E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

Metablogging

The Dangers of Mediocrity and The Power of the Dip

Leon - CathedralOne of the things that I have always enjoyed, and quite a bit, from the Social Web, and the different social networking tools out there, and the main reason why I keep coming back for more, is that no matter how much time may have just gone by, the good content, the golden gems, those pieces of reflection and insight that you know you are going to bump into over time they keep resurfacing time and time again, making the mere presence on social networking tools just worth it on its own. Earlier on this week, I had the opportunity to experience it once more, by bumping into “The Mindset of a Winner“. Perhaps one of the best short video clips you will be bumping into this year on the topic of focusing and pursuing your passion(s) through multiple dips.

It’s pretty remarkable that the video clip is a short interview published on January 2008, conducted by Gerhard Gschwandtner from Selling Power, of Seth Godin and how five and a half years later it’s just as fresh, insightful and relevant as ever. In it, Seth, once again, is at his best talking about a whole bunch of different subjects, starting off with spending a few minutes on what I feel is one of the main issues at all levels we have got to deal with in today’s (business) world: mediocrity.

While the interview may have that connotation of just being relevant for sellers, as that’s the primary audience, I can tell you that it’s very much worth while going through it as plenty of Seth’s relevant insights would apply to everyone out there who wants to escape mediocrity on everything they do, whether at work or in their personal lives, with stunning reflections like this one: “The big win is when you refuse to settle for average or mediocre. […] What you do as a sales person is you communicate emotion. But you can’t communicate emotion and trust  to someone if they are not listening and the only people who are going to listen to you are the people who are pre-sold on you, because someone told them about what you do and how you do it.” Just brilliant, don’t you think? Specially, how it applies to not just everyone out there, but to everything else that we do as well for that matter.

From there onwards, it just gets better. Seth then gets to talk about focusing on what you are good at and forget about all of the different distractions that may well be out there enticing you to go into multiple directions making you lose focus of what you should be working on. He uses the example of his blog, which is just a part of himself, as his own voice out there on the Web. That is, his presence, his digital footprint and personal brand for that matter, in contrast to his light involvement on the various social networking spaces out there. His follow-up insights on experiencing multiple dips to keep moving forward is just rather inspirational on its own. If not, judge for yourselves playing the video clip below:

The interesting thing, for me, while going through the interview itself, is how it reminded me of a superb blog post by the always inspiring Valeria Maltoni under the rather thought provoking title of “Why on Earth Would You Still Bother with Blogging?” where you would find incredibly insightful quotes like this one:

Providing a frame of reference, composing thoughts in an open forum like a blog, publishing a point of view, are more than merely a way to develop a personal channel for getting the word out on what matters in your world.

Stand for something and work on backing it up over time

that she then develops further under “Why bother with all the blogs” with perhaps one of the most descriptive, helpful and reflective reasons as to why blogging still matters. To quote:

They are an opportunity to shape a conversation about topics that matter right now — whatever we call this moment, whether the age of conversation, or real time something, or collaboration, the path to useful is a path to usefulness.

Sticking with topics also allows you to explore ideas and develop new thinking. In most cases it goes beyond that. A blog helps you keep track of what you said about how something would develop. And that is incredibly useful to understand how you got to where you are today”

So perhaps that’s what blogging is after all. An opportunity to experience plenty of dips on multiple topics of interest that you can reflect upon at your own leisure, so that, over time, while you develop your own blogging voice and style, and you keep building on your own digital footprint, you get to understand what your focus area(s) may well be, find those strengths that keep you moving along, and stick around with them, so that at some point in time they become you, you become them, without having to fall back into that world of mediocrity that’s just destroying everything we have ever believed in and built over time.

Yes, I, too, “refuse to settle for average or mediocre”. And that’s probably one of the main reasons as well why I keep blogging on a regular basis, i.e. to reflect on these golden gems that one keeps bumping into, but also as an opportunity to share, out there in the open, what my passion(s) are and what drives me to work day in day out. Why? Well, because, amongst several other things, the alternative, that mediocrity, is just too ugly to bear.

