Monthly Archives: June 2014

Are you a social media sceptic?

How times have changed

Remember life as it was in smaller communities in earlier times? Think of the English village or the Australian country town or local suburb. These smaller communities shared some unique characteristics. Everybody knew each other and looked after each other, and the notion of privacy was minimal. Their citizens were well connected, and the sense of community was strong and personal.

But as technology changed, so too did the village. Consider the impact of transport. As various forms of transport became available, the village became accessible to others, and it also gave the villagers the opportunity to move to new places either for work or to explore. Other technology changes such as the telephone broke down the boundaries even more.

Today in the Western world, the traditional village has become a mere shadow of its former self as the world has become so urbanized. We still use the term village, but more in the context of the so-called global village. Bill Gates once said, “The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow”.

This concept of the global village has rapidly evolved. Take the idea of travellers being connected. Not so many years ago, travellers had to post written letters home to friends and relatives, and chatting by phone was expensive and therefore a rare occurrence. But today travellers can be connected instantly via phone or the Internet and can even have face-to-face contact using online video tools.

Social media has transformed the playing field

This global village has really come alive in the past five years or so through the various forms of social media that have exploded on the scene. Local geographic constraints no longer define how people connect or interact. Technology has changed the playing field and indeed the language. People now “Google” something or “Skype” someone or “tweet”. Such verbs did not exist until recently.

Of course, the global village is vastly different from the traditional village in many ways, especially in structure, appearance, and behaviour. For instance, in the global village, we deal with strangers very differently. How many friends have we accepted on Facebook that we hardly know? How many times do we buy items from complete strangers on the other side of the planet? The traditional village was a far more intimate affair and much more self-contained.

Social media is enabled by some impressive technology. As the era of both computerization and the Internet came together, the potential power of social media became enormous. Like the confluence of two great rivers, the scope and strength of both together created a whole new dimension.

Yes – social media is different

Social media is different because of three fundamental characteristics, the combination of which we have never seen before. It is instant, global, and transparent.

The first of these is the instant nature of social media. Immediacy is a defining factor with social media. A picture can be uploaded the moment it is taken, or a comment can be issued and circulated immediately. Immediacy is underscored by some recent work by Intel made some estimates of what happens every minute on the Internet, which include:

  • One hundred thousand new tweets
  • Six million Facebook views
  • More than two million search queries on Google

Another aspect of social media that has captured people’s imagination is its truly global reach. One can easily connect with colleagues and friends across the globe. Global conversations, discussions, and information sharing can now occur easily and frequently. We can track our friends and family who are travelling abroad and enjoy their photos and commentary on a frequent basis.

The third aspect of social media that is different is that it is largely transparent. Whilst there are various ways of controlling access and privacy, there is a significant degree of transparency in social media across the board. There is potentially a problem if language and comments in social media are somewhat borderline in their sentiment.

Think about your perspective on social media……

  • How have you embraced the social media phenomena?
  • How would you describe your social media experience to date?
  • Do you see social media as a feature of convenience or a vital tool for you into the future?

The above is drawn from material contained in Matt English’s book Grasping Social Media available online at


Who is your social media buddy?

Enjoying travelling companions

The idea of travelling companions has been around for centuries. People have always sought out mates to travel with for company or safety or simply to provide additional advice and counsel along the way. As the saying goes, two heads are better than one.

The social media journey also generates a need for travelling companions. This is ironic in a way because by definition social media connects us to many people, possibly in many different parts of the world. Aren’t these people our travelling companions? Well, maybe not.

In this context, I am referring to travelling companions as a few people close to us who can help with navigating our way through the do’s and don’ts of social media. This could be family members or friends who have been involved in social media for some time. In a business context, this might be a consultant or subject matter expert who can offer specific advice relevant to the business. This is not a one-size-fits-all situation, but in my social media experience I have found the need for these mates along the way for two reasons.

The level of support can be crucial

In the first instance, it is good to have a sounding board, especially if you are new to social media. The mate or the buddy can play a key role in easing you into the understanding and use of social media and can also help you avoid some of the pitfalls. Much of social media is fairly intuitive and can be picked up easily. Indeed, social media is so popular partly because it is easy to use. But there are some aspects of social media that need to be understood right up front, and having a sounding board for this is important.

