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Adventures of Bloom & Wallace

a work in progress

Reflections Of A Digital Immigrant Gone Semi-Native: Professional Value Of Social Technology

[34-illegal-immigrant-b-724013.gif]I’ll get back to the world of HRM and IT as soon as I have two arms with which to tackle the really meaty stuff, but for now I’m continuing my one-armed reflections of a digital immigrant gone semi-native, the first installment of which is here  This post owes a shout-out to Jason Averbook and Ray Wang for launching me on Twitter in early 2009 and for  lifelong friend and artist Scott Kahn for asking the question “are you benefiting from your personal investment in social technology and, if yes, then how?” 

The easy answer is that, for me, the value of selected social technology use has been huge.  Whether or not I develop the ideas below into a taxonomy of social technology benefits or let them remain lumpy piles is very much an open question, but some of you have noted that I have definite, taxonomy-developing tendencies.  Lacking any pretence of rigor, here are my social tech benefits thus far:

1)  Staying current — How on earth could I possibly advise end-users HR leaders on what and how to adapt social technology to their human resource management business if I weren’t in it up to my neck?  What HRM software or services vendor in their right mind would listen to anything I have to say if I weren’t up on and busy evaluating the use/value/issues/pitfalls/etc. not only of all things social but all things HRM/IT/social?  If I don’t stay on top of what’s happening, sift through the possibilities, understand the implications for driving business results, incorporate my learning into the intellectual property that’s core to my consulting business, and generally bring digested insights about social technology and all the relevant surrounding considerations to my consulting clients, how could I consider myself still worthy of the job title “consultant?”  To all my consulting colleagues, if you’re not awash in new ideas/tools/techniques/etc. and your own insights about them, perhaps it’s time to do something else.  So, the first and most important business value of my adventures in social tech, really in all new tech and new HRM think, is my continued ability to do my job to the standards I set for myself.

2)  Staying connected — I’m connecting via Twitter to the next generation (or two or three) of both thought and entrepreneurial/organizational leaders in my industry and beyond.  These connections are sources of great learning for me, potential colleagues and clients, and hopefully folks with whom I can share what I know while I still remember most of it.  My generation is “leaving the stage”, but before we go it’s critical that we help the next generations avoid known pitfalls and fallacies even as we embrace what’s happening now and next.  Where else but via Twitter would I ever have met a Steve Boese or Mike Krupa, the whole gang of highly irregular Enterprise Irregulars, or the Carnival of HR bloggers who have become a fresh source of HRM and enterprise IT thinking to challenge/enhance my own.  And how else but through having my own blog could I publish and collect broad feedback on the possibly boring but useful “killer” scenarios, interrogatory configurator, and all the other meaty posts I’ve planned once I’ve got two arms working again.  I so value these new colleagues and look forward to turning more of my tweeps into peeps.  Perhaps, when I have “left the stage,” I’ll do a Charles Kuralt tour, hosting tweetups in all the great HR and IT neighborhoods.

3)  Staying in the loop— Twitter has now replaced most of my news services, including some pretty expensive ones, as the go to place for fast-breaking general, business and professional news.  Why do I need NewsPage when I’ve got Dennis Moore’s news alerts?  Blogs are great and RSS feeds a wonder, but it’s increasingly clear that my twitterverse knows what’s happening almost before it’s happening.  And since it all gets reported there first, miss a few hours or G-d forbid Twitter days, and you’re so far out of the loop that it feels as though there’s no catching up.  Fortunately, not unlike soap operas of old whose characters and  were immortal, the really important news gets picked up by the bloggers, RSS feeds, Google alerts etc. and reverberates long enough for even a determined vacationer like me to catch most items that really matter.  Nonetheless, even when traveling abroad or on our soon-to-be-delivered-but-not-yet-named American Tug 34, connectivity is now a given rather than a nice to have.  That’s a whole topic in itself, and not one on which I’m particularly knowledgeable, but I know I can turn to my twitterverse and blogosphere for answers when we’re ready to upgrade smart phones or shipboard communications.

4)  Staying relevant — Closely connected to #1 and #3, it’s just no longer possible to be relevant as a thought leader in HRM or IT, let alone at the incredible crossroads of these disciplines where I live professionally, unless you’re visible in the social community that surrounds, informs and is leading these fields.  If you want to see just how invisible and even irrelevant it’s possible to get without maintaining a strong personal voice and brand in the social community, grab an IHRIM annual conference program from a few years ago and ask tomorrow’s HR/IT leaders if they’ve ever heard of most of these people.  What’s clear is that, if you’re intending to be a thought leader, and not just in my field, you must take your ideas to the relevant social communities and make your case.  In the blogosphere, twitterverse and all surrounding communities, there’s truly a meritocracy.  Publish useful/funny/insightful/newsworthy etc. material, and you’re in.  Publish crap, and the word gets around VERY quickly.  

5)  Staying booked — For my own business, marketing has always been about selling my ideas rather than myself.  For much of my career, this was accomplished by publishing the articles, speaking at major conferences, and earning lots of good client references, all of which created the “word of mouth” stream of business opportunities that supported Bloom & Wallace for the first fifteen or so years of my solo practice.  With changes in the nature of my consulting business to reflect changes in the nature of business itself, marketing these last few years started out similarly but has now evolved to something far more powerfully and productively networked, thanks to social technology.  I can post previously published materials on my blog site to give prospective clients a better sense of my thinking and the evolution of that thinking, putting them all together and making them far more easily accessed than via the journals in which they were published originally.  Blog posts don’t have to fit the needs of a publisher as to length/style/topic/etc.; they just have to meet the needs of readers whose views are very directly measured by their visits and return visits as well as their blog comments, so I can write a lot more about what I think than was ever possible with published articles.  Tweeted thoughts lead to twitter conversations lead to blog posts lead to phone calls lead to consulting engagements even as the relationships built online lead to in-person meetings at major conferences, like HR Tech, and ultimately other consulting opportunities.  And even though I’m well-known in the HRM delivery systems industry, my presence in the social world has helped ensure that I’m not just well-known among those who are or will soon be retiring.

Whew!  Guess I’m incapable, even when writing with just one hand, to be terse.

3 comments to Reflections Of A Digital Immigrant Gone Semi-Native: Professional Value Of Social Technology

  • Naomi Bloom

    Gentlemen, your encouragement keeps me going.

  • As you already know, I look forward to reading your blog posts, conversing on Twitter and most importantly our phone conversations so thank you for the mention in this post. Your willingness to share your knowledge is invaluable and priceless. I am glad that social technology has been your friend and don’t hesitate to call on me when you are ready to upgrade your smart phone.

  • Thanks so much for the mention! I can’t tell you how valuable your blog has been to me, and to the Hr Tech students that I teach as well. Some of the lessons learned that you describe are very relevant for the students as well. Great, great post!

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