The Smartest People Will Never Work For You

Joy’s law is the principle that “no matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else”.

Bill Joy, the computer engineer to whom it’s attributed argued that if you rely solely on your own employees, you’ll never solve all your customers’ needs.

It’s a quote that’s never been more true.

Joy was not talking about the hackneyed “war for talent” trope. Even if you somehow manage to get the best and the brightest to work for you, there will always be an infinite number of other, smarter people employed by others.

Even if it was possible – these days we don’t need to employ those people. We live in a networked age – and having people who can master ‘distributed problem solving’ and collaborate at scale – will be a differentiator for organisations.

This week I was in Wales speaking at an event organised by the Good Practice Exchange – all about effective collaboration using technology.

Harnessing the power of collective thinking is one of the most effective ways to maximise innovation output. The more minds, brain power and insight you can gather, the better.

It’s recognised that CEOs with connections to diverse social environments built of people from a variety of backgrounds can create more value for the organisations they lead.  In today’s digital economy this knowledge exchange is open to any of us – IF we stay clear of echo chambers and embrace genuine diversity. (That means, not blocking people who disagree with you.)

Social media gives you access to people who behave and think differently.  Used wisely it can encourage people to break out of your own sector.  By actively following 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.

Groupthink – “a deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing and moral judgment that results from in-group pressures” – historically only happened to small groups.

Hashtags have changed all that.

In a society in which social networks consume so much of our time we have evolved into a mass version of groupthink. A herd mentality of a scale we’ve never previously encountered.

It’s time for us all to really consider the role of diversity in our social media content. The algorithm is deliberately feeding you more of what you want to hear.

This diversity can be advantageous: research suggests that employees with a diverse Twitter network—one that exposes them to people and ideas they don’t already know—tend to generate better ideas.

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This research differentiated between idea scouts and connectors.

An idea scout is someone who looks outside the organisation to bring in new ideas, using Twitter as a gateway to solution options.

An idea connector, meanwhile, is someone who can assimilate the external ideas and find opportunities within the organisation to implement these new concepts.

In the research,  Twitter users who performed the two roles at the same time were the most innovative.

That’s easier said than done, we often find that people who are great at making connections and opportunities aren’t the best ones at matching them to strategy and implementing.

A good innovation team plays this role – acting as a pressure chamber where external influences can enter the organisation, in a controlled and measured way.

Social media will help your people crowdsource opinion from others. I often find myself thinking out loud-  this 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.

Just soaking up other people’s opinions doesn’t lead to innovation though. Rather – it’s the ability of employees to identify, assimilate and exploit new ideas to create new value.  This is where our organisations need to put more effort and support in for people – it’s hardly ever talked about, much less taught.

The smartest people will never work for you. We need to create a network of as many great contributors as we can–and transform it into a community.

So many of us , right around the world , are working on solving exactly the same problems. To address these complex problems our organisations must be reshaped for a community where ideas and information flow openly and transparently.

The real opportunities lie right at the heart of it.

How Technology Is Changing Our Conversation

In 2013 a Communications Director named Justine Sacco landed in Cape Town after a flight from New York.

As she switched her phone back on she was met with two messages.

The first was from someone she hadn’t spoken to for years:

“I’m so sorry to see what’s happening.”

The second was from her best friend:

“You need to call me immediately. You’re the No. 1 worldwide trend on Twitter right now.”

Then her notifications went haywire – and her whole life blew up.

Hours earlier, during a stopover in London,  she’d sent a tweet to her 120 followers that had gone viral whilst she was in the air.

It read:

“Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”

Many of us on Twitter at the time remember the incident as we participated in it. We were rapt with excitement at we followed the hashtag #HasJustineLandedYet – with tens of thousands of us waiting for the real time sacking of a villainous racist.

Except, as Jon Ronson revealed in So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed , Justine wasn’t a villain, and she wasn’t a racist. She’d made a really badly worded joke intending to make fun of her own privilege. It had backfired in the most horrible way possible. She rarely left her house for a year.

I tried to change my social media behaviour the day I finished that book. I tried to resist joining in. Social media shamings are now a daily occurrence, as if we are becoming addicted to the experience of bringing others down.

Last week Sky News presenter Jayne Secker was the subject of her own tweetstorm. During an interview about the housing crisis she made comments about the competence of young tenants and whether they knew how to change a lightbulb.

