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Use Yammer to get personal value from your business network

A training participant asked yesterday: How should I use our new Yammer network and what value can I get from it? Here is my answer..

 

The value of Yammer (or other enterprise social networks) in a knowledge environment

In today’s working environment, there is a massive amount of knowledge out there. For people like my training participant who are working in an IT consultancy environment, on client-site, in a distinct business unit doing project work, the potential to lose all that knowledge is huge. Organising regular meetings across the business, with its travel and billable-time issues is not practical. Tools like Yammer can help. They won’t replace the need for face-to-face interactions within your network, but they can certainly help to spread knowledge and stay up-to-date. Eventually this leads to greater competence, more efficiency, innovation and improved business results.

 

Start using Yammer to share ideas, ask questions and stay up-to-date

If you want to start using your Yammer platform in your own business network (or LinkedIN for example) 5 simple individual actions are interesting, based on the golden triangle of networking:

  • Ask a question to your network. If you are stuck on something or need some expertise, let your network know by asking for help. Who knows what you will get!?
  • Share a resource. If you find something interesting for your network, share it. Be careful to first contextualise that information by noting WHY you find it interesting and consider tagging some specific people in the message so that they definitely see it.
  • Answer a question. Do as thy would be done by, no? If you expect to get answers, be an answerer yourself…
  • Thank people for what they share. This can be as simple as a “like”, or could be a comment or exchange of information.
  • Have a browse around from time-to-time. The value of ” aimless wandering” in the business world is IMO massively underrated. Spend 5 minutes just browsing every now and again.

 

There is real value in narrating your work regularly

One of the big problems in the consultancy world is that people in the same company often don’t know what other people are doing. Sometimes they don’t even realise that the guy next to them on client-site is actually a fellow colleague! A good way to deal with this issue on platforms like Yammer is to get in the habit of narrating your work. This is easy and can being real business value. A simple way to do this is to regularly update your status or add a message to let the network know what you are working on. Examples:

  • “I’m creating a training course on creating influence with a network”
  • “Currently looking for ways to improve intra-participant interactivity on social media platforms between training days”
  • “Interviewing the director of the EPHEC on her experience with flipping the classroom”
  • “Developing my conference speech for ASTD TechKnowledge in Las Vegas in January”
  • “I will welcome my 4000th human being (since going freelance) to training some time in December”

..these kind of status updates take literally less than 30 seconds, but they keep people informed on who is doing what and may even get you some spontaneous input from other to improve your work. Of course you can go further and start doing educational narration (“how-to” guides etc) or even implement a formal knowledge-sharing initiative like BT Dare2Share.

 

…but don’t expect to see massive results from day 1

I have seen some Yammer fails in some of the companies I work for. These are mostly due to poor vision about the tool, lack of communication or education and bad “change management”. If Yammer has just arrived in your company, you cannot expect everyone to see the value over night. This is for 2 main reasons, which seen interchangeably can lead to failure:

  • Some people will simply not like it and not want to use it
  • There will not be much content in the early days

 

If you are someone who doesn’t really “dig” social media platforms, then you will need to be convinced to get on the tool and start doing stuff. The trouble is that conceptual information about how the tool is great is not very inspiring. What you need is results. So, you go to the tool and ….  … …find nothing.

Those who are active on the tool in the beginning are active because they do believe. But in a classical organisation of 500 people, you might only have 50 believers. Those 50 believers might not yet even be competent in getting the most out of the tool. So it takes time to see the value. And when the other 450 non-believers get pushed on the tool too early, they STILL don’t see the point. So they were right, right?

My ideas for passing this adoption-gap include:

  • Try to encourage the right people to get started – not everyone, just the early-adopter types
  • Know that even if there are no “likes” or comments, people may still be reading what you put on the tool – don’t be disheartened
  • Educate people on the golden triangle. Its really key!
  • Make sure key influencers in the organisation put an effort into using the tool. They need to walk-the-talk. If people see management and the “cool folk” on the train, it will be more appealing.

 

 

For more ideas on getting success from the tool, read:

 

Thanks for reading!

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Analysing and evaluating informal social networks

ASTD2013 session SU301 is all about informal networks. Many learning professionals have heard that informal networks are extremely influential, also “producing” the vast majority of learning in an organisation.