Yes, indeed, I refuse to settle for average or mediocre. And you? 

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Should CEOs Blog?

León - San MarcosEarlier on this month, my good friend, Euan Semple wrote a short blog post on the topic of how tough it is to put together that initial first blog entry, if you are new to blogging, and even more so if you are an executive. It’s just like the whole world is watching you for that first article and you just want to do things right. You certainly don’t want to look like a fool, never mind that feeling of being ridiculed by your peers if things don’t work out. You just can’t afford to go through that and that’s where most of your reluctance to blogging comes from nowadays. You know how it goes, the longer you leave it, the stronger the pressure on you and when you, finally, decide to get things started with your own  blogging you realise it’s not going to be as easy as you thought it would have been, but will it be worth it? Well, for the sake of bravery, authenticity, honesty and openness, yes, it surely will. Even for you as a CEO. 

Blogging is coming back, in case you may not have noticed. Even for senior executives it’s becoming one of the most empowering opportunities to engage in an open, direct dialogue with your audience(s) about whatever the subject matter you may decide to write about. The thing is nowadays most executives feel like blogging is something that their communications & PR teams should be doing for them. After all, it’s just another publishing platform, right? Well, that may well not be the case, perhaps. Euan defined it as a “slippery slope” and I couldn’t have agreed more with him. To quote: “First they help you, then they start to write the posts for you, then you get busy or bored, and the next thing you know it is not your blog but someone else’s“. 

That’s probably one of the best descriptions of why I have never believed in ghost writing myself either over the course of the last 10 years that I have been blogging already. It just doesn’t work. And that’s probably one of the main reasons as to why blogging is so tough. It requires lots of energy, hard work and good effort to make it happen and for that you may need more time than just posting a tweet, or a short message on LinkedIn, Google Plus or whatever the other social networking tool. And we all know how tough it is nowadays to make time for your social interactions, even for blogging, in between your ever increasing workloads, right? Where is the balance then? 

The balance is on trying to figure out whether you really need a blog or not for yourself. Remember, blogging still is the most powerful key element on the Social Web out there to help you build, sustain, nurture and develop your own personal (digital) brand. So should you, as a CEO, or a senior executive, for that matter, start blogging? Most probably. 

The good thing is that those folks who may decide to jump into the blogging bandwagon do have it relatively easy in terms of the huge amount of resources, helpful how-to articles, pragmatic blog posts, lessons learned, hints and tips, productivity hacks, numerous user guides on blogging that surely help address the potential technological barriers, even for guest blogging. Even more so The Next Web has put together a stunning article where they have detailed “The 15 Best Blogging and Publishing Platforms on the Internet Today. […]“.

So there are plenty of choices and helpful support / resources out there, no doubt. Why is it so tough to get things going with your own blog then? Well, I think Euan pretty much nails it with this particular quote which pretty much summarises some really good and practical advice: 

Be brave, say what you really think, say it in your own words. And I mean your own words – the way you would talk to a friend. Not falsely informal nor nervously official. Your real voice, the real you. Surprisingly this is what makes it so damn hard. We are often not usually our real selves at work. Often we have forgotten how to speak normally! It feels raw, you feel vulnerable, it an’t natural. But it is. It is the most natural and effective way to truly communicate with someone. To make a real connection. If you can remember how to do it, and write like you mean it, then things can only get easier and real magic starts to happen.” [Emphasis mine]

Indeed, at the end of the day, it’s all about a couple of things, really. It’s about whether you, as the blogger, may be able to find both your own blogging voice and your own blogging style, no matter how high you may well be in the organisation. And stick around with both of them. Being afraid or fearful about what others, including your peers!, may say about your own blogging style / voice is not going to help much. In fact, it will manage to keep you in your cave for a good while, so that you, too, can conform with their own inability to leap forward and get their own blogging going. That’s where Euan’s commentary on bravery is so accurate. We just need to be braver out there and share more of what we know and what we are good at and what we would be able to keep writing on and on and on for years as if it were still the first blog post. 

