The time for #SocialLeaders is now

Tim Scott and I have written a third version of our practical guides to using social media.  This time, it is aimed at the busy business leader.

The time for social leadership is now.  To engage with customers and employees alike, to create a personal brand, to lead authentically and openly. To share and collaborate in a different way.  To role model the digital skills that all organisations need now and tomorrow.

It is still a rare thing to see leaders using social media really well.  There are some excellent examples but they are  few and far between.  Previous research into Fortune 500 CEO’s found that whilst most of them could be found on LinkedIn, they weren’t exactly active.  Those that had managed to find their way to other platforms like Twitter still weren’t really all that social.

This book is, as with all of my books with Tim Scott, about practicality. There is advice on picking the right platforms, getting started, taking your organisation with you, and how to avoid social media fails.  We hope that it also makes a compelling case to why leaders should use social media and encourage their organisations to do the same.

Next week, to complement the book, we begin a blog series on social leadership, by interviewing examples from a range of sectors and organisations – talking to the people that already do it well in order to find out why and how they do it.  Look out for the hashtag #SocialLeaders on Twitter.

You can follow the series here and if you want to read the book, here’s the link!

Happy reading!


Why no one cares about your internal social network

I love a bit of social media.  No surprise there then to any regular reader of my blog.

Only when it comes to internal social media networks, Yammer and the like, many of them end up being underused.  Unfulfilled potential.

Sometimes this is acknowledged.  Sometimes not.  See this great slide share from Paul Taylor detailing the signs that you are not a social business.

Like with any people stuff, there are some great examples of organisations that have made their internal social networks really deliver.  But many places are not even close.

Why? There are lots of reasons.  And many of them aren’t specific to social networks either.

Sometimes it is about employee’s engagement with the broader organisation. Or lack thereof.

Sometimes it is about a lack of digital and social skills generally.

Sometimes it is about having the time to engage in anything other than the immediate task at hand.

When it comes to the social network itself…..

Sometimes it is about employees not having a clue what the heck it is for or what they are supposed to do with it.

Sometimes it is about practically not knowing how to use a social network.

Sometimes it is about the network being seen to be Somebody Else’s Problem.  HR or Internal Comms being top of the list of suspects.

Sometimes it is about line managers not letting people use them because they think it’s not proper work. Whatever that is.

Sometimes it is that the organisation hasn’t launched it properly, given people a reason to go there, given it a focus or purpose – or perhaps even more importantly, it hasn’t given people the right sort of permission.

It isn’t unusual in my experience to find that social networks have a small cohort of regular users, sharers and commentators.  And then the rest of the organisation is either all so-what or oblivious to its existence.

Get it right, and social media networks can be game changing.  They can open your organisation right up, getting over the age-old complaints about communication and silo working and not knowing what is going on around here and never seeing any of the leaders. It can be a real driver of change.  Of transparency.  Of innovation.

But otherwise, it is just something else on the to-do list, something else for people to complain about, something else that there has to be a policy for.

Employees won’t care about your internal social media network unless you give them a reason to care. And even then, they still might not.  Of course, a social media network does not stand alone within an organisation, it is part of the system.  Often, what occurs (or doesn’t) on an internal social network is representative of what takes place within that wider system.  So going back to that earlier point; if employees aren’t willing to engage on your internal social media platform, if they aren’t willing to share, to communicate, to collaborate, recognise and discuss…. just what does that say about your organisation, its leadership and its culture?


Putting Social Media to Work….

Blatant self-promoting blog alert!

Last year Tim Scott and I published ‘Putting Social Media to Work, a Practical Guide’.  The book was largely focused toward those working within the Human Resources profession, and was all about how HR can get social for themselves and lead it within their own organisations.

But the more we talked to people who work in smaller organisations, or who were self-employed and independent practitioners, the more we realised that there were other folks that needed some help getting social too.  Whether it is help with professional social networking, building a social brand, connecting with others or just a simple ‘how-to’, there was clearly need for practical advice just for these readers.