One area where this is really important is in the setup. How you set up your profile on social media is crucial, especially the security and access settings. Most social media platforms have varying levels of access and security, and you need to understand how these work. Do you want your material or your participation to be more public or more confined? We have all heard people lament that they did not know their material was “going public”. A simple check of the setup right at the start might have saved them the anguish.

Secondly, social media is changing so rapidly that it is almost impossible to keep up with all the new features and sites. In fact, the dynamics here are quite complex. We often think about all the changes in social media but sometimes forget that we are also changing. The way we use social media changes over time and what we want out of it will also change. Our expectations can also change depending on family or work circumstances. For example, if a son or daughter moves out of country for work, the parents will probably form a different view of social media even if they were previously non-believers.

Some simple ground rules

 Whoever is your social media buddy, it is important to agree some basic rules for how the buddy arrangement should work. In fact, I suggest three key principles that should be agreed with the buddy:

Principle #1 – There is no such thing as a silly question

Principle #2 – There is no issue with repeating questions and explanations

Principle #3 – There will be some frustration or challenge along the way

In other words, the notion of the buddy is not just about meeting or having discussions. Rather it is about having a positive and learning dialogue over time to get the most out of social media, and to de-mystify some of the aspects of social media that may appear challenging.

Consider these points regarding your social media buddy….

  • Who have you used as your buddy (or buddies) on your social media journey?
  • How has the buddy helped build your presence and confidence in social media? 

The above is drawn from material contained in Matt English’s book Grasping Social Media available online at

Social media is a journey – not a destination

For travellers visiting Europe in years gone by, one of the great means of moving around was by train using a Eurail train pass. This pass entitled the user to unlimited travel by train and was a popular way of travel for baby boomers (just like me!) visiting Europe in the 1970s and 1980s, especially before the advent of heavily discounted airfares between European cities. This fixed price pass continues today and is generally bought in the traveller’s home country prior to arrival in Europe.

The Eurail pass opened up many options and opportunities for seeing different countries and cities. Moreover, it provided the opportunity to experience a journey of exploration. Some journeys were a straight point-to-point experience, such as travelling direct from, say, Paris to Frankfurt. But the Eurail pass enabled travellers to truly explore and see places in a different sequence, or indeed to come back and visit a place multiple times. The Paris to Frankfurt trip could well meander via Strasbourg, Stuttgart, and Koblenz, and could also involve faster or slower regional trains along the way. This was very much about the journey. Yes, there was always a sense of destination, but the excitement was as much about the experience of the journey, the places visited, and the friends made along the way.

It brings to mind that quote from Robert Louis Stevenson “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”

Social media as a journey

Similarly, I look at my experience with social media through the lens of a journey that has taken many twists and turns along the way and also involved some backtracking. It has been far from a straight-line experience. It has embraced major social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, as well as broader activities, including blogs and chat rooms.

But social media is not just about the use of some neat technology. It is about real social change. In fifty years’ time, when writers are casting the spotlight on the period from, say, 2005 to 2014, I suspect they will highlight social media as one of the great social phenomena of the time. I expect they will draw attention to the social impact it made across the globe, across different languages, and across different social divides. This social change is about both the personal and business aspects of social media and how these are blending together in ways never thought possible just a few years ago.

Yet social media is still an evolving experience and is shaping and reshaping itself for both personal and business application. It has some way to go to come of age, although many believe that it will never come of age in the traditional sense. Rather, it will reach further levels of sophistication and use.

Think about the social change – not just the tools

In the mid-2000s, I was well aware of social media but did not really understand it. At the time, I must admit it seemed like a bit of huff and bluster. The younger generation seemed to be obsessed with their friends via Facebook, but friendship as I knew it hinged around personal contact and real conversation. These features seemed to be slipping out the door thanks to social media, and I found this somewhat discomforting. It seemed that very personal and direct means of contact and communications were under serious challenge, but with little to replace them other than a computer screen.