Yes, absolutely!, blogging, eventually, is all about sharing your passion about that subject matter. About making it contagious for others. About being open, transparent, trustworthy enough to comfortably share your thoughts out there in the open, understanding that they may be incomplete, imperfect, awkward, at times, perhaps, but they are still your thoughts, your passion, your blogging voice and style coming together. Now, I am pretty sure we don’t have an issue with finding our passion, do we? I think we all know pretty well what it is that drives us not just at work, but also in our personal lives.

I think we all know how we can, once again, become more authentic, transparent, honest, open, engaged, more our selves, really, on the Social Web out there while we interact with others. We just need to bring it back and don’t take ourselves too seriously. Let’s not forget the play factor, please. Will your peers continue to make fun of you and ridicule you? Most probably, since that’s how they would want to keep hiding themselves and fight their own uncomfortable circumstances by deviating the attention elsewhere. Should you care about it? Definitely not. Remember, after all, you have got a passion hidden inside wanting to burst out and be shared with the rest of the world. Yes, that’s the moment you know you are now ready to start your own blog.

Yes, we know, we have been waiting for you all along. Don’t worry, the waters are lovely.

Welcome to the Internet Blogosphere!

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Finding Time to Reflect while on Vacation

Leon - CathedralOnce again, it’s been nearly a couple of weeks since my last blog post over here on The Perks of Being an Early Riser  and I am sure at this point in time folks out there may be thinking that, once more, I have failed to keep up with restoring my social presence as I mentioned on that last article. Far from the truth, I am afraid. Over the last few days I have been doing something that I have been looking forward to for quite some time and that it’s always something that I can never get tired of: Vacation. And this time around a very special kind of holiday, because it’s been a rather disconnected one, too! Not by choice though, although the world works in mysterious ways, so perhaps that was what I needed all along in the first place: a time to strike for “the best opportunity to take a step back, inhale, exhale, think about life, and ask: am I happy?

Indeed, every year, during the course of the summer I have been enjoying tremendously that pilgrimage back home to see my family in León, Spain, where I was born and raised, and catch up with them for a few days to see what they have been up to. And time and time again, it’s been a fun experience, specially, when this time around you try to explain to your mum what you do for a living and you realise that she has never seen, played, enjoyed the Web. Quite an interesting and thrilling challenge I would encourage you all to go through, if you haven’t just yet! 

Even worse when you try to show her what it is like from your laptop and there isn’t any ADSL or wi-fi around. Or you try to show her on your mobile smartphone and tablet through a so-called rather robust 3G network and you see that it fails to keep getting connected to the point of embarrassment. And you eventually give up, because you know that so-called pervasive connectivity isn’t just coming around. Yes, indeed, someone had to say it out loud, I guess, there are parts in this world where broadband and the Internet are just … not … there! 

Goodness! I can’t believe that I am writing about this in 2013, where everyone keeps claiming that we are now more connected than ever before in our history through the (Social) Web, where wi-fi and ADSL lines are pervasive enough to make it an enjoyable experience and where, as a last resort, 3G may come to the rescue. Well, not really. Not everywhere as I have been able to experience fully in the last 10 days or so. And this is happening right here, in Spain, not some kind of remote island, in the middle of the ocean, where the 21st century may not have arrived just yet! 

See? Disconnected holiday not by choice, but then again perhaps it was better that way, because I had a real blast altogether! And for a good number of reasons, starting off with having an opportunity to do a proper catch-up with family and friends face-to-face and without any smartphone or tablet devices getting on the way. Never mind that wonderful opportunity as well to find plenty of time to pause and reflect wondering about things, in general, whether I have been enjoying work, my personal life, and so forth. You name it. It’s amazing to see how much one gets to think when you do have all of the time of the world without the so-called distractions we are all pretty familiar with. What Ted Leonsis brilliantly described on a recent article under the suggestive heading “Find Time to Reflect“.

