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Social Media, The G20, And An Earthquake

Nothing can be hGirlfriend made    another G20 demotivational poster.  #g20 on Twitpiceld back now.  Raw information in real-time.

In Toronto this past weekend, there were probably more spectators with cameras than there were protesters, tweeting, taking pictures and video, and uploading them to Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube; streaming in realtime to UStream, and  Of all the crap that went down this past weekend in Toronto there is one thing I know for sure:  Everyone now has the opportunity to be heard, everyone can be a reporter.  Nothing can be kept secret anymore, nobody can hide anything.  And it doesn’t matter what your intentions were, or how many previous successes you had; one tweet, one video, seen by the right people will shift perspective on an issue, and you are done.  People made up their mind in that split second.

The police and the government are in a no win situation.  Don’t push hard enough, you get criticized for not doing your job.  Push too hard, your are charged with police brutality.  The gray area is about as big as the period at the end of this sentence.

There is enough ranting going on, I don’t need/want to add my voice to it all. I don’t want to debate police actions, or how the G20 cost us taxpayers billions of dollars to hold.  Go on twitter or Youtube and search G20 to see it all.  What screams to me is the social web – the availability of real-time information, everybody being a reporter, and everyone being able to be heard.  Nobody can control what gets published anymore.  And there is definitely an argument that can be made about the quantity vs. the quality of information out there, so you have to take it all in with a grain of salt.  There is definitely still a place for good journalism – Globe and Mail – Toronto mayor amongst many expressing revulsion over protest violence – A good article I found though Twitter of course.

Was there an opportunity for the police and the government to use social media to help it’s case and share information to balance some perspective?  Possibly, but given the numbers, it might not have mattered.My sincere hope is this riot cop was tweeting about me tweeti... on Twitpic

And when my chair started moving back and forth last week, I opened twitter, and saw that an earthquake had just occurred outside of Ottawa, being felt all over South Western Ontario, with real-time tweets coming in every few seconds confirming and describing it.

Raw information, right away, from people just like you and me.  Can you handle it?

Posted in Random Thoughts, Social Media.

A Facebook Problem, Or An Engagement Problem?

It’s a common complaint.  My employees spend too much time on Facebook.  Should we ban facebook and other social networking sites?

When I gave a social networking presentation a few months ago this was a lively debate. Centered around generational differences as well as the amount of time employees are spending on Facebook.

My point is that if employees are on Facebook for hours a day, they are not engaged with their job.  And if it wasn’t Facebook, they would be wasting their time doing something else.  Give them some credit and find something for them to do that will engage them.  Of course that is a two way street, and I won’t be naive and say that this is everyone’s problem.  There will always be employees that don’t care and are just in it for the paycheque.  And aren’t those the first to go anyway?

I noticed a friend of mine recently started blasting game updates on her facebook status.  Knowing the kind of person she is, I knew something was up.  Her new job was depressing, and she was not being challenged.  She was not engaged, and her boss did not seem to care, or even want to challenge her with something to do.  So amongst other things, she played on Facebook to pass her day.  She left that company quickly, and I feel sorry for that boss who will never know what she lost.

So is it a Facebook problem or an engagement problem? What do you think?

Posted in 2.0 Lessons, Business, Random Thoughts, Social Media.

Social Media Marketing Explained In 61 Words

David Meerman Scott wrote a post awhile back that I just discovered a couple days ago, thanks to twitter.  I am going to quote it here, since it started a cool discussion with a colleague over on linkedIn (don’t you just love the social web?).  This is one of the best explanations of social media marketing I have seen:

“You can buy attention (advertising)
You can beg for attention from the media (PR)
You can bug people one at a time to get attention (sales)

Or you can earn attention by creating something interesting and valuable and then publishing it online for free: a YouTube video, a blog, a research report, photos, a Twitter stream, an ebook, a Facebook page.”

Now, I have tried to stay away from the marketing side of social media in this blog, because I think it adds a bit of confusion around how people get into Social Media.  But if you have ever sold something, or want to market you business (or yourself!), go back and read the paragraph above again.  Seth Godin talks about permission marketing, people get too many interruptions, and there are too many media channels vying for their attention.  If I need something, I am going to ask Google where I can find it, and if I find a source that has earned my attention (like David Meerman Scott or Seth Godin) I am going to be pulled back to their sites again and again to read their latest blog.  They don’t have to try and get my attention, they have my permission.

The discussion my colleague and I got into over on linkedIn was essentially the B2B vs B2C debate.  Business to Consumer marketing using social media tools to target consumers.  Consumers of goods are more likely to be on Facebook, and probably have more connections to their peers to share recommendations, so if you are a B2C company you better have a social media strategy that encompasses Facebook, Twitter, and blogging.  Consumers will value the recommendations of there peers over traditional marketing every time.

