Social media is not the answer!

Hang on, don’t disappear, I know, I know….the title might not be the biggest crowd puller but bear with me, I have a conversation I’d love to have with you and seeing as I know that most people who read my blog get here via social media I need you to stick around and add your thoughts. Please, could really do with them.

Earlier today @carlhaggerty asked theย twittersphere what would their message be to senior managers about the benefits of social media and social learning. My response was an impulsive ‘they can’t afford not to’, which led to Carl asking me whether I could imagine doing my job without social media.

This got me thinking. Blame Carl.

The short answer to Carl, and what I’d like to kick off a conversation about, is that yes I can. Up until about 18mths ago I happily lived my professional life without social media, I think its fair to say that most of the people who I deal with in my professional life are unfamiliar with social media, as a sector adult social care is not known for embracing technology, a lot of the staff are overburdened, under-equipped (technologically) and to be blunt overwrought with the amount of change they are currently dealing with.

Personally social media has without doubt aided my networking; it has introduced me to new people, concepts and learning opportunities; stimulated, frustrated and illuminated in equal measure. For me social media has enabled me to reap many, many benefits. That said it has required time, equipment, mental capacity, personal commitment and a genuine, personal interest and love of people….I’m not sure it would work without those things and I’m not convinced it is the answer!

Increasingly I am reading tweets, blog posts and emails that imply or infer that if only people would use social media life would be transformed. It almost certainly would be – but who knows whether for the better or worse.

I genuinely believe that social media has a lot to offer. I also believe it is simply a tool, a vehicle, a prompt, a conversation starter, an aid….for me it helps what would otherwise happen in real life, it can lead to amazing things, but as with most things in life it can also backfire.

So in response to Carl’s brilliant question – I can imagine doing my job without social media, I am also completely convinced I do a better job as a result of using social media. I discovered lots of social media by accident, I safely played with it in my real life before touching it for work, I would have run a mile if someone had tried to insist or convince me to use it.

Maybe that’s just me, I don’t now, I’m rarely convinced by evangelism. Please keep spreading the social media love people, but please remember it is not the magical solution…in ten years time I imagine social media will take the place of email now, at least in my life – a life changing tool that at times I wish had never been invented! That said, people don’t know what they don’t know so I think our real challenge is to share the benefits, in a positive environment where no question is too stupid and support people to learn the challenges and opportunities for themselves. I’m confident that Carl will be doing exactly that this afternoon. Hope it goes well.

If anyone has any thoughts, comments or reflections, rebuttals or counter arguments I’d love to hear them. Would also love to know of your best examples of how social media has helped or hindered your professional lives … or links to similar discussions elsewhere. Thank you.

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7 thoughts on “Social media is not the answer!

  1. Great conversation starter.
    I believe Social Media has moved on from the early adopters who take it for what it is and enjoy it for what it can offer in it’s purest form to those who need to understand it by relating it to something that they know (are you with me so far?)Those who are just seeing SM for the first time see it as something they don’t have time for because they are reading newspapers, watching TV and spending money on marketing in the traditional way. Once they realise that SM puts you in the centre of the news, gives you control of what when and who you listen to the shift will appear. I agree with the evangalist (i hate the term) but those of us in the ‘know’ must be welcoming of all who delve into SM and be careful not to create a class system.

  2. Why has social media got to be viewed so differently? Is social media not just conversion from the bus stop taken online, nothing more? Social media is about people views etc. Can you view social media as going to the magazine store and only picking up the magazine that suits your interest?
    Who has built social media you to such a state that we need gurus?

  3. I think Patrick raises a very valid point. What makes Social Media different to any other communication medium. I think it is only viewed differently because many generations of current life knew a way before it. Where will social media sit in 50, 100 years time. It’ll be as accepted as the telephone was/is now.

    That said I believe there is an important balance and getting it right is key. Will the next generation have as good real life communication skills if social media is so dominant?

    My friend still works for a high profile corporate company that refuse to let her implement social media as a tool to help her marketing role. To the point where they’ve allowed her ‘one tweet’ a week. You can go too far with it, but on the other hand you must embrace it.

  4. Really interesting post. It hits on the head something that has been nagging at me about the how much social media is changing our lives. I love the contacts that I’ve made through various ways and particularly it levels and connects in different ways but there still have to be ideas to connect and people behind the ‘personae’.