Anyway, I am not too sure whether I eventually succeeded in explaining to my mum what I do for a living, or not, but I can tell you she was right on when she threw back at me a rather short, sharp question that I guess summarises everything and that it certainly puts things into perspective: “Are you happy, son? (Because that’s what really matters at the end of the day, you know)“. 

Whoahhh!! Mums are wonderful, aren’t they? They just know us inside out, and without having to say much, to find out really quick everything they would want to know and in just 4 words she was capable of detailing whether I am on the right track or not, and not just in my professional career, but also on a personal level. The intriguing thing is that I failed to utter some words as a response. Instead, I just got a huge smile coming across my entire face that she received warmly with a nod of approval and That’s all that matters, really, that you are happy with yourself and those around you and that you keep smiling. The world needs that, son“. 

You can see why I am getting goose bumps all over again as I get to write down those few words of wisdom, right? And she didn’t even need to be aware of what the Internet is or have access to it or for me to explain what I do for work. Some things are just so profound, so touching and mind-blowing altogether, yet so simple and uncomplicated that it’s incredibly difficult to not just feel overwhelmed by that feeling of immense gratitude. She has done all right with all of her children all along throughout all of these years. And me being worried all along about not being connected to the Web to be in the know and everything, when all I needed was just right in front of my face! Right there! How could I possibly miss that? 

I guess that’s what I meant earlier on in this post when talking about taking that disconnected holiday to visit my family and to pause and reflect on things, the smallest things, you know, the ones which seem to be the ones that keep driving us towards whatever our goals may well have been all along, but that, for whatever the reason, we may have deviated a bit in our directions and / or intent. I suppose that’s, amongst several other zillion things!, what mums are really good at over the course of time when they keep reminding you what you are here for in this world and everything, helping you focus on what you really need to focus on… those around you who you care for and … yourself.

In finding time to reflect Ted talks about several common steps that would surely help us all towards becoming happy and successful. To quote them briefly: 

  1. “Goal-Setting
  2. Communities of Interest
  3. Personal Expression
  4. Gratitude
  5. Empathy and Giving Back
  6. Higher Calling”

It is a rather fascinating and inspiring read all along for sure and I highly recommend going through it, specially, if you are still enjoying some time off and could do with some additional hints & tips on what that thinking time could be like. I can tell you, after the 10 days I have spent back home, with my family, in mainland Spain, there are a couple of them that truly resonate with what I have experienced during that time: personal expression, gratitude and empathy and giving back, understanding fully that all of the above will eventually help me figure out the biggie, that is, the higher calling (Whatever that may well be, whenever … time will tell). 

Ether way, you can probably sense from this blog post how after that holiday break my batteries are fully charged, and ready for plenty more to come along! I will be back to work next Monday. That outrageous, heretic, corporate rebel optimist, that hippie 2.0, is back in full throttle and interestingly enough with a new focus (I told you, that thinking time was going to have its toll as well! hehe) that will start unfolding itself from next week onwards, when as an early riser back into the social grid, will start unleashing his personal expression. But for now, I thought I would share over here a couple of photos I had the chance to take as well of the town where I grew up back in the day… 

Leon - San Isidoro

Leon - Cathedral

Leon - San Marcos

León - Casa Botines

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Blogging and Corporate Hippies by Luis Suarez

Gran Canaria - Roque BentaygaYou gotta love Twitter and those wonderfully inspiring serendipitous knowledge discoveries that it helps you bump into, time and time again, because most of the times they surely help you make up for whatever the tough situation(s) you may be going through. And bring you back on track, of course, to what your focus area(s) may well have been all along. Well, I have just had one of those the last couple of weeks (Which I am hoping to be able to blog out it at some point, since it’s still burning inside my brain like hell), but since we are just about to wrap it up for another week at work and move into the weekend, I couldn’t help blogging about that delightful serendipitous moment I experienced earlier on this week, because it surely has been quite an interesting learning experience and a superb reminder, perhaps even to us all: never, ever, lose track of your purpose, and your focus, on what drives your passion(s)

