Life as we know it: the big deal about change

Every new generation in the past 50 years has been called, or has claimed, to be fundamentally different from the oldies. This tends to cause a bit of friction with parents (unless they’ve given up ‘parenting’ at an earlier stage) but notably not so much with grandparents because, and I’m guessing here, they’ve seen it all before in their own children.

The big deal about change

Change is the only permanent force in our lives. So what? Change is a constant, and yet we will draw people’s attention to it again and again saying: “look, this is different!” or “I’m unique!” The millenial generation is no different in its uniqueness ūüėČ

One example of what is different for today’s students is, by the time they graduate, they’re all over Facebook already. If you’ve spent years on Facebook it seems a bit of a waste to start from scratch on LinkedIn.

Some months ago, Brian Solis interviewed the Co-founder/CEO of a platform called Identified.com. Viewing the information on the Identified blog I recognized a lot of stuff from my own career path (involving change). Perhaps you recognize any of the following?

Learn to change: learning curve ahead

Warning: Learning Curve Ahead

  1. Study, no job.
  2. Another study.
  3. Job doesn’t match expectations or strong points.
  4. Switch to different kind of job.
  5. Part-time study and job.
  6. New job, research or internship required by study.
  7. Keep job, build resume and ‘rest’ after graduating.
  8. New job, tasks shift.

It was about time someone figured out that people might like to re-use parts of their ‘personal’ network in their new career, and that they might find the contacts in their mailbox less useful than their contacts on social media ūüėČ

What happens if I do this?

Young people living their lives¬†‘inside’ social media¬†is just an example of what has changed – but the underlying issue of ending up in a place that doesn’t match your talents or ambitions (interests) is not exactly new. In fact, part of ‘growing up’¬†has been¬†finding out more about yourself by trying stuff out.

Marketing trend or change?

Marketers’ strong point is spotting trends and giving them ‘big’ names. The actual change taking place may be less exciting (too slow or insignificant). One¬†marketing¬†action¬†is giving generations different names and trying to find out what matters most to each generation in order to sell them more stuff.

Sometimes¬†marketing seems¬†a bit like calling your two-month-old kid “Godzilla” because he/she’s got a big voice. It doesn’t make¬†your kid¬†bigger but it sure sounds awesome. I checked Twitter recently, which never fails if you’re looking for Godzilla marketing trends. Here’s¬†a couple of ‘trends’¬†I found (Godzilla doesn’t hide):

  • “going real time to right time”¬†Rachel Happe Tweets #defragcon
  • “moving from transactions to engagement” @alanlepo
  • “After B2B and B2C the future is P2P” (can this get any worse?? I hope I made this one up…)*

My main conclusion is that there’s only one underlying change: companies are getting more interested in customers and trying the personal “customer-centric” approach.

Why?

  1. Because they can. They have the tools: social media.
  2. Because they’re afraid to miss out. Their competitors are doing it too.
  3. Because we, their customers are changing – we’re getting used to relevant content, and to replies within a day or so (preferably faster).

Change is the only permanent force in our lives. Treating every day as being identical to the last just because it looks identical on the surface is downright dangerous. One day there will be a stalled car just behind that bend in the road.

The big deal about change is that it is life as we know it.

* B2B Business to Business, B2C Business to Consumer, P2P Person to Person… they didn’t manage to squeeze F2F in – maybe I¬†ought to¬†thank Twitter for their 140-character limit ūüôā

That’s it for this post. If you want to add your insights please add them in a comment. I’ll respond to any non-spammy comment about ‘the big deal about change’ or my writing skills ūüėČ

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Social business: what we need is a plan

If you’re interested in ‘going social’ you need to know why your company should do so. Do you have an answer ready?

Good ūüôā

In this post I will ask a few (impertinent) questions and hope they help you decide what to do about ‘social’. In other words, my aim is to make you think. All right, now I’m in trouble ūüėČ

Social business: what we need is a plan

Chocolate inside and out
Social business mixes social media in – inside and out.