But one day someone said to me that we should be careful not to focus too much on the tools and instead look at the outcomes. Sometimes when we receive gratuitous advice, we can take it personally and feel some resentment. But on this occasion, something caused me to ponder the advice further and think about the real message. I thought long and hard about it and came to the realization that I had to lever open my mind to focus on what social media was doing and, more importantly, what it could do in the future. The tools were far less important compared to the underlying social change that was happening.

  • Has your social media experience to date been a frustrating “toe in the water” or an enjoyable journey?
  • Do you look forward to your next steps in social media with trepidation or as part of an interesting and fun journey?

The above is drawn from material contained in Matt English’s book Grasping Social Media available online at




What is your game plan with social media?


Getting the most from social media does not just happen. Indeed, many people can be frustrated by the social media experience because they have not thought through what they want from social media. Of course, there is a valid place for trying different things and experimenting with different aspects of social media. However, there needs to be an overarching strategy for what you want out of social media and where you want to go with it. A strategy of some form needs to be embraced by individuals and especially by organizations.

In developing this strategy, lessons can be learned from the game of golf, a global game of great popularity that is played by people of all ages and in many diverse locations. Various surveys suggest that some fifty to sixty million people across the world play golf regularly. It is a game of great challenge, but also one of enjoyment. It is also a game that is strongly dependent on individual performance, commitment, judgment, and adaptation to prevailing conditions.

Regarding social media, four lessons from golf are very relevant.

1. Have a game plan

Golfers know that a game plan is important. Each game is different depending on a range of factors including weather conditions and the state of the fairways. A good golfer will assess how to play the game in advance and whether more aggressive club selections are needed for the game because of prevailing conditions.

 An individual seeking to embrace social media needs to have a broad game plan of what he or she is trying to achieve and how to go about it. This is not about the volume of thought but rather the clarity of thought. Be clear on where you want to head with social media, and, as stated earlier, it is important to create enough personal time and space to give it a go and get the most out of it. Is it more about using social media for business or professional activity or is its main focus going to be more on social aspects? Or is there a blend of the two?

2. Maintain a strong social media focus and commitment

Golfers often lose focus or grow overconfident about their final score. They may have had a good first half of the game, but the score can turn badly on just one or two strokes or one bad hole. Top players have all too often seen the winner’s trophy in sight, only to find it eluding them in the final few holes of the game.

Like these golfers, individuals should establish and maintain a strong commitment once they have embarked on their social media journey. Participating in social media must be done in a way to maximize the chance of success and enjoyment. A fleeting visit to social media sites from time to time will not provide a decent level of satisfaction or enjoyment and may cause disenchantment.

A friend once said to me that he had tried a social media tool for a couple of weeks and then lost interest. I suggest this person did not give anywhere near the commitment and focus that was needed to give it a go. It is a bit like fitness. A casual visit to the gym from time to time will not deliver the fitness benefits expected. It needs commitment to a regular and frequent programme.

3. Tactical choices really matter

For a golfer, the tactics on each hole need to be carefully considered. The choice of club for a particular shot is most often cited as a key decision to be made. Likewise, the approach to the green is a tactical choice. Should the player loft over a nasty bunker or perhaps play a safer shot shy of the bunker but a little farther from the pin? 

For individual social media activity, the choice of the right social media tools is of equal tactical importance. For an individual wanting to have more of a professional interaction with work colleagues and work interests, the use of LinkedIn would be a better choice than social media tools that are geared to more social commentary and the exchange of photos. It is important that the right tools are chosen to ensure individuals get what they seek from social media

4. Don’t complain about the conditions—deal with them

The final point involves the conditions in which individuals and businesses operate. Again, consider golf, a sport that is played in all conditions—the wind, the rain, the heat, and so on. The conditions cannot be changed, so golfers have to learn to deal with these variables and change their game or their gear accordingly.

Individuals using social media need to deal with whatever social media serves up to them on a daily basis. This is especially true in the early days of their social media activity. How friends respond to their various posts (or perhaps don’t respond), how many friends or connections they have, and what kind of information they find are all factors and conditions that individuals will confront.

Think about your social media strategy…….

  • What do you really want from social media?
  • What is your game plan for making the most out of social media?


The above is drawn from material contained in Matt English’s book Grasping Social Media available online at