“Do you think you’ve found amongst your friends, perhaps, that you’re aren’t equipped with the necessary skills to rent?” she asked.

The interview was certainly bizarre and her comments completely irrelevant to the subject at hand – but was the response entirely proportionate?

Haven’t many landlords , social as well as private, asked themselves exactly the same question?

Twitter was unforgiving and brutal, even in the face of an apology.

“I am sure many of us will have made a mistake at work – unfortunate for me mine is a lot more public than most” she tweeted.

In the responses below I saw two tweets from people who follow me. People who I’ve had many positive interactions with.

One of them used the hashtag “#scumbag”. The other just said “sack this c**t”.

We are now truly down the rabbit hole, with shamings leading to sackings leading to shaming and more blaming. It’s as if we can’t adapt to the new power of instantaneous communication, compelled to comment in ways we’d never do in a real life situation.

In her excellent TED talk Carole Cadwalladr rightly calls out the ‘gods of Silicon Valley’ for their failure to control the awesome tools they have given us, but arguably the responsibility is shared with us too. We have to re-calibrate our online behaviour based on values of free speech, but also have empathy and consideration for others.

I’ve just finished listening to The Last Days of August in which Jon Ronson returns to the subject of shaming.

It details the story of August Ames, a porn star, who came under heavy criticism for saying she didn’t want to work with men who have also appeared in gay pornography.

Finding herself engulfed amid accusations of homophobia she posted her last ever tweet the next day – which simply read “f*** y’all.”

A few hours later she was found hanged. She was 23.

In the podcast, and its excellent companion piece, The Butterfly Effect , Ronson charts the effect technological disruption is having on us. Much of it is funny and wonderful, and some of it is sad and deeply troubling.

The most worrying aspect is the effect on our public discourse. 

Conversation is all we have. It’s only through talking with those who disagree with us that we can hope to achieve any form of progress.

However we must also recognise we will make mistakes in our online behaviours. I’m not intelligent all of the time and I doubt you are too. We all have a lot of stupid in us.

We have to be able to criticise bad ideas. But we don’t want to close down those ideas as without the conversation we become more and more entrenched in our views, and that is good for no-one.

Last week I had a bit of a Twitter spat when someone misinterpreted a tweet I sent. I was having a bad day and sent a bit of a snarky response. In real life I’d have probably offered to buy them a pint and talk it out down the pub. However the lack of eyeball contact on social media is where so much can go wrong. We haven’t yet developed a complete set of cues that guide conversation.

This is the first time in human history that we’ve had a space in which we can collaborate with total strangers.

We desperately need to protect that space and that conversation.

That means we need to be lot more tolerant.

We need to try to get our facts straight before commenting.

We need to resist the temptation to join in with public shamings.

Most of all we just need to breathe a little more and be a whole lot nicer to one another.

Minority Dissent: Why Intelligent People Fail To Solve Problems

At the end of November 2018 my blog posts dried up.

I’ve not published one for over seven weeks – the longest gap for a couple of years. The problem wasn’t that I had nothing to write, rather I was afraid of the reaction to what I’d say.

I have five draft posts I’ve struggled to finish because of a fear of being misinterpreted – or a fear they might upset someone.

It’s hard to believe it was only five years ago when we had huge hopes for social media – that a genuine counter-culture was disrupting our established organisations. We finally had a decentralized communication platform for knowledge sharing and idea exchange.

With hindsight that was overly optimistic.

The two seismic events of 2016 – Brexit and the election of Donald Trump – were partly a reaction to that misplaced optimism. Plenty of people felt shut out and left behind from the party. The fallout has caused mayhem ever since.

  • Fake news – a term no-one really used until a couple of years ago is now seen as one of the biggest threats to democracy.
  • We seem to be getting a bit nastier to each other online –  where the lack of eye contact allows us to be particularly rude to people in ways we’d never consider in real life.
  • We’ve arguably got a bit too sensitive , with hurt feelings meaning you can be reported to the Police for upsetting someone.

Analysis of social media use shows that we tend to engage most with information that aligns to our existing beliefs and perceptions on the world.  With people spending up to two hours a day on social media that’s a significant amount of time spent in a bubble.