While reading some recent articles I noticed that several¬†of them¬†mention the ‘checklist approach’ to social media (I’m borrowing the¬†word from¬†Steven van Belleghem).

It’s a tactical approach: are you on Twitter? Check. Facebook? Check. So you’re ready. Right?

When you ask¬†businesses ‘why’ they are on social media, chances are they’ll tell you something¬†like “the whole world is there, so our customers¬†are somewhere in there with the rest of the world”.

I’m not arguing. But that’s just¬†one step on a long journey.

How does your content strategy connect with your social media strategy?

Yup, this non-strategist is talking strategy for once Рbut only to ask you more questions.

How will you connect with (not just ‘reach’)¬†people on social media – or even on your own blog or web site?

Does every piece of content you create¬†help your customers in¬†some (small) way? When you read an article it really helps if it’s well-written and either amusing, or interesting, or both. Add a comment below if you disagree with me ūüôā

You need people within your company to want to achieve this connection with customers. What value you aim to¬†offer to customers should be clear to all. It shouldn’t be up to each individual employee (or team) to imagine where the link¬†between¬†the ‘top blah’ (vision, mission statement) and¬†your company’s customers might be found.

How will becoming a social business help you help your customers?

An article by Adi Gaskell refers to a recent report by IBM stating that three main approaches have proved successful as starting points for the journey to social business heights:*

  • Creating valued customer experiences
  • Driving workforce productivity and effectiveness
  • Accelerating innovation.

Whichever starting point you choose, you need to integrate ‘social’ into the entire process. It’s not something a few isolated employees can do for you. It takes a plan that involves everyone at some stage, in order to achieve anything above the bare minimum.

In other words, if you want to become a ‘social business’, social media is not the cherry on¬†your chocolate cake. It’s not just the chocolate that glistens on the outside and makes you want to eat until you burst. It’s firstly the cocoa you mixed into the dough. And it’s the chocolate icing. And, possibly, it’s also the cherry – although that’s optional. You get my drift ūüôā

Social media creates valued customer experiences

Funnily enough, I wrote most of the above before reading a post which to me seems the perfect inspirational example when it comes to customer experiences (even if you feel there’s no way you’ll ever measure up to this stuff).** Read it, enjoy it, ask yourself what is in there that you could use in some way. How will your use of social media make a difference to your customers?

A few thoughts about social business Рand why you need a plan for it

  1. You can’t add social media to an existing business as an afterthought and expect to become a social business.
  2. You need a plan so you don’t get distracted by the latest hype all the time.
  3. Without a plan, you could end up out of breath by going nowhere at all.

Social media¬†has been called ‘disruptive’. I take that to mean it creates a healthy imbalance in places where everything used to stay more or less the same. You need to think about business basics, and see how social media fit into your business.

You need a plan to let social media influence your entire mix of activities in a structured way.

Social business is not a thing –¬†it’s an emergent property of the way¬†you handle the potential of social media.

References

* Adi Gaskell, IBM reveals the secrets to social business success, Business2Community, November 10. Adi refers to this report by IBM, The business of social business: what works and how it’s done.

** Matt Wilson, 3 essentials that power Disney Parks’ social media strategy. PR Daily, November 12.

Hoping I’ve managed to make you think, even for a moment, about the essence of social business – if so, please let me know by using the comment box below!

Social business people: a grass-roots movement

In the past few years social media have become so commonplace you could say they’re boring if¬†we didn’t find something of value in them:¬†our networks.¬†Our access to heaps of information and more friends, acquaintances and complete strangers¬†on another continent than we ever had contact with before has had, and will continue to have, a profound effect on the way¬†we view¬†our lives and¬†our jobs.*

A grassroots movement

This new perception is trickling into the fabric of every organization – through us – through all the individuals who show up for work every day. We’re oozing global networks from every pore. One side-effect may be that employees who’re not allowed to be on social media check their Facebook updates when they visit the bathroom, and get notably upset if they drop their smartphone into the toilet.

