4 heads, 3 principals: my approach to social media

I’ve been asked speak later this week to the massed ranks of the marketing community here at Microsoft about my approach to social media. Sandwiched between the UK general manager, and the global marketing head, it’s a bit of a big gig.

Anyone who uses the social internet regularly will be well aware that there are seemingly endless folk who promise to make your social media strategy a success with unbounded riches as a result. I can’t promise – I’m not that egocentric. nor believe in Ponzi schemes – but I can share two sets of rules that guide the way I go about it.

First off, a bit of context. There are two things that I am convinced of when it comes to social media:

  • firstly, it’s personal, as best described in a quote told to me by old colleague Euan Semple: “Your staff already have a social media policy – if you are lucky you are included in it”. For more on that, see my recent post about the CMO.
  • secondly, it’s personal, in that customers and clients interacting with a brand through social media are likely to want something more that the traditional “corporate” feel; if I, for example, “like” you, then I don’t in return want to be treated like a component on a production line. For more on this, see this post about my recent experiences with BT.

So given the above, I find that when it comes to social media, I inhabit one of four heads:

  • The private head. This is stuff that I need to keep to myself. It’s not necessarily that it contradicts the things that I might say externally, it’s just that the world doesn’t need to know. Think of it as the stuff that would go into a teenage diary.
  • The public personal head. Things that I want to share with my friends. And for me, this is Facebook (as well as meeting for dinner, going to the pub, and so on). I don’t personally use Facebook for work stuff, partly because I find something a little icky about people liking a brand, and secondly because my work stuff would generally bore the pants off most of my friends.
  • The public work head. That’s what you are reading now. I also use Twitter and LinkedIn extensively, both for sharing information with my professional networks, and also for staying in touch with folk.
  • Finally, the private work head. This is when there are things that I want to share with colleagues, but that wouldn’t be appropriate to share publically. Thoughts on competitors, for example, and usually when I think other people are doing really good stuff, but that being “from Microsoft” means that such comments could be taken out of context. The biggest challenge I have with this these days is that with the ease of sharing from many of the devices I now use onto public social networks, it can be quite a pain to use anything but email to share to smaller, private groups.

So when it comes to the Public Work head, I reckon I can distil things into three core principals:

  1. Frequency. In that you need to make sure that you have a consistent flow of interaction happening: I blog 3-4 times a week (regularly with my Weeknotes, and then other stuff as it comes to mind); I make the occasional observations on Twitter, and also interact with threads that pique my interest; I connect with folk on LinkedIn after meeting them (but only if they already have a LinkedIn account – not sure why that has become a personal rule…)
  2. Personality. I write as me. Warts and all. and will often tie in observations that come from my life outside of work, my kids, my background. With Weeknotes (and accepting the Private head restrictions) I offer a little view into my week, every week. Hopefully I write with some humour, and in a casual style. I also do the occasional side project – counting down to my 40th birthday or the current digita10 posts for example.
  3. Brevity. As a kid I spent a week of work experience at the local newspaper. The five days mostly consisted of taking one or two-page press releases and condensing them into 20-word column fillers. Little was I to know that that week was preparing me to tweet. My blog posts are usually under 500 words – and next to never over 1,000. The internet is an ADHD medium.

So there you go. That’s what I think I’m going to talk about. Feel free to share it if you think it’s useful – but I’m afraid it won’t make you rich.

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