If you are mostly friends with people on social media who share your views,  naturally you are more likely to hear confirmation of your views than dissent.  You share your views on Brexit for example, and everyone agrees with you. This reinforces your world view rather than making you question it. When you do hear dissent it seems like an anomaly. You’re clearly on the side of the angels!

Last year I made a deliberate effort to spend more time engaging with people and content that offered completely opposing views to my own. I only drew the line at anything that was truly hateful.

I think I understand other people’s views and experiences better as a result, and I definitely acknowledge that I was more comfortable living in a bubble. It’s unsettling when you’re not so sure you are right.

Why Intelligent People Fail To Solve Problems

In 1972 a psychologist named Irving Janis published an essay explaining how a group of very clever people working together to solve a problem can sometimes arrive at the worst possible answer.

He paid particular attention to foreign policy, the US involvement in Vietnam and JFK’s disastrous intervention into Cuba.

The paper inspired the phrase ‘group-think’ – the psychological drive for consensus at any cost that suppresses disagreement and prevents the consideration of alternatives.

As facilitators and designers at Bromford Lab, we see this all the time. Well-intentioned people can make irrational decisions when they are spurred on by the urge to conform. This can simply be because we value harmony above rational thinking.

Minority Dissent and Innovation 

It may go against a happy-clappy harmonious view of the workplace, but discord has to be allowed to take its proper place if we are to solve the problems that matter.

Agreeableness is not always the best personality trait for innovation. Agreeable people like to work in places where everyone gets along, rather than places that are competitive, or where people are openly challenged. They prefer the status quo to rocking the boat with new or controversial ideas.

Ultimately we do need to create safe team climates, but ones in which dissenting opinions are used effectively to create radical change.

  • We need to regularly seek out views that are different to our own – and create conditions where people are comfortable expressing dissenter views.
  • We need to debate more and be a lot less sure we are right. There are very few absolutes in the world today.
  • Every organisation needs a truly safe space where beliefs can be challenged and assumptions put to the test.
  • Remember that dissenting for the sake of dissenting is not useful or clever. Don’t be a dick.
  • However, authentic and sincere dissent stimulates thought and improves the quality of ideas.

Diversity is important,  but we need to embrace a diversity of perspectives too.  It’s easy to say that but not so easy to do.

It means challenging yourself on where you spend your time, and who with. Listening to voices you’d probably prefer not to hear.

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.

Stepping Behind The Rhetoric of Digital Transformation

Fundamentally the challenge for current leaders and public sector organisations is the legacy thinking and a business model which is rooted in serving a de facto purpose which is disconnected from the people and places the organisation or leaders serve – Carl Haggerty

 

Yesterday I chaired an event where the CEO of HACT , Matt Leach, gave us a wicked provocation.

Talk of a digital transformation in housing (he could also have been talking about care, health etc) is rubbish.

It hasn’t happened.

All the talk , all the conferences , all the clubs , the tweets,  all the lists of digital leaders – it’s all rhetoric.

Nothing has changed.

We are delivering the same services as we did in 1965. Just with shiny websites and customer portals.  

It’s a point that Carl Haggerty also refers to in his must read post. Too many people are claiming that there is digital transformation happening – when really it is just automating legacy processes.

It’s improvement for sure. Less time for customers , less money for providers – but it’s not ‘transformation’, a word possibly even more abused than innovation.

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Here’s what transformation could be:

  • Rebuilding your organisation as platform – enabling people to select the suppliers and services they themselves want – rather than the ones that made it through your procurement framework.
  • Rewiring your organisation for the network era – stripping out hierarchy and management and making the,  often painful, transition to decentralised decision making.
  • Automating everything that can be automated. But not before stripping out legacy protocols and systems.  Decommissioning old world services as you launch new ones, reserving your people for worthwhile jobs that add value to their lives and those of others.

Transformation is not about the illusion of radical change (better, faster services , less crap than they used to be) but rather a fundamental rethink of why you exist – and a reshaping of the ways you deliver upon it.

That said, a few events I’ve been to over the past week have reminded me that many of us are a long way from this.

For a lot of people closer to the frontline some minor changes could be truly transformative.

Over the past days I’ve heard the , sometimes sad,  reality of people trying to change things whilst their organisation seems to fight against it.