So, there is a new and updated version of our book now available via Amazon. If you are wondering what social can do for your small business, how you can find the time, which social platform to use, or even just what all the jargon means, then this is the book for you.

Coming soon there will a third version too…. A practical guide (obvs) to getting social for the busy leader. Watch this space!

Kindle version

IRL version (Note. Makes excellent Christmas present for all the family.)


PS. If you were kind enough to buy our first book, then you might find you don’t need to buy this one too.  Unless you want to contribute to our swimming pool fund of course. 


Repeating myself (about social media)

Blogging déjà vu

I am fairly sure I have written this blog post before.

I am bored of saying it.  Maybe you are bored of reading it.

But I’m posting it again all the same.

Scrolling through my Twitter timeline this morning, I came across a post about social media and employment law.  I’m not going to name and shame; it’s not about that. It’s about wanting to see something different.  Pretty please.

You have probably seen the like before.  Stuff about all of the risks.  About the potential claims just waiting to be made against you by employees and interview candidates alike.  About what should be in the policy and what you should and shouldn’t do and, meh, it was so risk averse.

Misconceptions built in.  Myth number one in the post?  Older people can’t or don’t or won’t use social media. So it might be age discrimination.  Or something.

First things first.  That isn’t true.  And peddling that particular myth is right up there with all the millennial clickbait crap. Social media isn’t just for kids you know.

It’s hard wired into the HR profession to consider risk.  It is part of the job after all.  Only sometimes we take it too far.  We write all the policies and issue all the warnings.  Unfortunately, we sometimes forget along the way to balance the potential rewards with the possible risks.

Transparency.  Internal communication opened right up. Dialogue not monologue.  Breaking down the silos. Connecting leaders to the people that work for them.  Employee advocacy.  Totally new ways of learning.  Bringing the outside in.  Collaboration.  Employer brand.

The benefits are many.  I could go on, but there’s a whole back catalogue of blog posts where I bang on about it enough.

My request of HR folks is this.

Worry less.

Some people will do dumb stuff on social media.  Most of them won’t.

Some employees will do stuff on social media that might find its way into the employment tribunal.  Some employers will do that too.  But most of them won’t.

But many of you, any of you, can have the benefits if you put the work in to making your place more social.

So next time you read some employment law social media write a policy now (we can help you with that of course) clickbait, then just close the link and read something (anything) less risk averse instead.

Pretty please.


PS – more on social media myths from my co-author and collaborator Tim Scott here.

Social Media #Fail

This news story caught my eye yesterday.

Southern Rail have an ongoing dispute with the RMT union. Strikes have taken place and more are planned.

So yesterday they sent this tweet, encouraging commuters to tweet the RMT, to tell them how the strike action is making them feel. They even had their own hashtag for the ‘campaign’: #SouthernRailBackonTrack. A search of that tells its own story. Of course the unforgiving nature of Twitter soon led to another hashtag: #SouthernFail.


Putting aside any personal views on the dispute itself and the resulting industrial action, you have to wonder who thought this was a good idea. How this idea made it through the gate. Clearly a little group think going on. You can almost hear the conversation….

This social media stuff everyone keeps talking about….. let’s do something with that!

Here’s the thing about social media. It can be a truly awesome thing.  If I wrote a list of everything that social can do, its potential benefits, what it has done for me, I’d be here all day and this would be a very long blog post.  But with every potential reward comes risk.  We have all seen the headlines, seen people use it in a way that does them no favours or backfires spectacularly.  Damaging brands, damaging careers.

This is one of those occasions. A scroll down through the responses to the above tweet shows pretty much exclusive support for the union and the workforce, and distain for the organisation and this particular tactic. This is basically the social media equivalvent of a couple having a row in Ikea on a Sunday afternoon played out for all to see.

