Do For You

This past Friday morning I met with four enthusiastic folks involved in tech from a local company for a casual coffee about using social media. This is a bit of a departure from my usual posts but they had such great questions and perspectives that I thought it could benefit others to share the advice I gave for those dabbling in, but maybe not quite using social technology to its full potential. It was not a technical conversation, however. I don’t bother with features and functions, I like to get to the human side of it all. The conversation ranged from things like “it’s overwhelming” to “Using LinkedIn for sale leads only.” I had just one hour, so I framed things around 4 points.

Authenticity & Sincerity and Consistency & Frequency

Let’s start with their concerns first, as we did that morning.

It can be overwhelming.”
Yes, if you let it be. Social technologies, all of them, are just tools. Pick your tool, be comfortable there for as long as you want. If it’s business-related of course you may want to step into the “places” clients or customers are eventually if they aren’t say on Twitter and you LOVE Twitter. But it’s really overwhelming if you chase everything. It’s also a whole other layer of work if you don’t make it a part of your work. Ask – where can it fit into building connection? What’s your purpose??

Getting sales leads.
Yes, that’s a perfect use but you can go further to draw people to you not just “cold call” THEN pull people to you. Draw them in continually. We talked about creating or sharing content for these platforms and why you want to do that. For me personally, it’s always been about putting my ideas out there and inviting conversation. The conversation isn’t always positive or negative but through accolades or criticisms, I’m learning and that’s MY purpose. For these folks it was sales. So, sharing content about their work and sharing it in ways that revealed their passions for their techniques, products or services without being “salesy” is important for two BIG reasons… and here come my 4 points from above.

First, be authentic. Listen, I work for the eLearning Guild. We do some really great stuff for the learning community. Do I believe in all of it?? No, no I don’t and if I all of a sudden started sharing EVERY. SINGLE. THING we do I would be seen as a shill. That’s not good for me and it’s not good for the Guild. The second reason is just a reality I see all the time. People show all this massive love for their company and their social channels are filled with all company stuff. Their identity and their company become one until they’re not. The business cycle is real. People get let go all the time. Now you’re out, looking for work and well, you’re just known for promoting your company. Who are you?? Worse, you land a new job, start doing the exact same thing and then people have zero trust in your sincerity. In my opinion, Social should be an extension of you, not your job and company. You should be focused on your professional interests and passions all the time and when what your employer is doing or promoting aligns, then share. If not, don’t.

A good question came up regarding side hustle interests. Most don’t know but I do have a regional consultancy called ThruWork. It’s all about helping small businesses and non-profits create more social organizations for continuous learning and knowledge sharing. I don’t market. Mostly I just share my ideas and if a client is interested, we talk. For me, it’s still “learning” so of course, the Guild has no issue as my being active in the work of L&D is good for them too. The folks at coffee were astute to recognize that nothing lasts forever, so having other interest if the floor falls out is wise but outright promoting a business could be looked at really unfavorably. The best way is to become a resource for others in your area of expertise. Share ideas, re-share relatable content by others in the space of your passions. It keeps you in the game and in the know for just in case but it’s not a hard press.

Finally, we discussed Consistency and Frequency. If you’re building your expertise and/or a brand, both are really important. You can’t be taken seriously if only 1 in 10 of your posts, articles or shares is related to your professional interests. However, I will caution that you need to be human. If you’re 10 for 10 professional, you look like a bot. Nobody connects to a bot. You have a life, share a bit of it. Be real. I like to say that people don’t connect to smooth and polished. You have to have some rough, sometimes humorous, honest edges to put out there for people to grab on to. The reality is people only work with people they trust. People don’t trust emotionless robots. And yes, some level of frequency is needed. There’s a ton of information out there with all kinds of advice on an exact number of times per week to post blah, blah, blah. Getting caught up in this game is the best way to ultimately hate it. I get that it works, but honestly social media aside, have you ever tried to force a conversation to happen?? It’s ugly and embarrassing. I like to operate more serendipitously. If I find something I know my network would like, I share. Same with writing, etc. No times exactly. I can go days with nothing but I think it’s better than telling everyone that I’m eating a peach just so they know I’m alive.

I closed our conversation with a final thought. As they were sharing openly what they do at work, their experience and expertise I asked if they had any social tech at their company. You see, they were forming quite a powerful Community of Practice right there in that coffee shop, a great thing to keep going both synchronously and asynchronously! Start their networking practices with people they already know and trust and then grow out from there.

Hope you found this of use.