Business to Business companies, like my colleague and I both represent, are different.  The transactions business make are bigger, the relationships involved are much deeper, and the risk involved is much higher.  Of course there is also the air of competition, and not wanting to put too much out there, for fear your competition will pick up on something you are doing, or steal your ideas.  I believe there is a tremendous opportunity for B2B companies and social media, after all, a business transaction still involves a person –  you are still a person selling to a person.  Social media tools give B2B companies the ability to personalize themselves. Facebook is not the right tool for B2B marketing, look at the audience on Facebook, it is not who B2B companies are selling to.

Staying with B2B let’s use an example close to home.  I work for JMP Engineering.  We sell engineered controls, automation, and information solutions.  We have a huge CRM database, and we could bug these contacts one at a time, interrupting them at a time when they are not looking for automation solutions.  We could buy advertising and spend lots of money trying to get more attention, and we could beg the media to try and get press time.  That is the traditional approach, but these days it is too easy for people to ignore those channels.  Obviously our best business comes from our existing relationships with known customers, we have built up these relationships and have earned their business over the years.

So how do we earn the attention of people looking for information on solutions we can offer?  How do we come out on top in Google search results?  Forget search engine optimization, content is king, and it has to be current.  To start, we need blogs written by our line of business directors, like, we need contribution to sites like by our technical staff, and we should be sharing case studies, and videos on YouTube of our solutions.  I am not talking about giving away our core business, I am talking about giving away just enough to earn the attention of a prospective buyer.  Social Media Marketing lets us do this easily for next to no cost.  And anyone or any business can do this.

Todd Youngblood has written some great articles on this topic, and of course Seth Godin and David Meerman Scott blog frequently on the value of social media and selling (2 of my favourite blogs).  The only thing I know for sure, is that if you still don’t understand the value of social media, and you don’t “get it”, then you are not trying hard enough.  You will be successful if you can do it right, and the definition of doing it right is not necessarily the same for everyone.

Posted in Business.

A Business Case For Corporate Blogging

Blogs are one of the best ways to get information on the web. There are millions of them in almost every category you can imagine. People who are passionate about something and writing about it. Probably people like me who never thought they would be blogging about anything, and are finding it fun doing so.

Robert Scoble blogged about the value of a blog and how “bloggers get smarter over time and they have more experiences to pull on”, whereas other websites get stale, people loose interest, discussion boards get stagnant. Bloggers, passionate bloggers, get better over time, they turn into better writers and refine their passion. I really like that post (and I also follow him on twitter to keep up to date on everything tech).

So how about blogging? Does your management team blog at work? Do other employees? Employees writing to each other, sharing ideas, current events, and problems needing a solution. Employees thinking out loud and asking for feedback. Blogging is a great way to define your expertise to your peers, knowledge share,  and it is an amazing way for management to communicate with employees.

I blog internally at work and our President records a podcast every 1 to 2 months. I am positive that communication has improved and that employees are getting more interested in social media tools. The blogs are captured on our intranet, and are not lost in a newsletter, or in someone’s inbox. The posts are there for anyone to read at any time, for someone to learn a bit more about me, and our business processes – and of course the application of social media at our offices.

I came across this video a little while ago and wanted to share. It is a funny story about internal blogging and one of its use cases, done by an ibmer who is part of a group within IBM promoting and evangelizing social media tools. Thanks to elsua for finding it for me – another great blog post on the business case for corporate blogging. Enjoy!

Posted in 2.0 Lessons, Social Media, Social Media Tools.

If You Blog It, They Will Come

At least if they are smart they will.  A good friend of mine over at ContactAndCoil recently posted a great rant about Rockwell Automation and the trials and tribulations of using their online knowledge base.

In this day and age of web 2.0 tools and having (free) information available all the time, Rockwell is still stuck in the pay-for-information model.  Their good content is locked away behind a pay wall and only people paying for support contracts get at their knowledge base.  Rockwell has great support, and holds the majority market-share in North America in terms of automation components, but this entire industry (not just Rockwell) has not hit mainstream 2.0 yet.  (One of the reasons that I started ControlsOverload.)

Paid support content is part of their revenue stream. As Scott pointed out, this model just no longer works. Printed newspapers are tanking, they are trying to convert to paid online content, but really who is going to pay for news they can get on 100 other websites? In Rockwell’s case, if I have an issue or question with one of their products (that I just paid thousands of dollars to get), I now have to make sure my support contract is in order so I can look-up an Internet article that could help me out?

Anyway my point is not to talk about Rockwell, but to point out that Scott’s rant earned him a conference call with Rockwell management, and they were truly interested in his point of view.  So Rockwell get some big points here. They are listening in the 2.0 world even if they are stuck with a 1.0 paid content revenue model.  Scott discovered that he is not alone in his opinions and Rockwell is planning on making some changes.

The real lesson here is ContactAndCoil.  I don’t know how Rockwell discovered Scott’s post, but the fact that Scott was able to vent a bit online in his blog, have a big corporation not only notice, but go a step further to hold a conference call will him, well that is a small voice getting heard.