  • Of organisations where social media is still banned, or at least actively discouraged
  • Of organisations where IT departments tell people resources like Yammer and Slack cost £35,000
  • Of people stuck using digital tools that were last updated when Gordon Brown was in Number 10.

(As an aside I was told great stories of young people entering the workplace not knowing what Outlook is. Not even realising that Microsoft made anything other than Xbox!)

For all the talk of transformation we are in an era of digital haves and have nots. And Matt rightly questioned how seriously this agenda is taken strategically.

  • How many social sector organisations have true digital leaders on their boards?
  • How many Chief Information Officers (or their equivalent) are part of the executive function?

At the end of the conference I collected up some of the evaluation sheets.

The first one had scored my slot , presented in the slides above, 5 out of 10.

My talk of robots, 3D printing and self management was a world away from what they needed. They just wanted tips on how they could convince their organisation that social media had a business benefit.

Transformation, like innovation, is all relative. We need to support whatever makes a difference to people. 

2015: The year we put the social back into housing 

Social-Business-Textbook

You can have super star status online without any official status offline; you can be a powerful chief executive offline with very little impact online – Victoria Betton 

Just over two years ago I pronounced rather grandly that 2012 was the year we went social. The year the UK housing sector embraced new technologies embarking on a journey of redefinition for the era of digital transformation.

Looking back at that now it seems very naive. 

In reality only a fraction of the sector is genuinely experimenting with new forms of digital engagement. 

I haven’t the time or inclination to count how many housing CEOs maintain an active social media presence . But I’m taking a considered guesstimate it’s around 15%. 

By way of example just five of the high profile G15 Group of CEOs have a presence on Twitter and only three in a way that’s meaningful. 

But it’s not just leaders , The staple roles of the sector , housing officer , maintenance engineer , support worker are – by and large – missing in action and failing to embrace golden opportunities to connect with communities. 

Board members are pretty much invisible although there are some very notable exceptions. 

Organisations that livestream or share from board meetings?  CEOs doing Facebook chats or hangouts? You could count them on one hand – even if you’d had an unfortunate accident with a meat cleaver.

 Additionally most organisations still have the dial firmly set to Promote rather than Converse.

Do a check on any housing brand account. Check how many of their last 10 posts directly link back to their own website. There’s a prize if you can name ten that don’t reference themselves 90% of the time. 

Here’s a shot of realism: UK housing is about 10-15% operational on social media. At best. 

This speaks to me of a lack of curiosity. An insularity that has haunted the sector for the entire time I’ve been part of it. It’s not a good look. 

People often talk to me about the battles fought in their organisations to get digital adopted. It’s all too often a sad story of risk averse leaders , hierarchical control and command, power mad comms teams and rabid IT and governance departments.

Of course this isn’t true everywhere: some are setting an astonishing pace. 

Power Players 14 and Connected Housing showed there are a raft of organisations and people who are sharing ideas, connecting with others and reaching beyond sector boundaries. We could have filled the Power Players list four times over last year.

There’s also a growing movement of CEO front runners – although it’s notably stronger in northern England and Wales than elsewhere. 

This lack of leadership presence is especially puzzling given housing has an obsession about getting its message heard. (The laudable if slightly self-serving “build more homes”). 

And therein lies the problem: anyone that focuses solely on getting their message heard is guilty of the most heinous of social crimes: broadcasting. 

My big wish for 2015? That organisations and a whole sector could wake up to that fact that endlessly broadcasting your “message” just isn’t going to work. 

This is a world built on relationships and connections. It involves you listening to others, generously sharing and doing more than just following everyone else in your sector. 

I hope to be writing a different post in 12 months time.

  • I hope to write of the social leaders who are openly challenging mediocre services and championing innovation and risk.
  • I hope to see organisations using social to reconnect with communities and embracing the emerging online tenant voice. 
  • I want to see organisations experimenting with new networks and technology in inventive ways. Having a Twitter account is a minimum requirement now not a badge of honour.
  • I’d love to see more recognition of the talents of individuals and communities rather than the well intentioned but paternalistic focus on rescuing people from the latest reforms. 

Most of all I want social housing to be more social.

It’s a new year and a new start – where we can put bad habits to bed. Latecomers can join the party and we’ll welcome them with open arms.