You don’t want that sort of thing. It’s bad for productivity, and it doesn’t smell pleasant either. By now,¬†most businesses have a social media policy. The level of strictness varies widely.

How do people turn into social business people?

Social Business People
Social (Business) People [OCAL image]

Our present-day collective experiences don’t translate directly into employees being ambassadors for their own company. Not even the ones who are actually proud of working for or with you.

It didn’t work that way offline, and it doesn’t do so online.

So how can you help people adjust to a social business role that comes more or less naturally to them?

How to make¬†social¬†media¬†‘work’ for¬†you

This may either sound completely silly, or so obvious you can’t believe I’m bothering to say it. I’ll risk it anyway. Have you considered:

  • taking inventory to see what types of people work for your organization;
  • thinking up ways to ‘market’ the uses of social media for business to each group? How would you approach someone from accounting, or in HR?

I’m talking classical market research and segmentation here.¬†My next paragraph is for you if you lack time, resources, knowledge,¬†or interest¬†to get involved in¬†‘real’ market research.

Your people in the picture: cutting a few corners

Sit down with a few colleagues. List all your teams or departments. Then jot down every conceivable prejudice you could have about¬†each team.¬†I’ll¬†help you get started with¬†two unresearched examples ūüôā

Accounting:

  1. maniacs for details. Never challenge them on details, unless you value emails longer than this post ūüėČ
  2. cautious types: will always come up with rules we might be breaking. Share half a profile on social media – if they’re there.
  3. allergic to marketing talk which seems all promise and no accountability, unless they actually know responsible-sounding marketing people (what are the odds?)

Human Resources:

  1. will talk all day just for the sake of communicating.
  2. tech dummies. If a printer breaks down in HR the mechanic will find half a dozen people discussing how they have no idea what to do about it.
  3. allergic to technical explanations.

Don’t forget your own team, if only for the fun of it – or to avoid being unfair to others. Establish a rule of no rules and you should have an amusing¬†and productive session ūüėČ

Next up would be to find out what’s true of all the stuff you’ve collected, or you skip that step and work out an approach for every group. What characteristics and natural affinities¬†in each group can you use? What issues do you need to address?**

Use your¬†people’s strengths

Anyone who wants to turn a company into a social business by influencing the employees should assess people’s strengths and ambitions¬†and build on those:

  • Support¬†people who want to help others by making room for peer2peer support;
  • Train¬†people who want to represent your company to guide online conversations.
  • Help people with a passion for reading and writing find subjects to write about, and train their writing skills.***

I’d like to conclude with a¬†few¬†tips for conversations in an advisory role:

  1. Make sure you know what you want from the conversation: are you checking your assumptions (or prejudices), or finding out what skills and ambitions people have that you could use in a future ‘social business’?
  2. Clarify what you want to achieve by asking questions, and why. Especially if you’re in a company that has prohibited social media use in the past,¬†you¬†had better¬†come¬†up with¬†a good and honest reason.
  3. Practice serious listening.
  4. Don’t offer to fix anything – this¬†tip is aimed at tool-selling specimens ūüôā

Good luck, and let me know what else you’d like me to talk about!

Further reading:

* In case you missed the introduction to my ‘social business’ writing project, here’s my post from last Friday.

** There is any number of books about personality types and¬†communication styles. One I’m familiar with is Management Drives (scroll down for the English text). Knowing a little about the subject may help you in conversations.

***Lou Hoffman wrote about writing skills, Experimentation in Content Marketing Offers Promise of Competitive Advantage, November 4, Business2community.

Please share this post if you found it interesting, or leave your thoughts about social business people and must-read articles in a comment below РI will reply to any (non-spammy) comment!

Social business organization: elements of change

Since I started to write about social business and agile business, I’ve had some feedback¬†(thank you¬†Twitter) that said something on the line of “useful stuff – like to read more”. Lucky me – I’ve discovered I have a lot more to say. So much in fact that it’s never going to fit in one post.

In this post I’ll go¬†into a bit of organization history and the present-day trends and I’ll tell you how I propose to deal with the topic of social business.

