Or, to put it in other words, automation of your social networking presence. That worrying topic has been in my mind for quite a while, and, lately, even more so, specially, seeing how plenty of people continue to automate, even further along, their online digital footprints with the argument, amongst several others, that they have got to do it, because they just can’t find the time anymore to make it happen in a natural, authentic, self-driven manner. Yes, it happens. Yes, it’s a topic that worries me, because we are then running the risk of commoditising our very own online presence(s). And what for? Is it worth it? Probably not. Have we forgotten that with social networking for business we are all in it for the long run? Versus just the quick win of a few hundred followers or a quick sell through that automated post? Where did we leave behind the social business transformation?
For a good couple of years this is a topic that has started to concern me more and more, since I have begun to notice how plenty of times when you start engaging through online social networking tools, specially, on the Social Web, you bump into a whole bunch of interesting posts with relevant links, only to respond back, with the hope of starting off, or following, a conversation, and then to find out that no-one is at the other end, after all. In fact, they have all left and they have just got bots / machines doing the work for them. Pretty much like we have been doing with email for a good few years. And just like we commoditised email back in the day, it’s starting to look like we are commoditising social networking for business along the very same lines.
Where did we go wrong? Why do we have to keep up with that constant urge towards busyness (and bursting online activity) vs. pause, reflection and adding relevant value where it may apply into the overall conversation? Haven’t we learned from the recent past? I mean, haven’t we learned that social networking tools are just not another marketing channel, but purely a conversation amongst peers on a common interest and with a strong urge to connect further along? Have we forgotten how for a conversation to take place out there in digital channels both parties need to be present and for real, like the authentic you and your thoughts, versus just another bot doing the work for you? And that if one of the two parties is not there, for whatever the reason, there is nothing wrong with that? It’s part of your overall digital footprint that we seem to keep forgetting about time and time again, but both providing value and being silent are two sides of the same coin, that is, you, that we all take and accept gladly. Thus why do we keep it up? It’s just unsustainable, rather insane and perhaps a bit tad disappointing that whenever you decide to participate in online conversations because you feel that people are there sharing along, you find out they left the building long while ago!
I am surely glad I am not the only one thinking about this relevant and important topic, specially, from the perspective that once we may have industrialised social networking I suspect it will be just too late to revert back. Mike Allton shares similar reflections on a rather interesting article under the suggestive heading of “How to Destroy Your Social Media Credibility through Automation“. An article that I can certainly recommend and which keeps reminding me as well how silly such automation can well be for a specific brand (And that includes your own personal brand for that matter) when you have got an automated digital presence and all of a sudden a global event (Specially, if it is an extreme negative) changes the whole game on what you have been trying to share out there, and portrait, when you are gone, but that everyone else can see the true, harsh reality: it’s no longer the authentic you and your messages, but those of a bot which schedules posts to show up on whatever the frequency.
Now, this has also been a topic that has been in my mind over the last few weeks, specially, when I moved into a new job inside IBM that has provoked a shift of focus from external interactions into internal ones mainly. During all of this time I have been thinking hard about what I would want to do, whether I would want to automate part of my digital external footprint, or just disappear into thin air with that new focus area of behind the firewall interactions. It’s not an easy one, for sure, because in most cases people expect you to be out there, and, if you aren’t, things aren’t going to be the same anymore. It’s starting to look like if you are not out there, online, sharing along, whatever that may well be, you are no longer worth it, because you won’t be showing up in their streams as often as you are doing nowadays. Have you ever felt that feeling of abandonment? It will come. In fact, that’s the main reason why I feel most knowledge workers have automated their own online social media presences; that is, to show they are still there, even just for the sake of it (never mind the value), even though they are not.
Is that what I want to do with my own digital footprint? To sacrifice it and automate it in such a way that whenever I would share something it would no longer be me, the real me? I know how this issue may not concern plenty of people out there about their own digital footprint, but it does concern me. Last thing that I would want to do is to lose that authenticity and honesty in terms of being you behind your online digital tools’ presence. I am actually thinking that at that point, I may as well just go dormant and stop sharing altogether.
Thus while reflecting further along on this topic, I actually realised that I may not need to do anything that drastic altogether or, even, automate my way out of being an active 2.0 practitioner, specially, in the Social Web. And in this particular case it’s interesting to see how the clue was provided to me by one particular social software tool that most folks still keep being rather keen on terminating it. Yes, of course, I am talking about blogging. I am talking about how blogging helps every knowledge worker out there to realise that in terms of social networking for business, we are all in it for the long run! And, as such, it’s ok, it’s actually, advisable, to take time off. To go for periods of silence where things happen around you, but that people still know you are there, even if remote. To go for that relatively short, or long, hiatus, where things take another course, where the focus shifts elsewhere because the job requires it to a certain extent.