Let’s make 2015 our Zero Year. 

We can do amazing things when we’re better connected. 

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.

Twitter

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

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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.

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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.

 

The Unexpected Benefits Of Becoming A Social Organisation

It’s little over two years since Bromford lifted any restrictions on social media and offered complete freedom to every single colleague. Our world didn’t end. In fact it got better.

It’s almost impossible to remember what life was like before the wall came down.

Hundreds of Bromford people have online profiles and blogs. Virtually all are members of our internal Yammer.

Truth be told we didn’t really know what we were unleashing. We didn’t know how it would change us or the organisation.

Perhaps that’s how it should be.

The social web is organic, messy and uncontrollable. And that’s why it’s so much fun – it’s relentlessly unpredictable.

One of the problems of making a business case about use of social media is that you genuinely can’t anticipate what the results will be.

Things get democratised , decisions get made in public , people form their own communication channels and networks.

Scary. Exciting. And Unexpected.

Here’s my pick – 5 things we could never have predicted:

Your Brand Can Go Global

If you let your people run loose on social media , guess what happens? They become brand ambassadors. It’s natural – most people are proud of what they do for a living and they like to talk about it.

On the social web this has a unique power as you move beyond broadcasting the latest company press release. Your community is now engaging with you through the emotional bond they have with your people.

And your brand moves way beyond its usual stomping ground. I’ve seen Bromford content posted on sites in South Africa, Indonesia and Mexico.  All the way from Wolverhampton.

Second Screening Becomes The New Water Cooler

When you bring the social walls down – you obliterate the way company news is distributed. It no longer exists within 9-5 boundaries and doesn’t face the geographic limitations of an office.

A great deal of our daily communications are done in the evening, or at weekends , as colleagues chat with each other from tablets or mobiles whilst watching TV. The second screen provides a link to each other in ways the physical workplace cannot. This is incredibly inclusive – particularly for colleagues who spend a good deal of their day out and about talking to customers.

Recently I found out about a colleague getting a promotion from one of my Twitter followers who has nothing to do with Bromford. The division between internal and external communications is blurring. How weird and wonderful is that?

Social is the New Internal Interview

In the social workplace you find out peoples passions and skills outside of formal settings.  What music they like , what films they love. Their ambitions for the future. Leaders have the opportunity to get to know people like never before.

And it’s a way of spotting talent.

I’ve currently got a colleague working on a project for me. I didn’t need to interview them. I knew from reading their blog they were the right person.

Work Has No Boring Bits

In the social organisation if a meeting is boring you can just go online.

OK, I exaggerate for effect. But the digital leader knows they must be engaging to an increasingly distracted audience. Death by PowerPoint just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Meetings have morphed into far more interactive, co-owned forums that make use of presentation styles like PechaKucha , Haiku Deck and Prezi to engage and collaborate with colleagues.

People share what’s happening in their meetings in real time on Yammer.

The agenda just got crowdsourced.

You Start Talking Like Normal People

Social transforms the organisational tone of voice.

Our workplace language has been developed through years of formality – the daily grind of reports and emails. And without us knowing it we passed our jargon on to our customers.

But if you start talking like that in the social space – you look a bit odd. Real people don’t talk about Stakeholders and Efficiencies.

So you start talking just like you do in real life. Because social is real life. And your customers will love you for it.

These are my unexpected benefits – I’m sure there are loads more and I’d love to hear other people’s experience.

[This post originally appeared on the excellent Comms2Point0 site. Make you visit it or follow them here]

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!

How Social Are Your Organisational Values?

Be Different

One of the most repeated laws of the social web is that people trust word of mouth recommendation via personal networks more than they do advertising or PR.

With that in mind , it’s odd that more organisations don’t harness one of the most powerful resources at their disposal-the people they employ.

If ,for example, you look across the UK public sector – there are only a handful of organisations who have a significant employee social media presence. This seems counterintuitive –  as the average employee is regarded as a more trustable brand advocate than the Chief Executive. (Source: Edelman Trust Barometer 2013)

One of the reasons we don’t see more employee social presence is that it doesn’t happen by accident. Organisations that are on the journey to being a social business have cultures that have been developed over time. Cultures that are reinforced every day , not just by the leadership , but with active collaboration from people at every tier of the business.

