Sunday, 17 January 2010 00:00

Your Company Is Too Old

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As most of you know, I am a total convert. Social media is, simply put, cool. I am a Twitter and LinkedIn bigot and may soon be flourishing in Facebook. Last week a long time friend got back in touch with me all because of social media. Hold on, don't stop reading! This is a business blog, not a story about some high school friends getting together and tweeting about eating bagels or sushi. This is about the business power of social media.

My friend works for a multibillion-dollar company and he is frustrated with "these kids" making stupid non-business decisions. Worse yet, they shy away from the company he works for because his company is "too old." I told Claude (pardon for no link, he lacking a Twitter account. Surprised?), "Well you are old. Your fifty-three I am only fifty-two!" There was silence.

Let me back up. Claude has seen me on LinkedIn and sees my references to Twitter and my recent presence on Facebook. All this to promote my blog, bragging about my recent book contract and retweeting various people's thoughts and finds. He was curious about my experiences, how and why I was using these tools and the amount of time I have invested. I could sense the questions had more depth and I knew he was on a data-gathering mission.

What's The Problem, Man?

My first comment to him was, as with any tool, identify a business problem to solve. Don't just use a tool or the sake of using it. My value in social media is many fold. Initially, I started with one goal in mind, promote my blog. But then, despite all my resistance to becoming a died-in-the-wool-twittee, now I find there are a lot of darn good tweets out there. I am at the point of knowing who to trust for good tweets and I am reading articles and learning things I would never find on my own. I have my personal group of researchers forwarding in-depth articles on everything from using social media to Project Management to political events. Cool. All these top-notch project managers, leaders, social media experts, marketers and the like, waiting for me to tap into their tweet stream—their thought patterns and processes. What better for a guy who walks into different failure situations needing to figure out what is wrong with a company or project.

For Claude it was more. After twenty-four years of working very successfully in services delivery, he is well respected in his company. Claude and others in his company are seeing customers run by younger managers telling him his company is too old. Potential clients are stepping over his company for other bidders, even if Claude's company is the low bidder. He sees this as irrational. I see his point, his company has tons of experience and very competitive pricing. The key is the age statement. Claude, one year older than me, and his company, many zeros larger than mine, is seen as old. They, like the post on Barnes and Noble's Nook points out, use twitter for marketing and have missed any concept brand control or, better yet, engaging in one-on-one marketing. They are out of the mainstream of the up and coming culture.

My suggestion to Claude was to setup a twitter account send two tweets—one berating his company and another condemning Comcast. Then sit back and wait. I promised him within thirty minutes someone at Comcast would respond. I counseled him that he probably should refrain from postponing supper waiting for his company to respond. I had already taken a peek at their tweets and they are only to promoting their products. There are no customer service type tweets.

Use Your Tool

Twitter is not a tool to tell people who is eating a bagel. It is a tool that is part of a platform to reach people. It works the way the user employs it. Claude's company, a multitude of others and many individuals, look at social media tools with a bias and little, if any, objective data. It reminds me of ten years ago when I started using instant messaging. My professional colleagues thought I was crazy for using a tool their kids were using to chat with their classmates. That is, until they got on project with me and I required its use. Begrudgingly they loaded it, mumbling comments about my parentage. After about two weeks, they raised hell when some facility's network admin not allow their messenger's use. Now companies like IBM have installed instant messaging (Sametime in IBM's case) on every manager's machine and I dare anyone to try to take it away.

How can twitter help project recovery? After all, this is a project recovery blog. Although I have never done it, I know that I could post a problem on twitter and my few hundred followers would barrage me with dozens of potentially valuable resolutions. I have full confidence that in these responses I would find my solution. It might take an hour and it costs nothing. Opps, wait a minute, it would help me if I needed resolution of an issue unrelated to my friend's company or Barnes and Noble.

What About Food?

Don't get me wrong like food, and regularly eat bagels. However, please do not use twitter to tell people you are eating a bagel. We don't care! @Rev_orb and I had a great chat about this on Friday night. If you need to know about bagels and sushi check him out on Yelp. If you need to talk about food, use the right tool. Tell us about the bagel, use complete sentences and, if it is good enough to brag about, where we can get one. Otherwise, don't use twitter or you may get a visit from the Twitter Police.

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