The important thing is to always come back. To help people understand that while you may have been quiet sharing along those insights, opinions, conversations and what not, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are not reading or learning from them, along the way as a lurker. That’s what blogging is wonderful about. It allows you to have pause, to reflect on what really matters, and to shape up your own online digital footprint sharing what you feel provides the most business value in your interactions. Blogging lives on a different pace altogether and while this year, later on in December, I will be celebrating my 10th year blogging anniversary, I guess I still feel I’m just learning so much from that writing experience of one’s opinions and reflections that there is always something new out there.
So much so that I am sure you may have noticed how I have become a little bit quieter, more than usual, in one of my Big Three social networking tools for business: Twitter, while I have kept up with the online interactions and exchange for the other two (IBM Connections and Google Plus). The blog is different, because it’s an integral part of me, it’s an extension of my brain, my thoughts, my experiences, my know-how, my digital self-being and, as such, it will always be there. However, just like some times in the recent past, I may take a few days off from blogging, I know I’ll always be coming back to it. And I am starting to think that this may well be the very same approach I will adopt for other social networking tools, where I will become a whole lot more focused, purposeful and meaningful on how I interact thinking that while keeping up a presence out there may well be rather good, I think I am going in for the long run, for sharing in smaller portions part of what’s in my mind at the time, but ensuring that it is me the one sharing it and not whatever the bot in place.
That’s part of the dialogue, the authenticity, and the brutal honesty to share across that while I am fully aware I will not be able to keep up with the same pace of interactions held online, externally, outside the firewall, like I have been doing in the last few years, it doesn’t necessarily mean that people can’t no longer find me. I’m there. I will be there. It’s just that I am thinking I’ll be focusing more on pausing, reading and reflecting on what other folks share across, and keep quiet myself unless I have got something really useful and valuable to share out there.
I guess you could call it an attempt to redefine your own online digital footprint and personal brand, when things at work take a radical shift towards behind the firewall interactions. Perhaps that’s indeed what I have been thinking about. And in terms of the choice I would go for that I feel would represent me better I am thinking that I prefer to go silent and learn from others reading along than to automate an online presence that I know won’t be fair to anyone out there anymore, including me, since you are probably going to expect me and yet I won’t be there. Well, I will be. But in a different shape. I will be reacting, I will be conversing and participating, but with pause, challenging myself on how I can keep up adding value, versus adding unnecessary noise and pollution to already existing digital channels that I am sure we all have been having enough with lately.
Thus if you see me going quiet for a relative period of time, don’t worry, I am not gone, I am not hiding, I am not giving up on my external social presence just like that. I am just listening and learning, from the lurker side of things, knowing that what I’m after is having that opportunity to continue build and nurture those personal online business relationships, but without industrialising it all, nevertheless still keeping up with that same authenticity, openness, transparency and engagement that I always thought was the best part of social networking tools. It’s just that this time around it’s becoming a whole lot more focused and on target of what I would want to do: keeping up with the learning curve of the networks I am part of by amplifying what I think provides value vs. just adding more unnecessary irrelevancy. I think I’m going to spare you all having to go through that. Something tells me that, in the long term, we will all be much better off …
What do you think? Think automation of your own online digital presence has had a significant impact that you would want to share along with us? Has it helped you? Has it damaged the health and trust of your social networks? I would love to learn more what you think in the comments, please… Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences. As usual, they are *greatly* appreciated.
Once again, it’s been a little while now since my last blog post over here, and I am sure most of you folks may be wondering what have I been up to in the last couple of weeks, right?, specially, after returning from my last business trip to New York City on the week of February 11th. Well, if I were to tell you that loads of things have happened, that I have been embarking on a massive non-stop frenetic roller-coaster ride, some of which have had a significant direct impact on yours truly, you may not believe much of it, right? After all, it’s not the kind of thing that I usually get to talk about and share across over here. That’s about to change though. At least, this time around. I’m going to give you all a little bit of Pep Talk. And then we are going to talk about Who Moved My Cheese? Because someone just did that.
Ok, I will leave the Pep Talk for a little bit later on … You know what happens when someone decides to move your cheese without telling you in advance, right?, that, when it hits you, it’s already probably too late. Lucky enough, I have always thought it is never too late. So when it, finally, happened to me a few weeks back, it was a good time to start that process of soul-searching that one embarks on once in a while and see where I will end up going. Judging from my close social networks somehow I sense that for everyone out there 2013 is going to be the year of Change (With a capital C). Well, for me, that soul-searching process is now over. And that week I spent in New York City surely has changed my life and in so many different ways that it’s going to be a bit too tough for me to relate it all over here. Yes, I know what you are thinking… How much more cryptic can one get when reflecting on all of this, right? I mean, can you just tell us what’s going on and why have you been absent from your external social networking activities for perhaps far too long?
