Explaining Social Media. Contact, Port Side!

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

About to hit the road for several weeks of discussions with senior executives. This duty is a main ingredient of my new role in my period of transitioning to retirement (actually, a planned lay-off, but I’m assured of not being laid-off over the next 18 months). Don’t get me wrong, this is a good job in a weak economy. My mission is to make the most of it, for everybody.

I write to think about Social Media or the client request of “Tell us about the adoption of social media in our industry (finance).’ And, of course, the “Show Me the Money” statement.

I want to answer them this way: much of my naval service centered on looking for submarines. Not personally, from the crow’s nest or such, but with a lot of expensive equipment and a team of young men positioned at a variety of computer screens in the lower sections of our ship. I had two such assignments, by the way, both based from ports in the Pacific Ocean. As Senior Chief Hicks, a brilliant and troubled soul would advise the young sonar men, “You cannot find a submarine. You must understand the environment of the submarine, then it will reveal itself to you.” So, our sonar gang spent many hours studying bottom contours and sound channels as well as listening for crackling shrimp and whale bellows. The former creates a lot of white noise and the latter travels quite far. Both can be easily confused with the sounds and electronic signatures of actual ships and submarines.

Social Media to me is not a menu of tools and techniques such as Twitter or Pinterest or Facebook or Foursquare. Productively used, Social Media is about participation and collaboration and the connection of like-minded people, often far away from and unknown to one another. “My friend is your friend” notion creatively multiplying itself without formal introduction.

I switched from thinking that Social Media is all about “Dude, I’m having a latte” to a useful venue for exchanging information when an English start-up described how they use Twitter to exchange information about client meetings. They could not afford a proper software tool for collecting client info and agreed to use Twitter to share perhaps valuable info about clients amongst themselves (theirs was a company of ten). When I described this to another, he agreed with this concept, saying “Twitter is about contributing to learning so that one can ask when one has the need to know.”

I agree with this description and believe that this is the valuable outcome of a wisely chosen social media tool, i.e. it contributes to learning. Just think about a comparison of email to texting. Email is good when is good, but much chaff must be sorted through for the wheat. A text is pretty efficient and reliable for the value of its information.

So, I suppose that I’ll try to impress upon the senior executives that Social Media, at its root, is something different; that the tool matters less than a the sincere effort to participate when using the chosen tool; and that contributing to learning is the goal, not only listening, and usually anonymously, to what others are saying.

I’ll try to suggest the wisdom of Senior Chief Sonar Technician Hicks by recommending that they use the tools and techniques of Social Media to understand the customer environment. More than investment, commitment in the form of active participation is required. When you understand the noise, the target or opportunity reveals itself.

From Ziggy in Canada: Social Media explained

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Social Media Adoption by the Enterprise

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Related point of view by IBM’s Institute for Business Value

Certainly, an enterprise cannot turn on a dime, but it was six years ago that my then 15 year old son informed me that “email is for adults.” In my father’s Merrill Lynch office, now part of Bank of America, their advantage in the brokerage business was access to and adoption of technology. Now these sorts of outfits are among the last to adopt. Outlook and Notes are not the answers for the enterprise; will it be Facebook? Doubt this as well. If change does not occur in an orderly manner within the business, it will be induced from without.

I see this at the radio station, WXDU, where I am a volunteer DJ and have been for seven semesters. The new DJs are different this year. In my opinion, this is the first freshman class who was introduced to music via the iPod. Their music comes from others and is shared with others and is played on their own devices in any order and format that they want. It’s second nature. Who would listen to a seemingly random selection of someone else’s music, someone that you don’t know. And this attitude manifests itself in reliability at the station. DJs back-out or call in sick or don’t show due to an exam, not because they are not responsible people, I feel that it is because they cannot imagine that whatever audience is out there would really mind if they didn’t hear someone else’s music played at a particular hour. Ditto for information sharing at work. If they don’t get the tools and access to information that they think that they need, they’ll get it somewhere else and from somebody else and not even realize that there is a difference.

Social Media and the Enterprise

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Part two of an illuminating panel discussion at Tech at Tuck Dartmouth College on how the enterprise could enable and benefit from the adoption of social media tools and techniques.

Probably an easier sell now that we’ve seen the crowds in Egypt’s Tahrir Square. Everyone knows so it seems to be a good idea and practice to help them to understand.

1st day of Autumn

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Tempo in the technology sales sphere picks up. Four customer related briefings yesterday and several last week. I’m trying to figure-out why middle aged IT execs don’t embrace the potential of social media or Web 2.0?! They acknowledge that something is going on, mostly as they observe their children’s habits, and yet make little related progress or effort.

One reason could be that I’m speaking to IT execs. Two recent meetings with marketing staff, a combined total of 23 attendees revealed that 22 used iPhones. In one meeting of 11, each attendee of a range of ages had one! I spoke to 90+ IT execs last week, 7 had iPhones and the audience agreed that Social Media is only the new wrapper for relationship building.

Yesterday, an energy company expressed interest in meeting with me for a briefing because of the 200 interns that they hired for the past summer, 195 in their program evaluation forms expressed dismay at the absence or recommended that this company offer Facebook and Linked-In and You Tube access to employees. This wired demographic approaches with quite different expectations of work and relationships than even their parents.

Maybe I should resurrect the notion of the sea-change in technology introduction brought on by the CD-ROM in the early 1990s. I believe that it could be argued that this was the first really useful item of business productivity brought to the office from home. Prior, phone, mobile phones, typewriters, monitors, computers et al were brought home from the office. In the span of less than one generation, mom and dad look into the basement or den or children’s bedroom for insight into the future tools of their office environment. I know that I do. And lately, I am impressed with how much You Tube video that my teenage son looks at to learn about music or sports or even – ready for this – his schoolwork.

I try to comfort my customers about the potential of social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook by suggesting that these are indeed quite fundamental, maybe even crude, but so was the personal computer in the early eighties. I recall a manufacturing expert at the largest of computer companies (at that time) telling me that he did not own a PC because it only seemed useful for “collecting recipes and writing letters (printed on that dot matrix, tabbed paper device). At that time, who could have envisioned having two applications open such as word processing and a spreadsheet, much less global interconnectivity of these machines or the form-factor being smaller than a calculator of that time. Here’s one: my first HP caluculator cost nearly $500 in 1973; my 16gb iPhone cost $200 in 2008. And the iPhone includes a decent calculator.
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