Business organization in theory

History is a wonderful thing so long as¬†you don’t have to live it. If you don’t believe me, imagine life without toothpaste. But here’s the thing: we do live history. At least many of us do – we work in organizations that are too big for us. How’d that happen?

Social Business Organization - Elements of Change

What’s your view of change?

In any group of people it will soon be obvious that some people have different affinities and skills than others.

In larger-scale businesses (let’s say in the¬†Industrial Age)¬†it made perfect sense¬†for successful, growing organizations to form teams and departments that could function relatively independently from each other.

In management literature the term ‘span of control’ is used for the number of people any manager (or whatever he/she is called) can manage effectively. Managers were given¬†a group of people they could actually oversee, and the ‘managees’ didn’t have to deal with 200 colleagues every hour of the day¬†– just people in their team, and their manager. In terms of organization theory that must have seemed very efficient.*

Unfortunately, these silos have some major drawbacks, like a lack of communication between teams and valuable information falling into a crack somewhere. We’ve learned over time to deal with the status quo by using work-arounds of every description and ignoring the bits we can’t solve.

But in our current, information-overloaded society these negative side-effects of the nature of our organizations are no longer something we can safely ignore. And we don’t have to.

Technology-driven changes and your business organization

Technology has reached a point where it can actually help overcome the age-old problem of working in an organization its ‘inhabitants’ and its customers can’t oversee. But these new ‘social’ solutions need a different mindset from all those involved. And at some point some CXO is going to have to decide to ditch some of the old structures, procedures and software¬†to make way for the new social working method.

Most businesses stop short of that, settling instead for add-ons and plug-ins. The thing about plug-ins – as any self-hosted blogger will tell you – is that some of them make your blog run a whole lot slower…

My credentials as a social business or change management pro

Here goes:

  • Affinity with the subject: check
  • Any kind of topic-related study: started with an introduction on organization theory, been interested ever since.
  • Strategic role within a company: nope
  • Strategic change management experience: nope
  • IT implementation: yes, on the user side of the equation (functional requirements).

I basically know what doesn’t work, and I have some ideas about why something will or will not take off the way you’d like it to. Standard procedures for supporting or facilitating online collaboration on any level, of any description don’t lead to adoption by employees of its own accord. A lot of tech stuff has got so many handy options,¬†giving it¬†to your average employee is like¬†handing a Swiss army knife to your granny and telling her to open the door with it. It won’t work in a hurry – unless your granny had an unusual career that is.

Elements of change: proposed subjects

There are many ways to start changing your business, and I’m sure every single one of them has its challenges. To increase my chances of writing sensible information about each aspect, and hopefully add some useful articles for further reading, I will deal with one view in each post:

  1. Bottom up – employees are changing. I’ve written a post that addresses some issues. How do you enhance and direct changes in your workforce?
  2. Top down – strategy talk. I’ll get into it when the time comes.
  3. Manager level – this is actually a part of larger organizations that should not be overlooked. It’s more interesting than it looks from the outside!
  4. Tying your teams together. Buzz has it that you should be tearing down the silos inside your organization. You’ve just read a paragraph or two in which I stated that those silos used to have a function. Like it or not, they’re hard to get rid of. The fact that most articles about social business are¬†focused on marketing¬†led to my writing my “Back to Front” post.

* Literature I’m loosely referring to in this post:

  • The organization classic: Mintzberg on Management
  • Steven van Belleghem: The Conversation Company (which I mentioned in an earlier post before reading it)
  • And there are any number of great titles out there¬†that focus on the role of conversations within the confines of your organization, like Crucial Conversations and Conversations for Change.

The central issue I’d like to ponder is what it takes from all those involved to adapt to the changes which look set to turn your organization into a social business.

Do you have thoughts or must-read literature you’d like to share? How do you view your own organization – and your¬†role¬†in it¬†–¬†in light of the whole social business buzz?