Hummm, in its due time. Not yet though. I am still not ready to share it along. Many years ago, nevertheless, I bumped into one key online principle I have lived by ever since that has been perhaps the most helpful piece of advice one can give to someone else who is just about to start participating in the digital world and the Social Web: never, ever, write anything online in a blog post, a tweet, or whatever else, when you are upset, angry, frustrated but also EXCITED or far too exhilarated about something.
I guess that in the last month I have gone through both ends of the spectrum detailed above, which would explain why I haven’t written much online out there. Before my business trip to New York City I was on the very negative side of the spectrum and right after the NYC trip I was right at the opposite end. I guess that’s what one of the most amazing places on this planet can do to you over the course of a week, or, in my case, in 20 minutes. Yes, I know, here I am again, being rather cryptic, aren’t I? Sorry, it’s not intended, nor on purpose. I’m just trying to reflect on the fact that certain things and certain decisions usually taken within minutes can have quite a significant impact, one way or another. And probably the best option is to just take it as it is, re-think quite dearly your purpose, meaning and focus and go and start searching for that new cheese.
Till you find it. And I did! And I am excited. Actually, I am incredibly excited, but, like I said, I am not ready to share it or talk about it out there, just yet. Still a bit too soon. Which is why I thought I would finish off this blog post letting you know that I’m back with my usual regular blogging schedule, now more intense and relevant than ever to the main themes from this blog all along, including Open Business, of course, and with a huge piece of news coming up soon that I am hoping will help explain why I have been relatively quiet out there on the Social Web. For most folks out there who know me somewhat it’s going to be a bit of a shock, for those of you, my dear friends, who know me personally, it’s going to be something I have been waiting for for the last 12 years and it’s finally here. Yes, I know, the suspense and the intrigue are killing you all right now, aren’t they?
Well, here’s the Pep Talk piece of this article then. Through one of my fellow IBM colleagues, who blogged about it internally, I bumped into this delightful short YouTube video, about Kid President sharing with us a little bit of a pep talk that I am sure we would all need to watch every now and then to remind us about what really matters. It’s one of those amazing inspirational video clips that would not leave you indifferent, to the point where it may help provoke that soul-searching activity you may have been parking on the sideway for far too long. In the context of what I have just shared above, it surely has for me, which is why I thought I would share the embedded code over here so that you folks would have an opportunity to watch and see what I mean about the video being one of the most motivational, hilarious, witty, relevant and smart discourses you will bump into out there. If not, judge for yourselves:
Like I said, there is probably not much of a need to worry when someone decides to move your cheese without you not knowing anything about it; there is a great chance that change is good and perhaps this pep talk from Kid President will help you get back on track while you redefine your new purpose, your new focus and, specially, your potential new meaning to everything you do.
“I want to be anyone that leads to … awesome”
(Yeah, me, too!)
As I have mentioned on yesterday’s blog post, I have just started my next round of business travelling that will be keeping me busy for the next few weeks. Summer is over, indeed, and it’s time to get back to work, as if we ever left it, right? Anyway, this week I will be going to both Nice and Amsterdam to participate at a couple of IBM driven events on the topics of Social Business and Adoption of Social Technologies. I’m currently en route to Brussels though, where I will be spending a few hours hanging out at the airport. Yes, I know the joys and glamour of travelling, in general. I guess, over time, you get used to it and you move on. This time around though, I have been thinking, and for a little while now, that I’ll be making a much more conscious effort of keeping up with blogging over here, since last time around I went through a rather extensive hiatus that took me quite a bit to recover from and it didn’t feel good. At all. So here’s my attempt at keeping things up and starting off right from the first day I’m away from my home office. Let’s see how far I can take the whole concept of moblogging.
If you have been following this blog for a little while now I am sure you may have noticed how my blogging style is usually that one of writing relatively lengthy articles where I usually start off with an idea, then I dive into a whole bunch of research, start connecting with a bunch of other ideas and links to other blog entries, articles, news items, etc., see what sense I can make into it all and hopefully conclude with the same idea and what I learned from the whole process, giving an opportunity to learn as well from everyone’s thoughts about it on the comments, which is perhaps my favourite process from business blogging overall, because that’s usually when I get to learn the most out of the whole process of self-reflection and thinking out loud associated with blogging.