These are organisations where employees identify with and believe in the company values and are only too keen to promote them.

And some of the organisations who are doing the most exciting things on the social web have company values that actively encourage people to behave differently.

Let’s face it – most Mission Statements and Company Values are a complete waste of time. They exist as tacked up bits of paper on a wall rather than something that sits in the hearts and minds of people.

So I want to look at three organisations from very different industries who are doing things differently:

Zappos

Zappos1

Zappos , the online shoe and clothing store, are known for their unique culture and values. Their CEO Tony Hsieh has said his company’s number one priority is the company culture. “Our whole belief is that if we get the culture right, then most of the other stuff, like delivering great customer service or building a long-term enduring brand or business, will just be a natural by-product of that.”

Here are the Zappos core values that are designed to be different:

Deliver WOW Through Service 

Embrace and Drive Change 

Create Fun and A Little Weirdness 

 Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded 

 Pursue Growth and Learning 

 Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication 

Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit 

Do More With Less 

Be Passionate and Determined 

Be Humble

With the call to “create fun and a little weirdness”, Zappos are making it OK to have a unique social presence.

Buffer

Buffer

I love the service and the culture of Buffer, a service that helps you share to social networks.  You can feel the genuine enthusiasm for the organisation from the people who work there and what they tweet and blog about.

The Buffer team has jointly decided which words define the culture and put together this list of the 9 Buffer Values , a continual work in progress:

Always Choose Positivity and Happiness

Default to Transparency

Have a Focus on Self Improvement

Be a “no-ego” Doer

Listen First, Then Listen More

Have a Bias Towards Clarity

Make Time to Reflect

Live Smarter, Not Harder

Show Gratitude

Having dealt with Buffer on a number of occasions I can say their values are displayed both in 1:1 dealings and in their online social presence: Listen First , Then Listen More.

Bromford

be-bgdc

(Disclosure:  I work for Bromford and my handprint is on these values – but I think it’s worth sharing the story!)

Imagine screwing up your mission statement , vision and values and handing it over to internal colleagues to start all over again and pitch it direct to the CEO. That’s what Bromford did and it’s how they came up with their Bromford DNA.

Mainly developed in an intensive 90 minute session and presented to the Board without so much as a report being written – the Bromford approach sets outs an expectation that colleague and company behaviour should follow the Four B’s.

So to Be Bromford you should:

Be Different

Be Brave

Be Commercial

Be Good

The aim was to have something simple that colleagues could remember but also be something they could live by.

I think this post by my colleague Andy Johnson gives some of the best examples of how these values are being brought alive and built upon by colleagues. It’s a hashtag ready set of company values.

Although there is never going to be a “best way” to lead a social organisation – the key differentiator will be the way their service is delivered through people.

We should aim for values that set people free to be unique and memorable – during the 9-5 and beyond.

I’d love to hear other examples of great values you have seen or are developing.

Social Media Training: Don’t Mention #Socialmedia

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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.

#MyStory
#MyStory

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.

socialmedia247

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

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

recruiting-via-social-network

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:

IMG_0467

But isn’t modern recruitment more akin to this?

IMG_0468

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?

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…..

How Your Social Media Policy Could Kill Your Culture

computer-ban-360 (1)

I love Social Media. But really, it’s not that important.

Not compared to some things.

I’ve begun to see a few posts suggesting that companies need to take more control over their employees social media output. That word – ‘control’ – has actually been used on more than one occasion.

An unwelcome trend.

It’s obvious to see why this is happening. Last year saw some big organisations fall victim to social media “blunders”. Although personally I prefer thinking of them as “lessons”.

And we’ve just had one of the most high profile UK cases to date – the redundancy tweets at HMV. That event has been blogged to death and I don’t want to add to it. I’d rather concentrate on what I think are some of the incorrect conclusions that have been drawn from it , and cases like it.

If you somehow missed the incident you can have a read about it here , or you can read my 140 character summary below:

"Company goes bust. Calls 60 staff into sacking. Staff tweet live from corporate account about what a bunch of idiots the managers are."
“Company goes bust. Calls 60 staff into sacking. Staff tweet live from corporate account about what a bunch of idiots the managers are.”

In the weeks that followed there have been a number of suggestions , often from Social Media and PR experts, about how we could avoid these kind of incidents in the future.

