Archive for the ‘social networking’ Category

Ah, “personal branding.” Definitely a topic worthy of a straw poll.

I’ve been thinking about changing my Twitter name. Why would I do that?

The usual response I get when I meet Tweeting folk is one of surprise — “oh that’s you? I had no idea!” So that’s not good. Plus, I find that @spaghetti_p is pretty long. Including the @ symbol, it’s 11 characters, and I’d rather something less than 10. Finally, it’s kind of dumb and I’m pretty tired of it.

So why did I choose it in the first place? It was a halfhearted attempt at carrying something from the name of this blog over into my Twitter presence. (It’s hard to be original at 1 a.m. when you are signing up for the latest social site.) Also my real name is extremely generic, so @petersmith was long gone by the time I got to Twitter. As was @smith, @psmith, @smithp.

But it been a long time since I’ve been tweeting as @spaghetti_p. The majority of my followers know me under that username. More significantly, my Twitter presence has the most “reach” on a daily basis – it’s my main “social habit.” It’s the public place where I interact most with others online. So is there a risk in changing it?

At a technical level, I had first thought that the answer would be no. On Twitter.com, all I have to do is change my account settings and automagically, everyone who’s following @spaghetti_p will be following whatever new name I choose. But almost immediately I realized that it’s not that simple — I’ve set up a lot of profiles elsewhere (main public ones listed on this blog’s about page, and I can’t forget internal-to-GC ones also) that point to the URL http://twitter.com/spaghetti_p. It’d take some work to re-point all these — but it’s doable and obviously worth it.

I also came across multiple listings of my Twitter account throughout the ecosystem of apps and services that has grown up around Twitter — quick examples: Topsy, TwitIQ, FavStar, Sency… the list goes on and on. I’ve never heard of most of these & have no idea what they do. And what happens to them if I change my Twitter name – do they also update? Do they break? I suppose mostly it doesn’t matter, they’re just machines.

What’s more important to me is: will folks find this annoying? Will they unfollow? Will they even care? And do I even care what anyone thinks? Mainstream “personal branding” thinking says I should — online is my calling card, and Twitter is the primary channel for that and yadda yadda yadda. But I’m not a product to be managed, ya know? I’m a mere human. So the answer to all of these, even the last one, about which I feel really ambivalent, is: I don’t really know.

So I’ll give up and turn it over to you: should I change my Twitter name?


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"Comparing," by Here's Kate on Flickr

In my post on Monday, I wondered at this data point from Forrester’s Social Technographics research for Canada:

The study also found that 79% of Canadians take part in social media at least once a month, whether they’re checking Facebook, uploading a video to YouTube or posting ratings and comments on a blog.

My wondering:

Actually I’m not sure how meaningful it is to say that almost 80% “take part in social media,” since these days, anyone online is reading blog content — whether they realize it or not — and practically everyone online watches video from YouTube. But anyhow.

And cleaning up my email today, I was reminded of that recent Ipsos study which found that 82% of Canadians have Internet access at home. (I’d also forgotten that I had blogged about it here.)

Apples and oranges maybe, but I can’t help but be struck by the fact that 8 in 10 Canadians have some form of regular internet access and also participate in social media.

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Forrester finally does social technographics for Canada and guess what? We are extremely social.

Maybe it’s got something to do with all the time we hunkered down and crouched over our keyboards during the cold winter months, but Canadians are the most active social networkers of any country in the Western world, according to the results of a new survey.

More than half of all Canadians (57%) surveyed said they are active users of social networks such as Facebook and MySpace — primarily Facebook —  compared with 51% of the online population in the United States and just 38% in the United Kingdom, according to the report from market research firm Forrester Research Group.

“We know how popular and successful Facebook is in the U.S. and how popular these networks are in parts of Asia, so to see that a higher percentage of Canadian online users were visiting and using social networks every month than any of the other markets, that’s pretty impressive,” said Forrester principal analyst Nate Elliott, the lead author on the study.

via Financial Post

Kinda surprised that we are bigger social networkers than in the US. Dunno if I should be.


The study also found that 79% of Canadians take part in social media at least once a month, whether they’re checking Facebook, uploading a video to YouTube or posting ratings and comments on a blog.

About 18% of Canadians are described as “creators,” because they write a blog or upload videos, while 28% of Canadians are “critics” who post ratings and reviews on things like newspaper Websites. About 64% described themselves as spectators — they only read and watch social media content — while 21% said they don’t take part in any social media activity at all.

Actually I’m not sure how meaningful it is to say that almost 80% “take part in social media,” since these days, anyone online is reading blog content — whether they realize it or not — and practically everyone online watches video from YouTube. But anyhow.

When I sent this news to my government colleagues, one replied back with another quote from the report’s author:

“I can’t imagine a marketer who would ignore something that this many Canadians are using,” said Nate Elliott, principle analyst [sic] at Forrester and author of the report. “If you are not participating in social media right now as a marketer, then you are late.” [my emphasis]

via Ottawa Citizen

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A final thought on that Osbaldeston Lecture. Then I promise I will move on to something else.