It’s not even worth the effort, nor the energy, being sidetracked, just because it may well all seem more enticing altogether. It won’t. It never will. That’s why I am really glad that a few days back, my good friend, and fellow IBM colleague, Ben Martin, introduced me to Bernie Mitchell, who along with Andy Bargery, they run the absolutely delightful London Bloggers podcasting series. Bernie invited me to participate in the recording of an episode around blogging, after having read a recent article I wrote on the topic under the title “Why Blogging Still Matters“. 

Of course, I couldn’t reject such a generous and enticing offer and earlier on this week, the three of us, Bernie, Andy and myself got together to record “LBM Audible #9: Luis Suarez from IBM on Blogging and Corporate Hippies” and while the main topic was around the purpose of blogging and why it still makes plenty of sense as perhaps one of the most powerful tools out there to help enhance your own personal brand and digital footprint out there in today’s Social Web, mostly dominated by social networking tools, we eventually ended up talking about pretty much everything around Social / Open Business. 

It was a rather enjoyable, gratifying and delicious podcast recording, more than anything else, because, while we were going through a rather fast pace and jolly dialogue, it helped me realise how much off track I have gotten from my core beliefs around Open Business over the course of the last few months. It felt like my own reckoning that I may have been losing, slowly, but steadily, my hippie 2.0 mojo, and that, somehow, I needed to get it back at some point. Well, that some point is exactly that podcasting episode I did with both Bernie and Andy, because they helped me recover from the back of my mind a good number of ideas I have been rather passionate about over time and that, for one reason or another, they went into hiding, because of other things.

So, what did we talk about then on that podcast, you may be wondering, right? What were some of the themes that helped me get back on track on keep on pushing for Open Business with that rather well known, by now, flair of being the outlier, the corporate rebel, the outrageous heretic and free radical optimist, and, essentially, that hippie 2.0 practitioner. Well, like I said, we talked about lots of various different subjects, but here are some keywords that hopefully will help describe what we discussed and talked about as a brief teaser for the longer piece, in case you may be interested in listening in: Open Business, Adaptation, #lawwe, business blogging as your personal / digital footprint, being bold, fear and reluctance, trust, relinquishing control, leaving a legacy (i.e. a digital footprint), executive (lame) excuses on doing both social and open, ghost writing, authenticity, honesty, best practices don’t exist for knowledge work, blogging101, employee engagement, sustainable growth, evolution vs. [r]evolution of social, servant leadership, managers vs. leaders, hierarchy vs. wirearchy … phew! A lot of topics, indeed, but above them all, we talked extensively about passion for what you do and for what you have always believed in!

The podcasting episode lasts for a bit over 30 minutes and you can listen to the podcast here, if you would be interested in tuning in further: 


Hope you folks enjoy it just as much as I did going through that interview with both Bernie and Andy, and from here onwards I just want to take the opportunity to thank them both sincerely for having me in the show and for allowing me to participate on one of the most fun interviews / podcasts I have participated in that I can remember.  More than anything else, because it’s helped me realise how I need to re-focus on doing what I know best: change the business world, one step at a time, continuing to challenge the status quo of how certain things happen in order to let that passion do the magic of realising what a Socially Integrated Enterprise is all about in a world dominated by Open Business. 

WOW! What a journey, indeed! 