Some of the suggestions have included:

  • Only permitting “Junior” employees permission to draft social media messages, and making them go through an approval queuefor senior management to sign off before they are published
  • Banning all your employees from using social media at work and asking them to hand over their phones as they enter the premises

I couldn’t agree more.

Most employees are borderline psychotic. Little time-bombs preparing to explode at the slightest incident. In fact, rarely a day goes by in my team without one of them tweeting “@paulbromford – what a tosser” – just because I don’t make many cups of tea.

Seriously – is this what we have come to?

I think we are learning the wrong things. Here’s what I think we can take away from such incidents:

1 – Treat your employees well at all times.

2 – Don’t employ managers who are rubbish.

3 – Educate employees about the magnificent positives of social media but also the negatives. Support them and learn together.

This has nothing to do with social media and everything to do with leadership and culture.

Culture is what allows my own organisation to have such an open approach to social media. Everyone has access. Anyone can tweet or blog. My Opportunity4Employment Assistant – Chai Podins was set up with social media accounts on his first day at work. He would qualify as a “junior” if we used such archaic terms. Which we don’t.

A risky approach to social media? Maybe. But all use of social media has risks.

It does make sense that corporate accounts are protected. There should be plans in place for when errors are made or there is a hacking. Both of which are far more likely to happen than a colleague going into meltdown.

But if you write a Social Media Policy and it effectively says:

  • There is a hierarchy for message approval.
  • That you start with a belief that colleagues are going to “go rogue”
  • That you don’t trust the people you employ with 140 characters of text.

It will kill your culture. And that will take you years and years to rebuild.

So if you or your company are risk averse , and you don’t trust your people with social media, my advice is simple:

Don’t use it. It’s not worth it.

Does Social Housing Need To Find A Richard Branson?

A defining career moment - Support act (No.19!) to Sir Richard Branson...
A defining career moment – Support act (No.19 on the bill!) to Sir Richard Branson…

Screen Shot 2013-02-11 at 11.20.44 It’s May 2008 , and Helena Moore and I have just left the stage at the European Customer Management World Conference. We had just presented to an audience that included John Lewis , Microsoft and some young startup outfit called Facebook. People who we would now recognise as experts in marketing their product and selling their vision.

For most attending it was their first experience of Social Housing.  Our slot was about creating a service culture in a sector not known for sexiness or imagination. We used images of Shameless and Jeremy Kyle. We knew what our audience were thinking and we wanted to debunk the myths and talk about things we were proud of – the extraordinary achievements of our customers and colleagues. These are some of the comments we received:

  • “Loved it! We expected this to be the most boring slot of the day!”
  • “I really thought it would all be about people on benefits and anti-social behaviour – instead it was inspirational”
  • “I thought of council housing and the public sector as old fashioned –  not very commercial “
  • “We were dreading your slot. But I get what you are trying to do – it’s all about helping people be better – right?”

And , for your amusement , two priceless (100% genuine) comments about Helena and I :

  • “It’s good that you two didn’t wear suits – you stood out by being a bit scruffy…”
  • “We love that you guys at Bromford don’t seem to plan anything and are a bit , you know , rough”

Two years to the day after this presentation the Coalition was formed, Gordon Brown packed his bags, and the Labour Party left Government. I don’t believe the incidents were related –  my point is this – we need to forget the talk about a Government demonising social housing. We had an image problem under the last Government and we have an image problem under this one.

We have never been popular. Never been sexy. And in a world where we are all marketeers – it’s time we stopped blaming other people and started dealing with it.

whats_your_story The stories behind Bedroom Tax and Welfare Reform have tipped in the last few weeks. They have gone mainstream. Primetime TV and Tabloid coverage. Clearly we are doing something right.

About 9 months ago I did an experiment about the stories we produce within the sector. It revealed that only 8% of online content was about the people living in our homes and our communities. The rest was about us. And – as I’m sure you know – it’s not about us. 

My latest check has revealed a huge improvement. 25% of social housing output now concerns the lives of residents.  We have embraced social tools to share compelling video with a strong social narrative. We’ve done well at highlighting an issue that matters and pushing it into the public consciousness. But there is still room for improvement.

In the last two weeks a huge 40% of stories generated were about how landlords themselves are going to struggle as a result of reforms. Actual customers were briefly mentioned in passing.