Social media is today’s contact sport and the sooner governments understand this new form of communication the better. What better way to let people know what is happening in your department or Ministry than by posting a blog or creating an interactive information site? How better to receive input and feedback on policies that are being developed or considered? If you question this approach, I beg you to visit a university or college campus and watch what students are focused on, how they process information, access data, and interpret their world. It will provide you with an up-dated definition of “contact”.

You don’t actually have to go to a university campus — rather, you only need to watch Michael Wesch’s classic “Vision of Students Today” video:

Of course, it’s not only about the students is it? Many (most?) people are now moving in this direction, focusing our attention on streams of content via social networks.

Example, in keeping with the Facebook mentions in the video: percentage-wise, what’s the fastest growing demographic on the world’s largest social network? Women over 55, followed by women 45-55 (U.S. data from October 2009). Overall, “nearly 50% of Facebook users in the US today are over 35.”

(Sorry no recent Canuck specific data, is it out there?)


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Social Networking at Work. Source: Unkown

I came across this infographic behind the GoC firewall. It’s timely given the recent discussions that have been occurring around the future of GCconnex, the GoC’s pilot social networking project.

So not sure of the graphic’s source, but it gives a pretty good breakdown of how social networking has value in the work environment (nitpickers: call it professional networking if you must).

So let’s walk through the chart, starting with the “seekers” side of the equation. With a socnet’s search capacity, I can solve the awareness problem much more quickly than by the usual freind of a friend approach of sending a “do you know of anyone…?” type email to friends and colleagues. And then, by checking out that person’s profile, I can get a sense of their competence before even contacting them. Similarly, by looking at their activity stream, I can see if they are the helpful, sharing type. And then I can contact them directly, or move on to the next prospect.

To me, the key difference here is one of degree — a social workplace lets me get to the answers I am seeking that much quicker and more easily. And the more open a social network is, the more broadly I can broadcast my need, again speeding up getting answers. Problem solved, on to the next one. Productivity win.

Looking at “contributors” column,  it goes both ways. By participating in a workplace socnet , I am opening up myself to the same kind of scrutiny as I apply to others when seeking. Which I think encourages professionalism and responsiveness — I know other socnet members will be evaluating my usefulness to them also, so there’s more impulse to reciprocate and participate.

Actually, I’d say this graphic looks too focused on the individual’s situation in the contributing column. It doesn’t get at the value to the organization very well. Social networking is not simply a means for civil servants to get ahead in their careers.  Rather, the wins on this side of the equation are more reputational — not merely personal rep either, but more significantly that of my team, my organization, and my community. All my actions reflect on the org I work for and the professional community I belong to, and that’s equally (especially)  true in the socnet context. So in terms of contributors, social networking is a great way to strengthen branding at multiple levels.

So two great selling points for GCconnex: making productivity gains and enhancing the public service brand.

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A bit late on blogging this, but anyhow.

Last week there were a couple of stories in the Ottawa Citizen (on Thursday and Friday) that touched on impartiality in the federal public service.

From the Friday story, titled Internet age a challenge to impartial public service:

The commission [ie, the PSC] concluded the young PCO analyst who posted his support for the Liberal party had crossed the line with “improper political activity,” but found no evidence that this affected his ability to do his job.

The employee wasn’t disciplined for his Facebook entry other than receiving a letter from the commission warning against “political activities” that could undermine his ability to do his job impartially — or leave that impression.

The unnamed bureaucrat wasn’t a senior executive but he did work for PCO, which has a more politically sensitive mandate than other departments.

Some thoughts:

1. Tempting to write this off as a PCO thing, since life is different at “the centre.” But that would be a mistake — especially for people working in communications and marketing, as we routinely bump up against the political/administrative divide in government. Impartiality is important throughout the bureaucracy.

2. Nor is it an age thing — leaving aside the fact that “young PCO analyst” is pretty ambigous, it is clear that social networking is increasingly popular among all workplace demographics.

3. In one sense, nothing has changed. Listing your political affiliation on a social networking site is analogous to wearing a party badge or political button on your coat. If you want to be seen as impartial, don’t do it.

4. Social networks like make it all too easy for this kind of thing to happen. When I signed up for Facebook, I remember that the “political affiliation” question was part of the registration process. Incredibly easy for an inattentive user to pick something that they will later regret since their focus is on getting signed up.

5. Yes social networking is redrawing the line between public/private. My rule of thumb – err on the side of caution and treat online participation as more public than private. I assume that how I present yourself online always has a an impact on my personal reputation and the reputation of my employer. (Writing this, it occurs to me that it’s probably no different in the private sector.) By the by, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner has been doing great work on privacy issues around social networking.

6. As cases like these start to pile up, it will be tempting to simply block off the social web in government workplaces. This would be a mistake, as not only would business value be lost, but it would just drive the activity “underground.” People will find a way regardless — so better to encourage responsible use than to make people do it behind your back. The recently reanimated StopBlocking.org has great info on why it’s better to allow your people access.

7. On policy: I don’t feel that new rules need to be invented. There’s enough policy out there already. I am in favour of education and guidance though — to help us navigate through this new and unfamiliar terrain. Whether in terms of reminding employees of their responsibilities as public servants or by having early adopters and leaders showing us how it’s done. Or creating a touchstone of some sort that interprets existing rules in the light of new realities presented by the social web (for this last one, I’m looking at you TBS).

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