Ben Langhinrichs

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Genii Weblog

Social business - You should have learned it in preschool

Fri 11 Feb 2011, 10:08 AM



by Ben Langhinrichs
In my previous post, Look out the window rather than into a mirror, I pointed out that when thinking about a social business, you need to remember that others are not just like you. I have some ideas about how to deal with that, but first I thought I'd point out two basic reminders, based on the life lessons I try to teach my preschoolers in Sunday school (yes, I teach Sunday school).

1) Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Whether you call it the Golden Rule or something else, this is one of those critical reminders that people forget again and again and again. It also means more than "Don't flame others unless you want to be flamed." Many, although not all, business professionals seem to remember than most, though not all, of the time. If you would hesitate to say something to a person's face in a private office, why on earth would it seem appropriate in public on the never-forget-your-failings internet?

But there is more to this. For example, would you want a vendor to squeeze into a conversation you were having with an old friend to aggressively sell their product to the two of you? Why would you imagine they would want the same from you? Would you want a friend to grab your contacts list and spam people, saying they were sent by you? Why would you then tweet to the people somebody else knows, referring to them and acting as if they were friends?

Be civil. Be calm. Be circumspect. I am not going to bother linking to numerous examples of this done wrong, because I'd rather people identify their own examples.


2) Clean up after yourself.

This is not exactly the same thing as hiding your mistakes. It is more like a four-year-old thinking, That red truck looks like fun, but then losing interest and picking up the doll with the polka dot dress instead. I ask them to put away the red truck first, and sometimes they even listen.

Similarly, you are going to try and fail at a lot of social media. Nobody can do everything, and there's no shame in finding out that Facebook speaks to you, but Twitter doesn't, or vice-versa. Sometimes it is not even the medium, it is the instance in the medium.  Let me show you an example. In the Virtual Bookstore, I list a book which looks pretty intriguing, Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom: How Online Social Networking Will Transform Your Life, Work and World 

This book has two authors, Matthew Fraser and Soumitra Dutta, who both appear to be very bright individuals with a lot to say on the subject of social networking. If I look at Matthew Fraser's twitter account, http://twitter.com/frasermatthew, it is clear that he is the real deal and understand social networking reasonably well.




Unfortunately, Matthew and his co-author have left a couple of nasty red trucks lying about.  Soumitra Dutta clearly decided to start a Twitter account, at http://twitter.com/soumitradutta, but lost interest.  Imagine the following account found by somebody looking up these two authors before buying the book:





One tweet by a guy who wrote a book on Social Networking?  One tweet left Feb 22, 2010?  Of course, it may well be that Soumitra does wonderful social networking, but didn't find Twitter to his liking.

Put away the red truck! Delete the account.

Of course, you can't blame Matthew for his co-author's mistake, but what about the joint Twitter account they created for the book at http://twitter.com/throwingsheep? 





In some ways, that is more embarrassing, although this account has a whopping fifty-nine tweets. What makes it embarrassing is the 1,098 followers. If they use Tweepi or something like that, they'll notice that the account hasn't been updated since July 2009, even if they don't ever visit it. Also, it is ugly since the authors have clearly never visited the account with the new Twitter, where their book cover bleeds through. Again, mighty ugly for a book about social networking.

Put away your toys! Delete the account that didn't work. Remember that Second Life account you haven't touched in two years. Put it away. Remember when you swore you'd start a blog, but couldn't find anything to say. It is probably still hanging out there with your name attached.

At the risk of calling out people who might even read this (or at least be told about it), I will mention just a few examples connected to Lotusphere (and there are more). In return, please feel free to let me know if you see an account, a blog, a trace of mine which I have forgotten. 

Jeff Eisen, IBM, http://twitter.com/jnema -> 38 tweets, last in January 2009

Kevin Cavanaugh, IBM, http://twitter.com/kevincavanaugh -> 29 tweets, last in November 2009

Kristin Keene, IBM, http://twitter.com/KristinKeene -> 3 tweets, last in March 2009

Clean up your toys if you want to be a social business.

Copyright © 2011 Genii Software Ltd.

What has been said:


1001.1. Mika
(02/12/2011 01:31 PM)

Like Paul Coelho said: "Intelligent people discuss what people say, idiots discuss the people who say it."

I think this is always true, in every situation in life.