 

Yet HR people traditionally put most of their efforts into formal processes, communications, learning or training initiatives and well-defined communities of practice or functional/organisational charts. We like to control and measure things and when we hear about anything informal, we imagine ourselves as potentially helpless.

But in fact, HR and learning professionals can really have impact on organisational performance and development by taking the time to analyse these informal networks and use findings to support succession planning, engagement, knowledge sharing…. Shari Yocum tells us how.

 

Learning and HR professionals have a lot of tools at their disposition, but key business results still need improvement

Our speaker tells us that despite the myriad of tools available for learning and development (performance reviews, to training, succession planning, coaching and assessments…) many business leaders still don’t see HR as a trusted partner who actually gets things done. They say that HR needs to better focus on the key business areas that create value. As Kevin Cope might say in session W310, they need more business acumen. And according to Shari Yocum, effective analysis of informal business networks will help those same HR people to become strategic partners who lead change, developing leaders and cultivating the organisational culture. Sounds good! Lets go…

 

Why are we talking about informal networks and social network analysis today?

We are shown a video of Gini Rometty, CEO IBM, who reminds us that we are now in a knowledge era and that it is not processes and conveyors belts that create great results. It is people. We need to “understand the social network not as [our] water-cooler, but as [our] new production line.”

In that culture, the informal networks that exist across the functional and divisional organisation charts found on the intranet have a massive impact on the way things actually happen. They can make or break change initiatives. They can communicate for you. They learn by themselves. A “conversation with Jim” affects me more than anything I might receive from HR or the CEO.

At the moment, according to Yocum, many HR tools help us to understand individual employees and their function, problems and needs. But they don’t get far enough into the network to which the person belongs. Yet that network is massively important.

 

OK, it sounds good, but what exactly are we talking about here? Let’s define some network terms…

 

Yocum defines a network as a structure made up of a set of actors (such as employees) and a complex set of ties between them. This network consists of:

  • A node, which in human organisational terms would be the employee
  • Links that may be weak or strong, direct or indirect, reciprocal or not
  • Hubs, which can be considered as a node with a lot of connections going through them

Different parts of the network are considered as more central (relevant or important) than others. This might be based on proximity to others or their position in the network “flow”.

 

Specific nodes within a network can be seen as:

  • Bottlenecks to success, which is considered here as how things flow through the network
  • Unsung heroes who do invisible work” that supports the network, but may not be seen in the organisational charts
  • Key people on who others depend. If removed from the network, others in the network find themselves without the connection they need.
  • Brokers connect 2 or more others who would not otherwise naturally be connected
  • Isolated people, that seem un-connected

 

Networks within themselves can be evaluated in terms of (non-exhaustive list):

  • Density, sparsity or clique-y-ness
  • Cohesion: Highly cohesive = a high-level of reciprocity
  • Structurally unsound, because there are holes in there
  • With multiple attributes of varying importance
  • ..etc etc…

 

For more information about the different elements of a network, here are some references:

 

What can be done with social/informal network analysis?

According to Shari Yocum, effective network analysis can show many extremely important things in an organisation. Without much analysis skill, you could easily see:

  • Who is likely to be dissatisfied due to insufficient network (no-one to go to for answers, blocked from important functional nodes)
  • Who has a lot of influence in a network
  • Who represents a risk to business success, should leave the organisation (structural hole)
  • Where business results are slowed down (bottlenecks)
  • Which parts of the organisation are most likely to grow and learn “all by themselves”
  • Which departments are thriving and which are slowly dying
  • Where and how human resource deficiencies are having an impact on performance
  • What might be the impact of relocation or promotion
  • Which people could create better results in another part of the organisation
  • Which departments or people should be “copy/pasted” into other areas of the business

My own feeling listening to Shari is that this list of applications could go on and on. The concepts of network analysis seem very important to me today. AND I am starting to see a trend today on “seeing the bigger picture” in terms of the organisation and its performance. More on this later…

 

Thanks for reading.
Please leave a comment or subscribe to the blog.

 

And don’t forget to check out my Daily Dallas Weather Reports fresh from the ASTD2013:
http://www.youtube.com/dansteerchannel

 

 

9 must-remember guidelines to succeed with social media marketing

In training on professional usage of social media with Kluwer Formations today, I’ve been helping 9 people from different organisations get started with social media. Despite their different levels of experience, different skills and different needs, they all have one thing in common: They want to use social media to market a business, organisation or product – they want to find their clients, communicate with them and reinforce brand loyalty.

