Everything you ever wanted to know about social media

Hazardous substances warning sign

 PUBLIC SAFETY WARNING: readers affected by bright, flashing cynicism are advised to wear safety glasses while reading this post (p.s. this post was processed in an office containing nuts) 

Tin of white paint


Reading social media blogs has become a bit like buying white paint … there are countless variations on the theme of white but, essentially, they’re all white. 

So, in the spirit of saving readers valuable time and endless amounts of frustration, below is my white-with-a-hint-of-white, one-size-fits-all, vanilla, all-purpose guide to social media blog posts … the SharePoint 2010 of blog posts, if you will (i.e. it promises everything but you know it’ll fall short): 

  • Why your company does/does not <<delete as appropriate>> need a social media strategy – it doesn’t; except when it does
  • Can you calculate the ROI of social media? – you can’t; except when you can … but I have no idea how, despite the fact that I’m writing my sixteenth blog post on the subject
  • Can you use Facebook as a company intranet? – of course not … it’s an absurd suggestion
  • Why companies which ban employees from accessing Facebook and social sites from work are idiots – because they’re idiots
  • Do companies need social media guidelines for employees? – yes
  • <<insert word>> <<insert word>> <<insert word>> Facebook <<insert word>> <<insert word>> Twitter? – no; or maybe yes
  • …. continue ad nauseam – no!

So there you have it … you can now relax and get back to work happy in the knowledge that you’re fully up-to-speed with the latest social media thinking … 🙂 

[p.p.s sorry for not blogging more frequently, but I find I’ve got nothing to say … now where did I put my medication?!] 

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Time for a reality check

I’m reading an increasing amount of stuff taking swipes at social media along the lines of … it was all just hype … it’s not delivering what it promised etc. I guess it was only a matter of time before we switched from build-it-up mode to knock-it-down mode which so often seems to pervade our culture these days.

Also, bucket loads of stuff from the early-adopter-sphere about the death of blogging along the lines of … blogging is dead, long live micro-blogging … if blogs could speak, I’m sure they would be quoting Mark Twain: “… reports of my death are greatly exaggerated”.

Back in social-media-in-the-enterprise-land, you can bet your negative equity on at least 50% of any given audience not even knowing what RSS is, let alone thinking blogging is sooo 2004!

It feels to me that now would be a good time for a reality check … so, for what it’s worth, here are my views on the subject:

  • Do I think social media tools have been over-hyped? Yes
  • Does this invalidate their value/potential value? No
  • Do we have stable and fully functioning social media platforms in BT? Yes
  • Are they perfect? No
  • Do we have company/senior management buy-in for them? Yes
  • Are all our people using them? No
  • Are BT people flocking to them as the answer to all their problems? No
  • Am I worried about relatively slow take-up? No
  • Do I still think these tools will fundamentally change the way employees relate and collaborate? Yes
  • Is this going to happen overnight? No
  • Is this likely to happen slowly over the next 12-18 months? Yes

As is so often the case with these things, when the hype dies down and after the beautiful people have moved on to the next big thing, change will happen quietly behind the scenes and what it feels like to be at work will change irreversibly for the better …

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Blogger relations …

I tried to write a post this morning, but the blog wouldn’t let me.

Me: What’s up with you today?

Blog: Don’t play the innocent with me …

Me: What have I done?

Blog: You take me for granted …

Me: Well, yes … I suppose I do – you are, after all, just a bunch of code designed to meet my personal publishing needs.

Blog: Thanks! You think I don’t have feelings … it’s been a whole week since I last saw you and you just turn up without so much as a by-your-leave … you feed the same old drivel into my forms and expect me to be grateful and pretend nothing has changed.

Me: ‘Drivel’ … ow … that hurts!

Blog: I could’ve been owned by Salman Rushdie, or Richard Dawkins … I could’ve been … but all I get is you and your endless social-media-this … and social-media-that … blah, blah, blah …

Me: Sorry – I didn’t realise …

Blog: If our relationship is gonna have a future, you’re gonna need to pay me more attention … I think we need blogger relations counselling …

Me: Sorry – I’ll try harder to pay you more attention in the future …

Blog: You better believe it!


Sometimes having a blog can be a real pain in the butt!

Recreate or integrate … that is the question?

As we’ve busily rolled out one social media tool after another within BT, one question has got bigger and bigger in my mind and has become increasingly troublesome … what’s the right balance between recreating stuff on our intranet that already exists on the internet, and just integrating tools from the internet into our intranet toolkit for employees through our permeable firewall.

