My Five Most Popular Posts of 2014

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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! 

Lessons in Digital Leadership (from South Korea and Uganda)

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In case you missed it: the South Korean President , Park Geun-hye , issued a press release last week that sent reverberations around the globe.

Her Klout score had gone up.

Yes , the leader of one of the most digitally connected nations on the planet , saw fit to announce that her score had risen from 65 to 82 – reflecting the “effective and positive” role of Government in efforts to connect with the public. 

Surely a leader making a fuss about their social influence scores and the rise in number of Twitter followers and Facebook fans should be concentrating on more important things?

I’m not so sure. I think engagement through social media IS important for the modern leader. As is an understanding of online influence.

She seems like fun too. I can’t understand her tweets but certainly the images accompanying her feed look more interesting than those of David Cameron. Check this out:

David Cameron - Crime and Meetings
David Cameron – Statistics and Meetings
Park Geun-hye - Toys and Funny Dog pictures
Park Geun-hye – Toy Cats and Funny Dogs

And it’s not just South Korea where you get sociable leaders. Last week I was having a twitter chat when who should wander into the conversation but Ugandan Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi. He popped in to thank me for my comments about his active twitter presence. Screen Shot 2013-08-07 at 13.51.18

Just reflect on that statistic for one minute. 96% of his tweets are replies to the public. That is an incredible level of responsiveness and engagement that puts not just elected representatives to shame but also many organisations and brands.

So what’s the point of this post?

Well , the other day I was talking with a friend and we both realised we weren’t sure of the names of our local Councillors. We both follow quite a few highly sociable Councillors from all over the UK – but when it came to where we actually live we didn’t have a clue. Our fault or theirs?

We did a check on the online presence of a sample. We googled and checked up on 46 people and these were the results:

  • 6 had Twitter accounts (13%)
  • 2 had Facebook profiles (3%)
  • 1 was on LinkedIn
  • 2 had blogs – but hadn’t yet posted anything on them.

Catherine Howe has written about how the digital and networked society will need more digital and networked councillors. In a great piece she argues “transforming local democracy is going to take more than simply getting politicians to use Twitter.” I agree completely.

Really this isn’t about social media. It’s not even about the lack of political engagement. It’s about what appears to be a digital fault line between local leaders and the communities they represent. 

Community leaders have to embrace this new way of participation – placing themselves at the heart of networks and reaching out to collaborate and even co-produce new services.

Online presence is just the start – a minimum requirement. Establishing a relationship that values more than consultation and the occasional vote is the true challenge.

It’s time for the UK to up its game.

Adapt or Die: 3 Challenges To Going Digital

Yesterday was a significant day. The sector in which I work put on a huge show of newly found digital awareness. My Twitter timeline nearly melted.

As Shirley Ayres correctly observed:

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This , just one year after the 2012 Northern Housing Consortium Social Media event – which was the first mainstream housing conference to promote digital.

So , with such success behind us, why am I still talking about business needing to change?

Because we can never stand still. Brian Solis describes our present as a “time when technology and society are evolving faster than the ability of many organisations to adapt.”

Despite the huge strides we have made over the past year – our pace of change is still not fast enough.

Let us use Google as an example.

Earlier in the year I was travelling abroad – which involved needing to arrange transport via ferry between a couple of islands. As I was sitting on the beach I got my new camera out. And it’s a Smart camera.

It has Google Now on it, an intelligent personal assistant for the Android operating system.

And the home screen , which I’ve never used before, is all about me. It tells me the time back in the UK. The best places to visit locally. The exchange rate. It tells me the next fixture of the football team I support. And , most significantly, it tells me the timetable of the ferry I need to catch. Even though I never searched for it.

Never used before. But it’s predicting my behaviour and offering me a solution to my problem.

Housing Associations, the Police, Social Care providers and the NHS – to name just a few – hold incredible amounts of data about people. Imagine if they used it like Google Now to solve peoples problems?

These are 3 immediate challenges I think we have to face up to in order that our organisations become “digitally social” :

1: Leadership and Skills

We still have some managers in positions of influence who don’t acknowledge digital as important. I still hear daily examples of organisations who block access to social media or don’t believe in making sure their employees have the necessary tools to do the job.

With the current pace of technological change this is about the single most destructive position you can take as a leader. Not promoting a digital work-style for your employees is to severely curtail their personal development and to put your organisation at risk of extinction.

I love the quote that Vala Afshar used to explain why his companies latest position is to be offered exclusively by social media “(We are) a social company looking to hire candidates that are customer focused and passionately engaged. (We are) looking for builders – relationship builders.”

If your company isn’t looking for those. Why not?

2: Innovation and Collaboration

The role for many public service organisations is to actively mainstream the innovation that is already out there. There are loads of innovators and entrepreneurs who just need a route to market. Some of them may already be employed by you.

This requires mind shift on behalf of organisations who think inside out. The best stuff could be going on outside your organisation not inside it – we need to get out and grab it. This has significant implications for the way Information Technology is supported and developed. IT has done a very good job for years of keeping people from accessing data – it now needs to let people in.

For housing this means delivering services around the person. Tyze is a great example of an innovative person centred community network that links neighbours, friends and professionals.

We haven’t cracked digital just because we have a Facebook page.

3: A new Customer Relationship

The biggest challenge I think we face is to reimagine the relationship with the public in the context of digital and social technology. It isn’t about just moving our services from offline to online. It’s about using the digital platform to think how the relationship could be enhanced. Thinking customers are going to flock online to pay their rent and view repairs is starting from the completely wrong position.

That’s why at Bromford – we are focussing on a completely new deal for customers, supported by digital innovations from a specialist team, partner developers and innovators.

We need to add value. Solve problems for customers – not ourselves.

Look at Google. They are trying to solve everything.

We could too.

[The content of this post was originally presented at the Chartered Institute Of Housing South East Conference 7th March 2013]

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

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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 (More) Social Media Mistakes To Avoid

Mistakes

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.