In a series of several blogs over the coming weeks, I will be giving tips for anyone getting started with social media for marketing: Lots of references based on different type tools, functionalities and issues. Enjoy!

 

MY FIRST POST = 9 BASICS TO KEEP IN MIND WHATEVER YOU DO TO MARKET VIA SOCIAL NETWORKS

 

1 – Know what you are trying to achieve before you get started

Despite all the hype around social media platforms, they are still only tools. Don’t get on the train unless you’ve got a good reason. And define your reason clearly you get started. Your goals will affect the choices you make in terms of tool and activity. Defining your goal is the first step to creating strategic action.

 

2 – Know where your customers are and meet them there

As I said in my article for the December issue of T+D Magazine for ASTD, if you set up shop in the middle of nowhere and expect your customers will accept a long painful walk into the middle of nowhere, you will soon learn it doesn’t work. Don’t choose your platform for what YOU like to use. Choose what THEY like to use:

  • Which tools are your customers already using?
  • Where are most people most active?
  • What seems to suit your activity best?

 

3 – Know that not everyone uses social media platforms in the same way, to the same extent

The engagement pyramid, as explained by @charleneli in “Open Leadership” shows the 5 different types of social media user. The % of people acting in these ways diminishes as the list advances (watchers are the highest percentage, curators the lowest):

  • Watchers – the majority of people active on social networks are not SO active. They just look at stuff, soaking it all in without saying or “doing” much. You won’t know what they are thinking or how they react. But they are still there and they ARE part of your customer base.
  • Sharers – these people actually put stuff out there themselves. When they see something interesting, they share it. From what they share, you can tell what they like, what they are interested in and what they want more of (or not). Very good intel. And of course, wouldn’t it be great if they shared YOUR stuff?
  • Commenters – the next group will comment on or “like” (rate) what they find on any given platform. They actually given an opinion on what other people share. You can see their reactions and use this information to improve your offer and find out who is interested.
  • Producers – these are people that actually create something themselves. In my opinion, this should be one of YOUR main activities if you are using social media to market. You should write blogs, make videos, take pictures etc… What these people produce is what the others share, comment on and watch. No producers, nothing to look at.
  • Curators – like the curators in a museum, the role of this person is to collect, organise and share different things and put them together in one place for the others to come and find. They make sense of what has been produced, in order to make it easily accessible for the others. A key role in community management and other online activities.

 

4 – (Given point 3…) Be ready for disappointment in the beginning

The vast majority of people on a social network platform do not produce, share or comment/rate. This means that much of the time, what you put out there will not create an obvious reaction. Keep in mind 2 things:

  • It takes time to get reactions. If you have 500 followers on Twitter, you might hear from 50 of them, from time to time, if you’re lucky. If you get 5000 hits on your blog a month, you may only get 5 or 10 comments or likes. The same is true for YouTube videos.
  • ..but that doesn’t mean you are not being read. Believe in the numbers. If you have followers and friends, what you are putting out there is getting seen. If you are confident that your 500 friends and followers are well targeted potential customers, keep sharing and keep producing.

 

5 – Tools differ, but the golden networking triangle remains the same

Whatever you do on social networking tools for marketing purposes, you will need to consider 3 main types of activity, otherwise known as “the golden triangle”. Suggested by Jan Vermeiren in his currently free to download and highly practical book “How to REALLY use LinkedIn”, these 3 activity types will create a kind of snowball effect where the number of people you reach gets bigger, the number of reactions grows and the community continues to flourish over time:

  • Give things away. Share references. Not always your own content, but also other “on-brand” things you find on the web that might be interesting for your customers.
  • Ask for things. This can be a simple answer (a large piece of market research done via a poll), a request for expertise on a given topic or a fully crowd-sourced project development. Ask people to get involved and some of them will.
  • Thank people. From literally saying “thank you” is a start. Liking, commenting or sharing what you have seen is ever better. So is mentioning people. We are all in this together, so be nice to each other.

 

6 – Stay on brand. Always.

