Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Blogging, Tweeting and LinkingIn

Anyone who has visited our website will hopefully know that we’re trying to embrace the social media revolution at Rob Jackson Consulting Ltd.  To date we have this blog, a Twitter account, a LinkedIn page and YouTube channel.  However, I am acutely aware that despite all the benefits and pleasures they bring, all these new social media toys can be an enormous time sucker, distracting people away from doing real work and making a real difference.


So, why are we using them?

I want to focus on three aspects of our social media presence – the blog, LinkedIn and Twitter.  I’m going to save YouTube for another day, simply because it is the area we have put least effort into so far (as you’ll see from the less than perfect introductory video I have uploaded to the channel!).

Blog

One of my goals having started the business is to write more.  Writing is something I have been encouraged and inspired to do for many years by peers in the volunteering movement.  Volunteerism leader Susan Ellis in particular has been encouraging me to write for many years.  Why?  As she wrote thirteen years ago:

“My reputation for nagging people to WRITE about what they do is probably unparalleled. But too many of us are so busy ‘doing’ that we won't make time for reflection, new learning, and sharing with others. True professionals keep themselves informed. And career ladders are built by gaining recognition through published articles.”

Its not that I haven’t written, I have – particularly for www.e-volunteerism.com where I am part of the editorial board – but I haven’t given it the time or focus I would like.   With Rob Jackson Consulting Ltd that’s changing, not least because I am working on two writing projects to bring excellent existing volunteer management books into UK versions for the domestic market.

This blog is a key part of my writing plans.  My goal is to produce at least two posts a month.  I’m also planning to guest blog for Martin Cowling’s The Cowling Report, Andy Fryar’s OzVPM site, DJ Cronin (whose blog is currently up for an award) and Susan Ellis’ Energize Hot Topics.

So far the blog posts I’ve written have focused on getting the business up an running.  But I am going to start moving on to talk about issues affecting volunteering and the voluntary and community sector, mostly here in the UK but also overseas as well. 

This is something I’m incredibly passionate about.  In the past my voice has sometimes been constrained by working for organisations where for me to speak my mind might not have been the most helpful course of action.  Although not quite this badly!


Nobody was censoring me but it just wouldn’t have been wise for me to speak out as it would have potentially damaged my employer and, in some cases, the wider volunteerism field. 

Not so anymore.  I don’t think there are enough people writing and speaking out about volunteering issues in the UK.  I want to add my voice to that small chorus in the hope that I can make a contribution to helping the volunteer movement grow, develop and rise to the challenges and opportunities it faces.

So look out for posts in the future on topics like microvolunteering, online volunteering brokerage, developing volunteer opportunities, customer service for volunteer programmes, volunteering infrastructure, job substitution, government policy on volunteering and wider topics for the voluntary & community sector like mergers and the Big Society.

Twitter

As you’ve probably gathered by now, I am big fan of Scott Adams’ Dilbert.  So to start this section on Twitter I thought you might enjoy this:

Is that your experience of Twitter?  I know I’ve had some like that and I fear I may have been ‘idiot boy’ myself on occasion.  It’s all to easy with Twitter to end up posting about the ephemera of life or, as a reader of tweets, to get overwhelmed with information, often from a variety of sources as popular material is endlessly retweeted.

I have two Twitter accounts.  One is a personal one which I mainly use to keep up with friends and to keep informed on the latest news about the various different kinds of motorsport that I love and follow.  The work account I use for the following key reasons:



  • To keep people who are interested in what I do informed of what I am doing (for example I will promote this blog post via Twitter)
  • To share information I come across that I think has particular relevance to people working in the fields I engage with
  • As a key source of information and news for me on what’s going on in the environment the business operates in
  • To make new contacts and expand my networks


For those of you sceptical about the value of Twitter, here’s one example of how it has helped me. 

Two weeks ago I asked a question to my network on LinkedIn as I was trying to source recommendations for providers of professional indemnity insurance for consultants.  As my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts are connected a firm called PolicyBee saw my question and got in touch.  To cut a long story short I went with them for my insurance, securing better cover for a lower price.

LinkedIn

You will have noticed that I haven’t mentioned Facebook in this post.  That’s because I’m steering clear of Facebook for the business, for now at least.  Partly because I want to keep Facebook for me personally but largely because I think I’m better off getting involved in a social network aimed more at a professional audience, namely LinkedIn.

For me, the advantages of LinkedIn are that I can maintain a profile for the business in the same site as I have a version of my well established email network group for volunteer managers, UKVPMs, and my own personal profile which serves as an online CV.  Add to that the link between Twitter and LinkedIn that I mentioned earlier makes me believe this is a more powerful business social networking tool than any of the others.

Let me share a practical example.  I’ve recently been working on key result areas, objectives and milestones for the business.  Part of that work involved exploring ways I could effectively and easily measure how happy clients are with what I do.  So, one quick question posted on LinkedIn and just a few minutes later I have two examples of online surveys that people in my network use with their clients.

Conclusion

As I said at the start of this post, I am all too aware that social media can become a time-sucker getting in the way of productivity.  That’s why it is important to have a clear sense of why you want to use social media and what you want to achieve from it.  This is something to be particularly careful of in the volunteering arena as we are increasingly encouraged to embrace without question the potential of social media to revolutionise volunteering, in the face of little evidence that trendy concepts like microvolunteering make any meaningful difference to society (a topic to which I will return in future but for now read the ever excellent Jayne Cravens’ recent thoughts on the concept).

So, as I build the marketing strategy for Rob Jackson Consulting Ltd over coming weeks, I will be developing and refining key objectives for our use of these new media and monitoring whether it really helps with our work or gets in the way. 

I’ll let you know how I get on.

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