A Government Office for Science report has concluded that people are becoming more engaged in online networks, are working out how to manage their online identities, and can switch seamlessly between multiple identities. Perhaps unsurprisingly, public policy and public services have not fully taken account and are operating a 20th century culture.
In my work as a social media trainer, I am finding this is also true in many parts of the private sector too, although media and marketing companies are largely the exception to the rule. Perhaps surprisingly, PR companies seem locked in 20th century/print deadline mentality and, contrary to expectation, are largely ignorant of how to apply social media productively to their sector.
In professional firms, such as law, finance and accountancy, there are two principal difficulties; an absence of clear leadership & guidance, and uncertainly about how to “speak” via LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook in a professional capacity.
That same report concluded that “the boundaries between social and work identities are becoming blurred. People are accustomed to switching seamlessly between the internet and the physical world, and use social media to conduct their lives in a way that dissolves the divide between online and offline identities.” This is becoming the norm, and if you do not think this describes you, then the organisation you work for will soon be left speaking a lost language, whilst the normal communications of business take place somewhere you are not.
But not to worry - help is at hand!
Even if your workplace does not actively encourage it, open a Twitter account and create/expand your LinkedIn profile. And then, try this -
Talk about your work. You are an expert, so offer your expertise.
Follow and connect with your peers and those already tweeting and using LinkedIn. Find out what conversations are taking place, and feel free to join in.
Engage and contribute. Don’t be scared.
Be yourself, relax and “speak” as you would in an email or on the phone.
Offer inside insights about your work and work life that clients and contacts won’t find in marketing literature or corporate mailshots.
Many in professional offices believe that they cannot do this, or will be actively stopped, especially if a marketing or PR team has been tasked with something similar. If so, then present this challenge - or rather, this opportunity - to those decision makers who are restraining your activity: - Follow these 5 steps for two weeks, and then ask yourself, your colleagues and bosses if your business would benefit if you were to be permitted and encouraged to apply that same engagement, interaction and communication in all your dealings with your clients.
And that is just the beginning.
Let me know how it goes.
Steven Raeburn is a social media trainer and editor of legal magazine The Firm
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