Levels of content curation: blogging

This week I came across¬†the following article – I should tell you I once studied art history. You will understand my natural interest in¬†the subject ūüėČ :

From Pop Music to Blogging, Everyone’s a Curator

– Kyle Chayka on Hyperallergic

In this post you won’t hear me talk about content curation from a “social media ladder” (Forrester) viewpoint. You can ignore the 1-9-90% story. Or the 75-23-2 version by Gartner. Anyone interested in the subject needs to realize:

Broken Social Media Ladder inspired by the Forrester Social Media Ladder

Broken Ladder inspired on (but not identical to) Forrester’s Social Media Ladder (for the original: click image)

  • The numbers will change as more people get (more) used to sharing their information online;
  • There are many different forms and levels of curation.¬†You might as well lump the categories “1-9”, or alternatively “23-2” into one group.

Why would you do that? My answer:

Blogging is essentially high-level content curation.

Don’t get me wrong: not every blog reflects the same level of curation.

If you blog by selecting a couple of quotes from different articles about a subject you want to publish on and writing down why they are interesting, you’re curating content.

On the other hand, you could start by writing your view on a subject and add a few quotes. Curation or creation?

Or you could start your blog post¬†with¬†a quote which reflects a similar take on the subject or which contradicts your view – thus giving you an excellent starting point to explore the pros and cons of your insight. Most people would agree this is content creation. In terms of brain science¬†it’s probably high-level content curation.

Blogging in your brain

In the Netherlands, Dick Swaab’s book “We are our brains” has been the center of some debate around free will and the question whether we have any. The controversy was largely based on Swaab’s assertion that what (and how)¬†we think, feel, say and do is¬†a result of influences on our brains throughout our lives, starting in the womb.

Swaabs opponents are mainly psychology experts who¬†seem to take¬†the idea of “No output without input” as¬†meaning we’re¬†compared to machines, only able to act in response to triggers. Let’s leave that kind of simplistic nonsense aside though, especially since I’ve read Swaabs book but only a few articles about the other side of the argument. Instead, I’d like you to focus on the following question:

How does this brain talk relate to the writing process?

When it comes to writing, the fact that I’ve read any number of articles and books in my life¬†helps me to come¬†up with¬†all sorts of ideas. Think about it for a minute: when you’re new to a subject you need to learn about, you read, listen and think and rethink until you end up with a rough idea of what there is to know about that subject – which you can then refine over time or revise if necessary (this is the tricky bit for most of us).

Our opinions are based on the information that is available to us when we’re learning new stuff. If new information, which does not match the opinions we have formed, becomes available we have some serious ‘un-learning’ and revising to do.*

Content creation by blogging

Even if you make a point of sitting down to write without distractions, if you blog without referring to other authors and articles because you simply don’t know exactly where or when you got the first idea for what you’re writing, you are still influenced by all the information you have reviewed.

All the information you’ve fed into your brain is¬†let out in your writing process.

This means that it may well pay off to be single-mindedly interested in one particular subject. Your interest means you can read about, and focus on, that subject and ignore other information. That in turn makes it easier to write about the subject without the distractions of a million other fascinating subjects.

So if you’ve recently taken up blogging and are finding the step from social networks or from curation platforms like Pinterest or Scoop.it a bit much to adjust¬†to¬†at times, I hope this post has helped¬†you ‘revise’ your idea of blogging.

More about blogging and content curation

If you find all kinds of subjects are trying to find a place in your blog posts, you may find this earlier post useful.

On the flipside of today’s post are¬†content curation and creation outside blogs. I could write a whole post about that, and I’ve already written one before: this one.

If you’re interested in my collection of articles about content creation (and content curation)¬†I would invite you to¬†check my Pinterest board.

* My first source for the term¬†‘unlearning’ is Frank Herbert’s book Dune. Just saying ūüėČ

As always, you may your insights, and other contributions in a comment below this post.

If you found this information of interest, please share it.

Please RT: About Online Sharing

Social networks make it easy to add other people’s content to your own message stream. A number of businesses are only too happy to do¬†exactly that. How to avoid the murky waters of content theft?

A bit of psychology: why do we share other people’s content at all?

