the story was told.

9: We Are Moving Our Customers To The Website

You can’t. We don’t have any way of commanding our customers attention anymore. Customers ARE your new website. One of the most significant shifts this year is the amount of time people are spending within social networks. I know people who have arranged their holidays, had their homes re-decorated , bought a car – purely through Facebook. I no longer read Inside Housing (our trade publication) – as its’ content is curated for me by people like Lara Oyedele , Philip Lyons and Jules Birch. I trust them and they are my network. Why would anyone come to the website of a Housing Association when they can get what they want from their network?  The only question is  – do you know who is curating and sharing your content?

10: Social Media Is Great For Broadcasting News

People engage with people not press releases. If there is one thing we all have to embrace next year it is putting the social into social media. The most popular post I have written this year was about the way housing has a tendency to talk about itself rather than create a compelling narrative around the difference it makes to peoples lives. I think we have improved. But we could do so much more in 2013.

These are my myths. I’d love to hear yours.

(The content of this post was originally presented at the Chartered Institute of Housing Social Media and Digital Engagement Conference)

The Delicate Balance Of Online and Offline Influence

“What is truly exciting about where we are today is that never before in our collective history has it been so accessible for absolutely everyone to provide their voice to the conversation. Where anyone with ‘humble beginnings’ can make a name for themselves.  Your ability to influence comes more from what you have to offer, than from your background or your pedigree or financial status.Mark Schaefer 

I had a discussion recently with a tenant of a Housing Association. It followed a presentation where I stated that I didn’t think we could afford to ignore the concept of Social Influence scoring for too long.  Influence scoring , if you don’t know, is where your online contributions through social media are aggregated through an algorithm and converted into a number by tools like Klout , Kred and PeerIndex. A number that compares your influence to everyone else.

And , just like credit reference scoring, we all have a number.

“You are right” , said the resident I was talking to, “I have a Klout score of 30,  Our Chief Executive has no online presence. Perhaps I’m more influential to my online community.”

There is no perhaps about it. This concept of “Citizen Influencers” having greater online power than the CEO’s of large organisations fascinates me. Surely we would be foolish to ignore a system that attempts to measure that?

What would you do if you interviewed someone for a job who you thought was brilliant – but had no online footprint? Who appeared influential in real life but who wasn’t on Twitter , Facebook or LinkedIn? What would it make you think about them? Would they even get an interview? 

I used to be quite cynical about social influence scoring – thinking it was a fad and lacked sophistication. But then people like Helen Reynolds and Shirley Ayres got me interested in the possibilities. Klout , the leading platform, says Helen and Shirley both influence me. And Klout is correct – they influenced me to buy Return on Influence – a wonderful book by Mark Schaefer, the author I have quoted above.

Get that. Two people , only one of whom I have met in real life , have influenced me to read something I previously had no interest in.

And that’s why online influence is important.  You can amplify your real life influence to an online audience.  And you can make them do something. Like read your blog, purchase a product or tell their friends about your services.

And it will make people decide whether they want to work with you or not. Social Scoring could become a metric that influences recruitment decisions.

There was a post this week criticising a company for stating that applicants for a Social Media position had to have a Klout score of 35 and above. I just don’t see the problem with this at all. Is this any more unfair than ruling out an applicant based upon those traditional , and not particularly reliable,  tools like CV Scoring , Belbin profiles and psychometric tests.

I have proposed using Klout and Kred as part of performance management for the roles on my teams that depend on influencing others. So far , I’ve been convinced that it’s not necessary.  But I can see a useful future tool here. After all , if part of their jobs depend upon online presence – why would I not be interested in the trajectory of their influence?

Our future professional success will be dependent on an increasingly delicate balance between our offline and online track record. Social scoring will play a part in that. Whether we like it or not.

But what do you think?

%d bloggers like this: