I’ve recently been lectured at by three different colleagues on the virtues of one particular social tool over another.

  1. One told me: “Twitter is the most important social media tool. It enables you to build influence across all social media. All I post on LinkedIn is the occasional status update.”
  2. The other told me: “LinkedIn is where your business prospects are, so you should spend more of your time on LinkedIn. LinkedIn gives you much greater control over your network and your targeting of marketing messages.”
  3. The third told me: “You can’t be secret service (restricted) on Facebook to win business.”

The first colleague was shocked I use Twitter for personal posts about good/bad service, or to retweet something interesting I’ve read and want to share that isn’t work related.

All three colleagues are people I respect. And, it’s true, I do not use external social technology the same way I recommend my clients use it internally. Why not?

My clients are not trying to get their employees to buy their service or product. Yep, that’s it in a nut shell.

Organizations use social technology inside to drive collaboration, productivity and good decision-making. The relationship they have with their employees is fundamentally different from the relationship they have with customers (see this really great string on LinkedIn for several interesting comments on that topic by the great Sam Marshall).

Pick what works for you

I think it’s important for individuals to do what works for them. The Forrester research featured in the firm’s Groundswell books illustrates that different users use social technology in different ways. One might comment but never author. Another may only read other people’s content.

From the start, I’ve been an advocate of picking something that works for you and doing that thing (or those things if there’s more than one). At least you’re in the game. A lot of it comes down to just trying.

My own usage of social ebbs and flows depending upon my workload, schedule and interests. I find something that seems to work for me and go with it. Importantly I’ve learned to:

  • Not second guess posts because that caused me to stall and then never post anything; now I just jump in
  • Avoid beating myself up when I don’t post for long periods of time – life is too important and I want to make every day count
  • Be unapologetic about incorporating personal elements because I do have a life – my life commentary doesn’t reduce my professional abilities and helps people understand more about me

Recent learnings from the family crisis frontline

Last year when my husband was ill I learned two important lessons:

  1. Certain social technologies can be incredibly useful during family crisis. I turned to Facebook to stay connected to and inform my husband’s rather prodigious network of friends. It was absolutely invaluable.
  2. Social media are not as important as unplugged time with family and friends. I’ve never been  surgically-attached to my social tools. Now, more than ever before, turning it off and putting it down is part of my daily experience.

Returning to my original point, I’m not using LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or my blog in the way my clients use similar technologies inside their organizations to improve  productivity, collaboration and decision making. That is the role of an intranet/digital workplace. My client’s goals for internal use of social are very different from my own goals for using public-facing social tools.

My own social technology goals are not yet as refined as I’d like, but I’m not going to beat myself up about that. For the moment, I’m going to go enjoy a Red Rocks workout with my husband to celebrate our 26th wedding anniversary. That is more important anyway.