Archive for June, 2014

Living life – with or without social media?

Monday, June 9th, 2014

Last Friday and Saturday I was at the CIPD Northern Area Partnership (NAP) Conference in York. I attended some very good sessions, met some new people, and renewed and developed a number of other relationships. It was excellent value for money and extremely well organised – a credit to all those involved.

All this happened face to face. I didn’t tweet once. But many other people did. Did I lose out by not tweeting? Did others lose out by me not tweeting?

The use of social media was a key theme of the Conference. Delegates were encouraged to tweet, the main screen displayed conference tweets at every opportunity, and bloggers were a permanent fixture in the main conference room.

The speakers at the start of the each day had very different perspectives around the use of social media – the first proposed that by using our ‘devices’ and their associated social media capabilities we would live life to the full, and the second that it is only possible to live life to the full by not using them. Their definition of ‘living life’ was very different.

Gemma Reucroft explained how she had become more social media savvy over the past few years, and gave examples of some of the doors it has opened for her and the relationship benefits she has gained.  She talked passionately and convincingly of the potential developments that this will bring to the workplace – the potential (partial) demise of the workplace as we know it, email becoming a thing of the past and recruitment activity taking place exclusively through Twitter.  Early in her presentation she played a video containing a bewildering amount of statistical information about how much of the world’s population use devices (i.e. smart phones), the internet and various forms of social media. For example, if Facebook was a country, it would be the second most populated behind China.

At the start of the second day, Jonathan Cooper presented a completely different perspective on relationship management. He encouraged the more traditional forms of communication, and the benefits of making it authentic. He concluded his presentation with a video encouraging people to put their devices away – look up and not down – and live ‘real’ lives (although it was a little twee and could have been more representative of diverse communities). Whilst Gemma’s video had been very cognitive, this was clearly aimed at the affective domain of learning. The domains of learning targeted by each presenter had strong congruence with each of their themes. Jonathan’s session closed at the conclusion of the piece of film, and as I listened to and looked around at the applause, it was very apparent that a good number of people were clapping with a vigour not previously seen at the Conference – a result of an affective methodology and perhaps by those not ready for the level of social media being presented on the first day?

Gemma had given us all a social media bingo card (see photo) which we were asked to individually complete to give a quick indication of how effectively we were engaging with social media. It wasn’t something that she had created, but a resource she had gained through her use of social media (I’m afraid I missed who, so I cannot give them a mention).

As you may be able to see from the photo, I scored 10 (out of a possible 20). I could perhaps have had an 11th as I check my emails (rather than social media – or are they social media?) as soon as I get up, and a 12th as I have over 100 Facebook contacts if I also incorporate the ‘Likes’ from my company Facebook page.

The highest number in the room was around 13, so I wasn’t far off that number, but I don’t regard myself as engaging with social media particularly effectively.

The bingo card was quantity based rather than quality based. Yes, I have over 500 contacts on Linkedin, but is that a really effective measure? – I know all my contacts, but LION’s (LinkedIn Open Networker) go around linking up with virtually anyone.

A couple of years ago, and I cannot remember exactly why – but we had fun doing it – my son and I created a Facebook page for our dog – Spotty Ackerley. Within a very few days I became aware of how many other animals there are on Facebook – in addition to a whole load of dogs, he has now responded to Friend Requests from giraffes, cats, lions, zebras and elephants to name just a few. He now has over 2,000 friends (to my 44). If Facebook animals were a country, it would be more populated than Hungary.

If some of the questions had been around whether I had gained any work or contracts from my use of social media, whether I had implemented anything at work as a result of social media or whether I had gained any useful information from social media, my overall score would have been significantly reduced – and probably more accurate as to my effective use of social media. Is this not the true value of it?

I only used electronic communication once during the conference. A person sitting in front of me left her glasses’ case on the floor. I went to look for her but couldn’t find her. She had given me her business card, so I texted her with the information (is texting social media?). About 4 hours later I saw her again, and I mentioned the glasses case. She confirmed that she had received my text and that the glasses case belonged to her but she hadn’t yet been to pick it up.

Whilst she had received my text, she didn’t respond to it. As I left the conference the glasses case was still at ‘Reception’ where I had left it. An example of both poor engagement and ineffective use of electronic communication? More accurately, perhaps, it demonstrates that the benefits of social media will depend on a person’s behaviours as well as their technical knowledge. I would also suggest that it depends greatly on a person’s personality type, which I will explore further in my next blog post.

Clearly, social media has a part to play in our lives – both at work and away from work – and it is a method of engagement, as is face to face engagement. The theme of the Conference was “The Business of HR … making a difference”. As individuals, we need to be clear on what constitutes effective use of social media, how its use can make a positive difference at work and what quality it can bring to our relationships – if  we are to use it effectively.

How do you use social media differently from how you used it six months ago?