I can only imagine that the team running the Twitter feed yesterday were undertaking a fairly epic #facepalm. I very much doubt this was their idea.

The RMT have come out of this pretty well. Their Twitter feed is now full of retweets of supportive comments and criticism of the campaign.

Southern Rail appear not to have replied to any of the dialogue resulting from their original tweet, moving swiftly back to talking to passengers about delays. So just in case someone at Southern Rail needs some social media advice, here it is in brief:

  • Don’t pick fights online unless you have a very good reason to do so and it is an actual thought out strategy with balanced risks. Maybe this was… but somehow I doubt it.
  • If you do start this sort of dialogue, be prepared to continue it and respond to comments appropriately and not just ignore them.
  • Have a strategy for a hashtag hijack or a negative response to your campaign and act on it, fast.
  • Apologise if you got it wrong.

For all that I love about Twitter, it is most definitely not the place to sort out employee relations issues with your workforce.

Social Media and the Candidate

Last week, research published by Monster and YouGuv found that 56% of employers admit that candidates’ online profiles influence their hiring decisions. Here’s a link to a CIPD blog post on the subject.

The survey goes onto to say that fewer than half of job seekers are conscious of how their online reputation looks to potential employees, with just 28% also stating that they are influenced by what they read about potential employers on sites like Glassdoor.

Should it be a surprise that employers have turned down potential candidates due to their social media profiles? No.  Not really.  You can have all the ethical arguments that you want about whether recruiters should or shouldn’t check this stuff out.  But back in the real world, they just will.  And if you are careless about what you put out there, then it will come back to haunt you.  We live in a social and transparent world and there is no escaping this fact.

As to the other statistics….. if you are looking for work and you aren’t conscious of your online reputation, might I politely request you join 2016. And to anyone not checking out a potential employer on anywhere but their corporate website, the 90’s called and they want their recruitment process back.

Here’s the thing. Social media is both a threat and an opportunity. This applies to organisations, brands and employees alike.

Your social media profile can be more telling than a two page CV or an hour long interview ever can. Anyone thinking about hiring me might as well just read this blog and my Twitter feed.  It will tell you most of what you need to know to make a hiring decision and some more besides.

Get it right as a candidate, and social media can enhance your profile. It can support your personal brand.  It can also help you build a great community from which to learn, and introduce you to a whole new world of global connections. It could be the deciding factor between you and the other candidate.

But get it wrong and it’s a whole other ball game. There are horror stories everywhere about social media.  There are plenty of examples of a careless tweet or post that have got people fired, or even publically shamed.  Anyone remember Justine Sacco?

There’s no such thing anymore as old news. Yesterday’s fish and chip wrapping paper.  What happens on social stays on social.  The delete key solves nothing.

When it comes to social media there are few that will advocate its benefits more than me. Other than perhaps Tim Scott.  And as we said in our book on the subject (blatant self-promotion klaxon), when you are on social media platforms of any description, don’t be an arse.  There are few real rules, but there is plenty of etiquette.

Don’t tweet dumb stuff. Don’t argue with trolls.  Be a nice human.  If you happen to have some dubious views or isms then best to keep them to yourself.  Consider what is private and what is not.  Think before you post. Watch your language. Check our your employers policy on this stuff if they have one, to ensure you know what is and isn’t going to cause you any hassle. Tidy up the past if you need to.

Social media.  Threat or opportunity.  But either way… someone will be Googling.

Wot, no cat pictures?

I had THAT conversation again yesterday.

The one where, following my confession to loving all things social, someone replied:

Urgh. I can’t be bothered with all that. It’s just cat pictures and what people had for their breakfast.

Here’s the thing.

It really isn’t.

Here’s the second thing.

If you are on social media and that is actually your feed, then my advice is follow better people.

Find some more interesting friends. Hit your unfollow button – that is what it is there for.

If you are however saying this and you are not actually on social media then I am going to suggest trying it for yourself. To establish whether or not this is reality or just a belief.

That is all.