    The key which you express is that it is another very useful tool. I think ‘gurus’ like to embrace the new but actually, it won’t be long before their time has passed as kids grow up with a better understanding than any of us could have conceived.

    Social media is fun. Sometimes it’s useful. It isn’t yet indispensible..

  5. You make some good points George. I share your experience that “most of the people who I deal with in my professional life are unfamiliar with social media, as a sector adult social care is not known for embracing technology”. It will take time for the transition to occur and for people to see good examples of SM being used and realise for themselves how it can be embraced for their own role.

    For my part I launched the UK Home Care Executives Group on LinkedIn last May and am delighted to see it has already grown to over 300 members. It is by far the largest and most active, focussed group of this type available for those who work in Domiciliary Care. The target is to reach 1,000 members as this would begin to reflect the size of the sector. The challenge is reaching people who don’t even use places like LinkedIn let alone realising there is a purpose built community ready and waiting for them to join and benefit from. Hopefully the recent changes by LinkedIn to allow groups to be open and therefore searchable by Google etc will help spread the message.

    Part of my conversion to SM was through discussions with those at work who were already active users of Facebook on a personal level. As I went around the organisation during the first part of 2010 it became overwhelmingly apparent to me that the vast majority of our people were on Facebook. As the founder and Managing Director of DoCare I realised that I and the company were at risk of becoming irrelevant to our employees if we did not adapt to the facts. So we launched our Facebook page in July last year. We are still finding our feet with the best way to use the site but it has been fantastic to see members of staff, clients and their friends and families contributing (you can take a look at http://www.facebook.com/DoCareLtd). There has been a knock on effect with an increase in the volume of traffic hitting our main website at http://www.docare.co.uk as well.

    For both the LinkedIn and the Facebook groups I feel that conversations are now taking place that wouldn’t otherwise have happened. To me that makes it all worthwhile. My next challenge is to understand how Twitter can be used to the same end!

  6. I think, as you allude to, there is no right or wrong answer – and as ever, I think it is a matter of balance: results achieved in Social media probably have more foundation in your intention than in the medium employed. Social media is best for trying to engage – it is not good for broadcasting marketing nonsense, it is good for spreading information – but also miss information.

    I am intrigued by some doomsayers claiming that it is going to stifle engagement between people. I think not: the letter, telegram, telephone and fax have not yet achieved this, so why should social media? OK, the TV might have dinted interpersonally interactions – but that’s a broadcast media, not narrow-cast / interactive as social media can be.

    One big lack of knowledge is that we have no measure for the quality of interactions using Direct messaging through assorted social media platforms. News yesterday suggested that Direct messaging online had already overtaken SMS as a message carrier. I think that this is one area that we under-estimate and we cannot see what is in other people in-boxes. My personal experience is that I now have many interactions using Direct messaging, with the rise of the smart phone, this has passed most other on-line communication media for me.

    Another personal point, It is interesting how often discussions on social media are preludes, continuations or conclusions of conversations started in public; in the pub, bus stop, train, work, cafe, etc, and can grow to then involve other people that were not present either on the social media or online.

    I have been experimenting with a philosophical discussions (one interesting discussion was in linguistic taxonomy, and the metaphysical basis…. yes, really) in a multi-media and real world environment, using Twitter, Facebook (Public & DM), the pub, train and assorted other locations. It has progressed well, and proven that interactions on social media can be high quality. It was not aimed at intellectuals, but just people I know, and the interaction, feedback and discussion has been amazing. The interesting thing here has been the discussion, the development of ideas and that it has allowed spurts of discussion and then reflection. All quite intellectual: it has liberated people into being able to consider other things beyond there normal sphere of influence. Whilst not directly related to your original question, I put is forward as an example of results achieved via intention. I intended to see if there were people willing to engage in intellectual activity, and social media assisted in enabling it in the real world as well as within social media.

    I have also been experimenting with social media on a hyper local level. Results have been interesting, and once again, results entirely based upon intention. If it’s snowing, and you announce that the Bins are being collected- -get them out, your stat’s go through the roof. Try and engage people in something like attending a meeting – I’m afraid that nailing a leaflet to a couple of choice lamp-posts in the village is by far the most effective communication tool.

    Interaction or information?

    Social media an ever changing beast: tomorrow it will not be what it is today.

    I think you make it what you want it to be.

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