Getting Back to Where We Came From

The Gate by mx2-fotoIt wasn’t so long ago, not quite a decade yet, when I first discovered what a blog was. The idea of sharing ideas and publishing them to the world was new to me. That was what journalists did, and story tellers. Not some computer guy from Minnesota.

Yet I was wrong. I read blogs from all sorts of folks, from all walks of life. The blogs with topics furthest from my own experiences were the most interesting, of course. Through the months and years, the people I knew grew from a couple dozen to hundreds, then a few years later, thousands.

The impact personally, was tremendous, allowing me to start publishing my own ideas on how to approach a problem. Allowing me to present my ideas, which I shared with hundreds of others, on communications and social communication in business. I found my voice in creating my own personal brand, and launching forth a new, second, career in sharing these ideas.

Eventually, these things lead us all back to where we came. I started branching out from Information Technology, and find myself bringing new ideas back to IT in the last couple years. The last four years I’ve worked on multiple solutions with three different fortune 500 companies. All in different ways. All for different reasons.

Today, I find myself looking back on the experiences from the past decade. Not only the technical ones that have dominated my career, but also the social, marketing, and communications ones that I’ve had the pleasure of learning from. I find myself doing what I said back in 2008, bringing social media oriented ideas back to my core skills and incorporating the important and relevant bits.

I think this is the key to social media as we move forward. Instead of the next network, or the next viral video to learn how far – how fast something can travel, it is how much more that we’ve communicated. It’s how we’ve articulated our ideas. It’s how much we’ve listened and learned.

Photo credit: mx2-foto

Communication, or the lack thereof

'Communication Problem' by JoshFlassbind.comSo an interesting thing happened yesterday. I failed at something I know how to do.

It’s easy to let happen, get too many things demanding too much attention and you take your eye off the ball. Something we help our clients work through and watch out for, and here I did the classic lack of communication mistake.

It should be okay, I mean, that happens to everyone.

And it does. However, the real issue here is that I let myself get distracted from what I’ve been thinking about for some time, and that’s really the ‘shame on me’ part.

When you’re passionate about something and really want to make something more of it, you need to communicate, and do so often so there’s no confusion to the intention and direction you’re going. That is the classic, ultimate rule and one should stick to that as closely as is possible.

So, instead of working on those things that would move the ball down the field, I spent yesterday answering questions and putting out fires that needn’t have been. A blog post, an email blast and some tweets pointing folks to that information would have put much of the discussion to rest before it started.

Live and learn I suppose. Take my lesson (really, please take it – I’ll sell cheap) and learn from it instead of making the same mistake yourself. Call if you have questions, I’m still always learning and love to share those things I learn.

Photo credit:

Behind The Firewall – Rogue Agents

RoguestarWe’ve talked about this before. Employees taking steps on their own to induce change into an organization, to better serve the customers they interact with. We’ve talked about this before, though probably from a corporate perspective rather than a personal one. Let’s make it personal.

Most agents of change have historically bent the rules. These people found new, simpler, or better ways of doing things.  They didn’t hesitate to take on the leadership role (taking initiative) to make things happen, often without asking for permission or direction ahead of time.

Taking risks and bringing new ideas or technology into an organization can not only be challenging, but can potentially put your job in jeopardy. Below I list 5 things you can do as an agent of change in your organization. Be aware, however, that doing some of these things may violate the specific policies in your company, and that these are simply examples of what has been done by other people in other situations where they acted as Rogue Agents.

1 – Build Your Own Brand

One of the most important things to do first is be aware of who you are and your passions. Sometimes it helps to have a brand or package to work with before you start working with someone else’s, and what better one to start with than your own? Build your personal brand, and establish who you are first.

2 – Gain Access to the Tools

In order to stay on top of industry news (your own and for the social media “industry” of ideas & tools), you need to be connected. Many companies have fairly open access to information on the Internet, and some have unfettered access to social media/networking sites. If this isn’t your situation, bring your own access! Use a 3G modem to connect to the Internet without pesky firewalls and policies in the way. Ultimately I’d suggest bringing in your own laptop to do this with. In any case, you do have a smart phone don’t you? Winking smile

3 – Experiment, Learn, Share

Try everything that looks useful! Most tools don’t fit the needs of your organization, or yourself for that matter. The lesson here is that learning what tools are good for what tasks is what’s important. That way, you can properly identify a tool/service/solution for a given need. Remember to share what you learn!