Basically, an introduction of the idea, development of the same idea with links and interesting references to similar ideas, and share a conclusion as a result of it that will hopefully trigger some kind of reaction out there, anywhere, any which place, at any given time. Then, as time allows and conversation(s) develop, time to dive back and respond to comments people leave adding their additional input into the conversation. I have been trying to tame that process for my blog posts all along, specially, in the area of keeping them shorter, following great examples like those of Seth Godin and Euan Semple, two of my favourite bloggers and essential reads of the day, who always hit the nail right on the head with sharp, brief, but equally thought provoking bursts of pure genius. And yet, time and time again, I keep failing.
See? Like now, for instance. Point well made already, I guess. Either way, at some point I used to worry about it, thinking that people would not be really much interested in reading those lengthy blog articles, but, apparently, plenty of you folks out there do enjoy the reads, and keep coming back for more, leaving some absolutely delightful feedback comments. So I learned to live with it, accept it, embrace such blogging style, and do my very best in keeping up with those book-like chapters, as a bunch of you have suggested to me for a while already. Perhaps one day those blog chapters will turn themselves into full books, who knows. Well, for now, I’m willing to start a new experiment though and see how it would work.
With the excuse of being mobile with all of this business travelling coming up and therefore having less time to create proper lengthier blog posts I have decided to give it another try at putting together shorter blog entries, on the go, where I will just point to something that I may have found rather interesting, worth while referencing and instead of just linking to a bunch of other related ideas and trends of thought I will just leave it at that pointing folks to that single idea that trigger that initial reaction. Then, whenever both time and work would allow, I plan to keep up putting together those longer articles hoping to still do a bit of that deep thinking that I think we all need to go through every now and then, instead of snacking around. I guess it’s just like with food. Some times we do enjoy and treasure having some lovely tapas and some other times we just rejoice at the prospect of a rather nice full meal with friends where the conversation is just as good as the company, never mind the food!
That’s it! That’s what I will be doing from now onwards. Worth a try, I can imagine. Perhaps this longer blog post helped me develop an idea that I have been having at the back of my mind for a while now and that I thought would be worth while sharing it across: make the connection between business blogging and food (Yes, I know, I guess that’s what #foodies do all the time, that is, associate everything with food! hehe) and consider that some blog entries would be like some of the gorgeous Spanish tapas I am sure you have had the treat of enjoying them any which place, any time and then some other blog entries as full meals where magic comes along in the shape of that absolutely brilliant conversation with friends, usually accompanied with good wine, or a after drink or two.
I am sure that at this point in time you may be thinking that I could well be doing that through social networking sites like my two favourite ones: Google Plus and Twitter. And you may be right, but then again I also thought that perhaps it may well not be such a good idea. Initially, because while I’m on the road, participating in a good number of events, I will be doing quite a bit of extensive live tweeting at @elsuacon and, secondly, for Google Plus it may well be a bit too much, since I have just gotten started with a new initiative in there that I’ll be blogging about next and which I think would help me diversify my interactions a bit. But more on that shortly …
I think it was my good friend, and KM mentor, Dave Snowden, the one who once commented about when talking about social computing and social networking interactions, and probably like everything else in life, one shouldn’t be putting together all of one’s eggs in a single basket, just in case, and I am guessing that’s essentially what I will be doing at this point, and, hopefully, from here onwards: blogging, Google Plus, Twitter, Flickr, etc. etc. will help me have multiple baskets where I can place those eggs without thinking I’m kind of missing out or something. Somehow, for a mobile knowledge (Web) worker I guess it could well work.
However, I think folks would also need to understand that some times nothing may just happen, too! Work can get in the way, actually, it’ll always try to do so! Real life conversations, right where my favourite social networking activities keep taking place, will still have priority and just seeing the whole bunch of colleagues, friends, and people I have treasured over the course of time whom I will be meeting up over the next few week … Like I said, there may be some times where, for a day or two, I will go quiet. Fear not, I’ll be coming back. It’s just that at this point in time I probably need to strike some more for something that I have been feeling I have lost a bit of touch with, perhaps due to the summer vacation, in the realm of the Social Web: balance.
Hope you folks would help me strike a good one keeping things going with this new experiment of combining social networking interactions with some blogging full meals & Spanish tapas, while I’m on the road for the next couple of months, so that we can keep up with those conversations, whether short or longer ones! And if there is a chance that we will be able to meet up face to face I shall be looking forward to go for a drink or two along the way! Reach out on the usual places and let’s make it happen!
Thanks ever so much, as usual, for sticking around! It’s greatly appreciated! Let’s do it!