The remaining 35% of output was largely introspective examinations about ( the lack of ) housing finance and development opportunity. If looked at from outside the sector could this be viewed as navel-gazing? A sector that is incapable of innovation and is now feeling sorry for itself?

Back in 2008 Sir Richard Branson headlined the conference. Quiet, unassuming and a little bit nervous – he opened his slot with four minutes of video showing every success and every failure he had been involved in. And then he talked about how he had fought off Government interference and bureaucracy , breaking into new markets by proving the unique value of what his brand could offer customers. The way he told the story of Virgin adding value to the world was electrifying.

You left the room thinking that without them the planet would be a very grey place indeed.

I wonder how Virgin, John Lewis , Facebook and Microsoft would cope with being unpopular , undervalued and underfunded?

I wonder how they would tell their story?

Maybe we should ask them.

NB: ( Statistics used come from 2 weeks monitoring of Google alerts using the search terms – Housing Association , Social Housing , Welfare Reform , Bedroom Tax)

Do You Love Your Customers Enough To Follow Them Back?

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“We are a live, work, play company. When we first started using Twitter, it was a way we could stay connected while also helping our customers if they needed it.”

This quote comes in an article I shared about Zappos , the online shoe and clothing store. It says a lot to me about customer engagement. Here is an organisation recognising that social media presents an opportunity to stay connected. To engage with others. And to help customers.

This contrasts sharply with many companies who see the opportunity of the social stream to promote themselves, sell product or broadcast.

I’m sure no-one would admit that, but the behaviour often indicates otherwise.

Unlike Zappos, who don’t just talk it – they walk it.

A couple of hours after I shared the article – the following happened.

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Zappos favourited my tweet.

I was engaged and appreciated.

And finally I was followed.

Zappos don’t ship internationally. They have nothing to gain from me. But Zappos isn’t present just to sell. They are there to engage. In fact they have over 1,200 conversations each month with their customers. And they love them enough to follow them back.

Now, I don’t for one minute think that your follower/ following ratio is a complete measure of how engaged you are. For our personal Twitter accounts we all have our own “follow back” rules , and many people don’t like to follow lots of people. I get that.

But there is a difference between not following a complete stranger and choosing not to follow a customer. Or a potential customer. If you really wanted to engage, you’d surely want to hear what they had to say?

Zappos following a customer back says a lot about their culture. And a lot about how they achieved such rapid commercial growth.

They’re making an overt statement to customers – “we are no more important than you are”

I was discussing this issue with Shirley Ayres (a fount of knowledge on digital engagement).  We talked about whether an organisation could be considered truly engaged if it didn’t follow back. Shirley highlighted an organisation that followed back just 1% of its followers. (I’m not naming them here as this blog is not written with the intention to judge anyone.)

But it’s a great question.

What does your online behaviour say about your customer engagement?

A check on the twitter account of @monmouthshirecc (possibly the Council with the most “truly social” attitude) reveals they follow even more people than they have as followers. And they have a LOT of followers.

Zappos follows back over 90% of their audience and engages them in conversation about pretty much anything.

So , imagine you are a customer of a company or local authority and you follow them and they DON’T follow you back. They never acknowledge you.

Now , imagine you are a customer of Zappos or Monmouthshire.

Who do you think would feel the most engaged?

The New Transparency

What does having an open social media policy say about a company?

For me , it says nothing about social media and everything about trust.

Trust in your people – you believe that they come to work to do good things , not wreck your reputation.

Trust in yourself – you are an open business and don’t have things to hide. You are ethical and you do good things.

I’ve been involved in a couple of discussions recently about the value of employer presence on social media. It emerged as number of businesses are considering scaling down their social media presence amid fears of risk and bad PR.

In those conversations we talked about a “new transparency” – something far more meaningful than whether you publish every item of expenditure over £500.

A transparency that says we are confident , even when facing criticism, in our people and our culture. We encourage each other to post and blog and talk about the work we are doing.

It’s a transparency that says , if you believe in our values then why not be our next customer or next recruitment?

More and more people are making career choices based upon the social credentials of an organisation. And more and more are seeing access to social media as a right not a benefit.

Far from being just another fad, your social media policy and the way you use it might well be your most valuable USP.

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