A Social Organization Is Naturally Motivating

Dan Pink in his 2009 book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us stated that Motivation is a result of three elements. It’s when people have Autonomy, are gaining Mastery, and have a sense of Purpose. You don’t need clever HR initiatives, new CM systems, or fancy mission statement changes to keep employees motivated. What you need is better communication and that’s at the core of a social organization. In a social organization:

We are reminded of our PURPOSE constantly when we can see how what we do matters; when we see the connection our work has to a co-worker or the bottom line. Open social connection makes purpose obvious.

We grow in MASTERY when we learn continuously. Learning is about experience, practice, conversation, and reflection. Sharing what we do and how we do it with others helps us grow incrementally. Conversations serve as open reflection, building important context around new ideas, informing the work we do.

AUTONOMY is about choice. When we have easy access to others and we can share what we want with anyone, we have autonomy… we have freedom. When we can give, receive and connect with anyone at any level, opportunities arise that otherwise never would have in more closed systems.

A social organization creates an environment that is inherently motivating because choice, growth, and meaning are inherently social.


Need to Measure Social? Look Down More.

According to a recent CLO Magazine article/survey, executives added or supported social tech for 3 very big and very common reasons:

increase collaboration (47%),
increase engagement (42%) and
create a culture of continuous learning (60%).

Each is sincere but since an investment has been made, measurability is desired and rarely found. There are two problems. First, the focus is on abstract ideas and second, the emphasis is only on “growing” each. Stop looking up and start looking down.

  1. People are collaborating. If questions are being asked and answered, input is sought and given, feedback, edits, etc. This IS the work in collaboration.
  2. People are engaged. Engagement to HR = happy employees. If they’re sharing photos, jokes, emojis, if they are supporting personal causes and lending an ear to a peer. These are community behaviors, the stuff that makes people feel connected to each other.
  3. Learning is continuous. Are tips being provided? Articles and resources shared? Corrections, critiques, knowhow abound? This is how people learn informally, it’s happening.

What each of these has in common is that each is really small. Meaning that they often happen between small numbers of people and they can happen very quickly in small exchanges between people. Social closes gaps. Organizations need to measure what’s shrinking not what’s growing.

  • A good measure of learning through others (social learning) could be measured by a reduction training; it’s requests, it’s expense, production time and time taken out of work.
  • Celebrating success, maintaining relationships, getting timely feedback are all parts of the engagement equation. If these activities are present you may be seeing a reduction in disgruntled employees leaving the organization.
  • Do you follow your employees on social platforms? Are they talking up the organization? If employees are engaged and better connected then Marketing costs could shrink as passionate employees are your best evangelists. Happy employees are invested and invested employees want to see the organization succeed.
  • A well-connected team means peers guiding peers. information if flowing easier through and around management. A communication bottleneck is removed and measured by a reduction in management time in providing direction.
  • Do you know what might be equal to or better than innovation? Nipping bad ideas early before they grow into full-fledged costly initiatives. An open conversation can surface all the issues well before the baking process begins, reducing time and money waste.

The truth is social is already happening with or without technology but if you must measure it to justify technology, lean in a bit more to all the small stuff that is contributing to big impacts on the business.

Collaboration and The IKEA Effect

What’s the IKEA Effect? Simply, it is a form of narcissism where we tend to appreciate and overvalue the things WE create ourselves. So a reason we may love IKEA furniture is less about how inexpensive it is but more that we built it with our own two hands.

Going it alone, as noted, can lead to an inflated sense of value for our own work. Others could see it as being less impressive of course and one could even surmise that feedback that can be less than glowing might get dismissed by the designer as being flawed.

Some research shows that this is all related to a need to be competent (in our eyes and the eyes of others). When we have feelings of low ability, people can tend to want to go it alone to create. A higher sense of competency thus can lead to less of that need to create in isolation.

The IKEA effect extends beyond physical creations. Think about the less tangible projects, solutions, and designs in organizations around L&D, Marketing, Advertising Campaigns, Leadership initiatives, Change Management, etc. When they fail, how many go back to criticize their own work and rather just point to other factors and forces that caused the lack of success?

Maybe then the value of collaboration is not limited to just creativity or innovation that so many tout. Maybe the value is also in bringing people together to work and preventing bad ideas from becoming expensive, time-consuming, and potentially damaging efforts.

We Trust, We Watch, We Learn

Most of what we’ve learned from our father’s was through watching them; how they spoke, how they treated others, how they worked. We learned far more through observing them than from what they told us to do, far more.

We trusted them, so we watched them and we trusted because we respected them. This is the crux of social learning and it’s similar and yet different in organizations. Here social learning happens through peers and experts not parents. And organizations themselves can be our new guides. They can create the environment for mutual respect to bloom and so that trust emerges, because when we trust, we learn and when we learn we grow. Like we always have, similar but different.