Your brand is the image you want to present of yourself, your product or service. Whatever you do on social media platforms, you have to reinforce that image. Think about it beforehand. What kind of style do you want to have? What do you want people to say about you? What do you represent? What are you the expert of? What are you offering? What can people expect from you?

 

7 – Consider a blended approach to what you put out there: 70/20/10

I know a man who tries to sell his products via Twitter. Every tweet says “Buy this or that product of mine”. It drives me crazy. My preferred approach comes from “The Twitter Book” by Tim O’Reilly and Sarah Milstein and I think it’s much better way to position yourself and your products and services without being too pushy:

  • 70% of your posting should be sharing other people’s stuff. If you are a hypnotist trying to sell MP3s to help people quit smoking, 70% of your tweets will be sharing resources you have found about smoking, health, fitness, cancer (whatever…), but not actually pushing your product. Your customers will understand you have an opinion on these things and you stay up-to-date and interested in what they are interested in.
  • 20% of your posting can be your own products and services. You have the right to let people know about what you have to offer and they will be interested and believe you, because of the other 70% of your activity.
  • 10% can be a little light playful personal stuff that shows the world you are not just a marketing machine out to get their money. People buy from people and your followers, friends and potential customers want to know about you too. Let them know from time-to-time what you are up to at the weekend, or how that traffic jam drove you crazy. The human touch is nice… And this 10% doesn’t kill what I just said about branding.

 

8 – Cross pollinate your posting and sharing

This doesn’t go against what was said in point 2. But most of the time your customers will be spread across different platforms, so your activity must be as well. If you have posted a blog-post (like this one) on WordPress, tweet it. If you think it’s OK to post on LinkedIn as well (more on in another post) update your status there as well, or put the link in a group you have created. If you find a relevant blog from someone else and your new post could add some value, add it as a comment. If you just added a video to YouTube and your post could be a nice follow up reference, mention it in the comments.

 

9 – If what you have to say is worth saying, saying it twice, three times, four times, five times…

Take a look at your Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter homepage. What do you see? Depending on how many people you follow/friend/connect to and how often they update things, the answer will differ. But over time, the same thing happens: Stuff disappears!

On most social network platforms, there is a “half-life” phenomenon which means that what you post disappears from your audience’s timeline exponentially at a certain rate, depending how many people they follow and how often those people are posting things. Concretely, this means that what you post now will be gone from view later. So what must you do?

  • Firstly, think about what time of day you are most likely to be read. Just after lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays is a good time. People aren’t desperately steaming ahead at the start of the week and they aren’t doing highly productive work while their lunch goes down. A good time to be read.
  • Secondly, re-post new things several times over a given period. But don’t forget point 7.

 

That’s it for this post. I will be back with specific tips for LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to put these ideas into practice… Sign up to follow my blog and you won’t miss a thing ! (Look in the right-hand menu bar)

 

 

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Share, like or leave a comment. You know it’s worth it… J

 

Leverage the Obama Effect in Social Learning

OK, admittedly I didn’t really invent a new buzz-term. I just adapted the famous idea of 6 degrees of seperation (or Kevin Bacon?) to make a point: I “know” Obama!

…and so do you, probably. And if you don’t know Obama, you probably know many other interesting people. And that’s what makes social learning so interesting!

 

According to Jan Vermieren and Bert Verdonck in their book “How to REALLY use LinkedIn” (follow link for free download) the real power of any network lies in the 2nd degree. Not who you know, but who THEY know. You can see this in action in the picture below…

I know Andy, Andy knows “Milly from This Life”, “Milly” knows Jack Davenport, who was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, who funds Schwarzenegger, who is in politics with Obama. Voila  ! 6 degrees!

 

Apply this principle to the learning world and what do you get?

  • Endless possibilities to learn FROM and TO other people
  • A network of experts at your finger-tips
  • Learning at the speed of the internet

 

If you can leverage this principle in your corporate or personal learning initiatives, you will be rewarded with:

  • Lower investment in learning initiatives that call on external expertise
  • Greater involvement from learning participants who use their own resources to help themselves and others learn
  • Deeper and broader levels of knowledge
  • More possibility to challenge attitude and ideas
  • Innovation?
  • Business development?
  • …etc…

 

For a simple, but concrete idea of using a Social Network in a formal learning initiative, read my other post here

 

Thanks for reading !

D

 

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