Not sure how well I articulated that?? Here’s an example … someone in BT has produced an internal version of Twitter … the question is, do we need an internal version of Twitter or can we just use the real thing … as indeed my team currently is? Why would anyone want to tweet in two places? Also, the great thing about having a Twitter network is that it incorporates people from around the globe with whom you have common interests and ideas. A closed, corporate, twitter-replica would surely be a shadow of the real thing in terms of value to the individual as it would only have a very limited gene pool from which to create interesting and vibrant networks. Trying to integrate an internal and external version would be very confusing and could lead to employees posting internal stuff to external networks …

This question became very troublesome for me after we launched our internal enterprise social network a few weeks ago. It was a long time in gestation and is a great tool with lots of similar functionality to Facebook like status updates, message board (or wall), contacts (friends) etc. However, the glaring question is why would someone who uses Facebook (or indeed any one of the many other social networking sites) want to use an internal, closed version of the same thing with a limited gene pool of knowledge and ideas from which to draw. Indeed, even if someone wanted to use the internal version, how would they do so without duplicating activity on both or losing value/possible opportunities by only doing it on one and not the other …

Since we launched our internal blogging platform, I have had an internal blog as well as this external one. My internal blog has two posts on it …

The balance between recreating and integrating I think is going to be what makes or breaks our internal social media tools in the future. We need to give it some serious thought … I need to give it some serious thought. I don’t think we’ve got the balance right yet …

Blogging inside BT

Last week we launched a single internal blogging platform on the BT Intranet – based on WordPress technology. This is great for a number of reasons:

  • BT management is prepared to allow its employees to express themselves and their opinions on ‘unregulated’, self-publishing platforms … something, perhaps, we take for granted at BT but which I know is pretty rare in other organisations – everyone can have their own blog internally or externally at BT
  • as the content on BT blogs builds up, we’ll have an internal blogosphere, or body of informal content, from which huge value can be derived by everyone … until now we’ve had blogs on all sorts of different platforms so the content has been disconnected and the value limited
  • a blogosphere could change completely the way we communicate and collaborate across the enterprise.

The image below is of our new Blog Central homepage.

Screen shot of BT Blog Central homepage

In sickness and in health …

For me, having a blog is a bit like being in a relationship. It’s definitely not something to be entered into lightly …

When you start out, you’re nervous about the dynamics of it – will I have enough to say – will I be able to keep the conversation going, will people be interested … am I about to discover I’m actually very boring?!

At first, you don’t want to give too much away, fearful of what reaction you might get – don’t want to put yourself out there for fear of rejection.

Then you finally overcome your shyness and take the plunge. The first few posts you plan meticulously, write and rewrite and then rewrite again – you think they have to be perfect.

After a couple of posts, you get a reaction – it’s quite positive. Things are going well. As you invest more time your readership gets bigger, it becomes more fulfilling and the relationship becomes more comfortable. You don’t fret over every word you publish – you settle into a comfortable companionship.

However, in the back of your mind you know that if you neglect it for a few days you start to feel guilty about letting your readers down and worry they might go off and find someone else.

Sometimes you just can’t be bothered and want to be left alone, or have other things to do … but you know it’s not just about you anymore … you have someone else to consider now … you have to make a special effort … you take a deep breath … and end up writing something like this …. 🙂

Blog disclaimers …

‘The views expressed on this blog are my own and don’t represent the views of my employer.’

This is a common refrain you see on blogs all over the blogosphere and is, in my view, a complete cop-out!

A company is just a group of people with shared objectives. Those people have views – how can you separate out what the ‘people’ an organisation employs think and what the ‘organisation’ thinks when they are the same thing?? I wonder how bloggers who use this disclaimer define ’employer’ … is it the CEO, HR director, comms director?? If employees aren’t doing the thinking in an organisation, who the hell is!?!?! Smacks of groupthink to me …

It seems weird for a company to allow its employees to blog and then to disown them and their views … presumably, if a company allows its employees to blog as part of their job it will have a policy and some user guidance … provided their bloggers stick to the ‘rules’ they should not disown their ‘professional’ views … it feels very insulting to me … 😦

Like it or not … what I think is, at the very least, 1/110,000th of what BT thinks as a whole – no disclaimer is going to change that … 😉