4 – Get Involved

Find something your passionate about or good at. Participate in the forums, groups, meetups, or online discussions. Let people hear your perspectives & ideas, and listen to what they’ve got to say (you’ll likely learn a lot). Let other folks in your organization in on some of the discussion & groups that are of value to your company’s product or brand. Share the knowledge, and make sure that you’re recognized in those groups as a thought leader.

5 – Become a Knowledge Expert

As you work on your personal brand, and learn the concepts and technologies that make up what social media is, you will start establishing yourself as a knowledge expert. Mostly this means that you’re sharing interesting ideas and knowledge that help other people succeed. This in turn is something that people will recognize about you, and that’s what the personal pay-off is going to be for all the time you invest in being a rogue agent. It’ll help you be a better you as your career unfolds, and you can bring your specialized, demonstrated skills to future clients.

It goes without saying that the items above are examples of what some people have done at different organizations in the past. What worked for them may not work for you or your organization. Be smart in what you’re trying to do – changing an organization to better itself for it’s customers is the right thing to do, changing an organization simply because you don’t like their policies isn’t.

Photo credit: Roguestar by Jeremy Brooks

Independence Behind The Firewall

'The Consultant' by orkboi Have I mentioned recently that I do consulting and implementation work in social media strategy, community development and training?  Probably not as much as I should, but I wanted to include that at the top in this post because I don’t bring it up often.

It’s also relevant to what many people are doing in their role to help their businesses understand how they can use social media.  You see, sometimes you need to induce change and one of many ways is to think like an outsider.

Taking the perspective of someone new to the organization, but with a focus on your task at hand (social media).  How would that new individual go about things?  Will they simply accept “that’s how we’ve always done it”, or would they push to discover a new way?

What if you took that new perspective, one that an independent consultant might have?  How would that change your organization?  You have the ability to stat that today and begin to develop your own independent perspective while maintaining your current role.

I was in IT when I started thinking differently.  For me it became an interest to see what else we could use all that corporate technology for in addition to simply running the company.  There was a growing desire within to start sharing the ideas and exploring how the company could benefit.

Start making change – explore your independence behind the firewall.

Photo courtesy of orkboi

Behind The Firewall – Multifaceted

'Pastel Beauty' by biggertree Much of what social media is can be viewed differently from different angles.  There’s a marketing side, a public relations side, a technical side, a communications side, and a human side.

It’s these different aspects of social media that combine to confuse what “it” is for.  It’s so easy for people working for an organization to mistake the varying degrees of social media for things that seem frivolous or unneeded.  Instead, focusing on the one facet that appeals to them or their role in the organization without recognizing the opportunities of a fully integrated approach.

Taking a broader view of what social media can bring to an organization is a difficult proposition for many companies due to the differing needs of each department.  Its those internal differences that sometimes conflict with each other and keep progress from happening.  It takes some really special people with multiple talents to keep the idea moving forward.

These people are multifaceted, or better put, multi-disciplinarians.  The people spreading the message in your organization need to be able to talk tech, marketing, and corp-speak to multiple groups.  They’re the ones you need to identify, recruit (especially internally), train and empower.  Give them the leeway and the lines of communication they’ll need, in essence set them up to succeed.  Hamper them in any way and you’ll not have the results that you’re looking for.

I’ve seen numerous organizations that just can’t get around the idea of one spokesperson for the organization, or seeing security vulnerabilities and productivity losses at every turn.  These organizations can’t seem to find consensus on who should “own” (you loose already if that’s the culture) the message, let alone even participate.

At the same time, I’ve seen organizations that “don’t get it” but still end up doing it right.  These are the organizations that not only recognize that they don’t totally understand, but they’re also the type know the world has changed and that they have to embrace new ideas.  Its these types of corporate cultures that end up getting it right for their customers and learning more about how they can best solve their needs.

So understanding the multiple facets of social media and how they can be applied inside a company is crucial.  That’s what the job of a social media strategist, architect, analyst, or other similar role really is.  There’s more to each of these roles of course, but the ability to identify the needs, opportunities and the tools & solutions required to meet them is the key set of knowledge and experience required.

Photo credit: biggertree

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