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Why Blogging Still Matters

Gran Canaria - Puerto de MoganIt’s been a little while since the last time that I had a chance to write another post over here in this blog, so I guess it’s now time for another experiment then. No, I know what you may be thinking, but I am not going to stop blogging nor give up on writing for that matter. I still feel it is one of the very few pleasures out there on the Social Web, and still rather relevant, apparently. If I could, I would spend the whole day blogging away like crazy the several hundreds of ideas and drafts I have got in my brain that are rather desperate to come out. There is just so much that I would want to share, talk about and throw out there on the Web that writer’s block has never been an issue for me in the last 10 years that I have been blogging. The issue is, as usual, time. As in where can I find the time to blog? Well, this is where that new experiment will kick in, because I’m just about to switch from where do I find the time to blog, on to, how can I make time to blog? At the end of the day, that’s what it is all about: choice.

Lately, as you may well have duly noticed, work itself hasn’t given me much of a choice though in terms of my external social networking activities. As I am about to enter the 3rd month in the new job as Lead Social Business Enabler for IBM Connections, I am finding that I am spending more and more time in social networks behind the firewall than on the Social Web out there, resulting in me dropping off plenty of my external social activities in detriment of participating in internal conversations. Now, that may not necessarily be a bad thing, but it’s certainly starting to have an impact on my external presence that I am not too sure I would want to give up on it that soon yet. The challenge though is that after rather long, exhausting, but exciting work days, the last thing my brain wants to do is to spend time participating on more social networks. It just basically needs a break. And so do I.

For Seth Godin showing up daily is not an issue though, as much as it appears to have been for me as of late, as he brilliantly wrote about on his 5,000th post anniversary article. But he mentioned something that I can certainly relate to myself on this brilliant quote he shared across on why blogging still is very much worth it:

[…] it’s learning to live with the fact that I can’t say everything I want in a single post, that the trade-off of reaching people easily is that you can also lose people easily. It’s a journey, for both of us, and I’m thrilled to be taking it with you

And it gets even better when he continues to explain why he still shows up every day to his blog:

For me, the privilege is sharing what I notice, without the pressure of having to nail it every time… I treasure the ability to say, “this might not work”

Well, perhaps that is my main issue, that every time I aim at pretty much nailing it and that’s probably the very same reason why more often than not, if I cannot make the time for blogging I just don’t. And I end up watching how days go by without those blog posts coming along. That’s why it may well be a good time to shake things off a bit and experiment. Play. See if I can shake off that perfectionist flavour when blogging away over here. Now, on the other hand, here I am smiling away reflecting on the fact that, at least, my Inbox is not broken 🙂

The thing though is that there is always time to learn new tricks on blogging, no matter how long you may have been going at it. There is always an opportunity out there to learn how you can juggle with it, along with work, family and other commitments. It’s just a matter of establishing priorities and stick around with them, which is essentially what I will be playing with from here onwards.

Like I have mentioned above, I have got no intention of giving up on blogging, or hanging out on external social networks, but I am certainly going to shift focus and intentions on how I would want to stick around with it all from here onwards, which is essentially when this new experiment will kick off. All along you may have noticed how blog posts over here have got a tendency to be on the long form, sort of mini-essays. So I am thinking that while not neglecting such opportunity of writing longer pieces I’m going to start playing around (again, as I have attempted to do it in the past a couple of times already …) with the opportunity of sharing shorter reflections on things that come across my mind, whether work related, or not. Pretty much a la Euan Semple, if you know what I mean 🙂

I know you may be thinking that perhaps there is an opportunity to share those shorter thoughts on other social venues like Twitter, Google Plus, Tumblr and what not, but I am thinking that while those other options are out there, there is still a place for some of those reflections to happen over here, in this blog. Specially, for one particular use case, that one where I am thinking about sharing a thought or two across that I would want to come back to over time, something that it’s proved to be quite a challenge in multiple other social networking tools, due to poor quality search capabilities. Never mind the fact that this blog still is my home, whereas all others I am just passing by  and the door can be shut down any minute, any day, any time. At least, over here, the door will always be open. For you and for me.

So … game on!

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Industrialisation of Social Networking for the Enterprise

La Palma - Pine TreesOr, 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. La Palma - Roque de los Muchachos (Observatorio) 

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. 

La Palma - Roque de los Muchachos (Observatorio)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.

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