There are social as well as practical reasons to share other people’s content. Let’s take a look at this short and probably incomplete list of reasons:

  • Give and take – you can’t expect people to share your content in the long run if you stop sharing their content altogether. You need goodwill.
  • You really, really like a bit of content and want to let others know about it.
  • You don’t create the kind of content you need to attract the audience you need – but others do.¬†If you want to be noticed on a social network it pays to be talkative.

Adding your own content

Spot your original content amidst all the retweets
Creating and sharing: mixed content

If you want to share your own views, there are several ways to come up with enough content to share it on a regular basis.

  1. Being extremely productive. Blogging full time. Experience helps. (Example: Darren Rowse – @Problogger).
  2. Having (relatively) low standards for the content you produce. If this is your approach you¬†don’t¬†read¬†up much on subjects, and you don’t check your posts for typos. (no example)
  3. Producing good (or great) quality content over a longer period of time and then sharing it daily on social networks. (Example: Jeff Bullas)

If you’re still busy gaining the necessary experience and building up a treasure chest filled with heaps of great content, you will find yourself without relevant, ready-to-share¬†content pretty often. Sharing the same 5 blog posts 40 times a day will not make you popular. And it’s a bit early to start inviting guest bloggers if you blog for the sake of¬†sharing your own ideas.

Sharing other people’s ideas¬†will help you AND them –¬†if you do it right.

Basic¬†tips for sharing other people’s content – especially if you own a business

Probably fine:

  • reblog someone else’s post on a platform you don’t own.
  • share interesting news on social media
  • post a paragraph on your own website and adding your own view (content curation)

Tip: always add a link and the author’s name (Twitter handle) and for preference mention the website where you found the information. Why? It’s not just good manners. Check the paragraph below about measuring your reach.

Posting complete blog posts on your company website is pushing it too far. Even if you add a statement on the lines of “this text was originally posted on website X” that does not tell your readers whether you have the author’s permission to fill your company website with their work.

Tip: the main question is whether or not you paid the author for contributing quality content to your website. Add a¬†paragraph “About our authors” to avoid misunderstandings.

Once you have created a significant amount of content, the balance between home-made and other content will start to shift.

Tip: You need to monitor your content sharing mix and decide what suits you at each stage: 20/80, 60/40, 80/20?

Measured reach versus actual reach

Measuring the number of social shares your content gets gives you some idea of the reach of your message. Tools like Tweetreach list the number of mentions, the number of tweets and retweets, and the number of followers of all the sharing accounts. So you know how many people may have read your message.

A few caveats:

  • If sharers use scheduling tools, all you can do is hope they’ll mention you or use your title or hashtag so you can track their messages. This practice means that the reach you measure is lower than the actual reach. To close the gap, make sure that:
    • the¬†sharing buttons on your site work properly – so visitors use¬†those in stead of their own bookmarklets;
    • title, name, and hashtag combined fit quite comfortably¬†inside a tweet when you click a sharing button.
  • Automatic reblogs and retweets are forms of automation which remove the engagement aspect altogether. This practice means that the reach you measure is (a bit) higher than the actual reach.
  • In an open platform like Twitter, the right subject (the right hashtag) may mean the number of views – and clicks – is higher than the number of any single sharer’s followers.

With so many tools around you can only hope they cancel each other out. In fact, a lot of tools exist that help you reduce the amount of guesswork by adding analytics to the links inside your messages Рthink Hootsuite, Buffer and the like.

How accurately do you need to measure reach?

Do you need to know who actually reads your content before sharing? In that case you need clicks combined with retweets by the same sharer. Just in case there is an automated tool running which retweets anything containing #subject.

In most cases it’s¬†fine to have a rough estimate of your reach. Compare it to your website’s analytics –¬†the number of clicks your content is actually getting –¬†and you’ll have some idea of where you stand.

After all, reaching any audience is one thing Рonly part of that audience will engage with your content on your website. That is where the fun starts.

Please add your thoughts to my musings by commenting below; or find me on Twitter!