Another shining example of why I love the participatory web.

Thanks to Scott for his rant and followup, and kudos to Rockwell for listening.

Posted in 2.0 Lessons, Social Media Tools.

My First Social Media Presentation

Last night I gave my very first social media presentation, along with 2 other people for SCNetwork in London.  What an experience!  Blogging is great, but talking about it, and engaging with people interested in learning about social media for various reasons is a great experience, and I had a lot of fun doing it.  Can’t wait to do it again!  A lot of great debate and discussion on the merits (and demerits) of the application of social media.

This is going to make for a long blog post, but if you are interested, read on to find out what I talked about!

What is Social Computing?

It is not a fad, it is a fundamental change in how we communicate and learn.  Anyone remember the switch from paper memos to email?  This is almost like that, but way more powerful.  Before email your network was the guy sitting next to you, and your secretary.  Email welcomed the rest of your company to your network, as well as a few people whose email address you had.  Social Computing has exponentially increased our networks!  You can get connected to people you would never have known.  There are many “degrees” of contacts you can make and potentially take advantage of.

Primary uses for Social Computing

There are 3 areas I like to describe:  Personal, Social Knowledge Management (Social KM), and Social Media Marketing

Personal – Your family, your friends, sharing pictures, discussions and groups (hobbys, sports, music, arts, etc.) with friend outside of work.  This is the easiest way to dive in to the world of social media.  Get to know what it is all about. Increase your personal and professional networks. It is an amazing personal learning and development experience.

Social KM – This is my favourite aspect of it. Take your Social Computing tools and knowledge and embrace them at your workplace to better collaborate, empower and enage with your colleagues.  Start by using a common intranet platform to commonize the process, documents and tools that your entire company uses (and your employees search high and low for).  Then use document management tools to track documents and handle revision control (Who has the master of that document?  What is the latest rev?  Who approved it?).  Add in wiki tools to collaborate on documents, and provide easy to edit web pages for employee contributions ( A “welcome to the company” web page collaboratively written and kept up to date by existing employees?  Could it be that simple?).  Use Q&A forums to capture questions and answers, around different departments, processes, products, technologies, etc.    (How many times have you answered the same question over and over again?).  See my Email is where knowledge goes to die blog post.  Combine that with tagging and rating features to let users build a folksonomy, categorizing and identifying the content that is useful.  How about using blogging and microblogging for employees to communicate with each other?  (Blogging is an amazing way for executives to communicate!)  And then on top of all that, build employees profile pages that define who you are and your expertise by your contributions  (Say goodbye to employee directories and cumbersome matrices that are never up to date!)  Now you can aggregate only the information you want, by subscribing to certain tags, knowledge groups, and people.  If your colleagues aren’t interesting, then just like on twitter, they are going to be “unfollowed”.  A new employee has a question about something? Everything is searchable.  Use these tools to find the answer, document and experts in the area relevant to your question.

Social Media Marketing –  Using social media tools, a business can smartly and completely market themselves online for next to no cost – period.  Lookup the story of Tom’s Shoes.  But for every success story there are a thousand failures (I did say smartly).  And you have to be genuine.  Walmart fake blogged about 2 people RVing across the states staying in Walmart parking lots.  They were found out, but its Walmart, so probably not a big impact for them, but a huge impact for a small business that just violated the trust of its followers.  The other side of this is marketing yourself for a job, or a recruiter looking for people to hire.   What does Google think of you? Have you Googled yourself? Because that is the first thing people do (or should do) when they want to see who you are.  Google your company.  What are people saying about it?  What is your web presence like? One Comcast employee is credited with turning around their customer service reputation, using twitter.  Customer Service. Brand Awareness.  Loyalty.  Thought Leadership.  Marketing.  To a global internet audience.  But you still have to convince them to listen.

Getting Buy In

The best and most successful social media applications are driven from the ground up, not from the top down.  Don’t get me wrong, you need executive buy in, but when a couple geeks from Best Buy started up the beginings of blue shirt nation on a PC under their desk, creating a store associate network where emplopyees could share ideas on tech issues, sales techniques and products, the executive team soon noticed. And because they were smart, they wildly endorsed the idea.  There is a new generation that has been entering the workforce expecting the use of these tools.  Pretty soon companies are not going to have a choice in the matter.  For businesses marketing to consumers, that time is already here.  Business to business is next.  Bottom line is that you can bring these tools into your groups, start pilot projects, and if you are passionate enough about it and have a win (no matter how small), you now have a story to tell.  And as soon as it filters up to the top (and I don’t mean middle management), smart executives will recognize your small wins can become bigs wins over a larger scale.  I would argue that buy in needs to come from your peers, and that guy down the hall that hoards his knowledge like his job depended on it, and of course your IT guys.

At the end of the day it is one big change management project, and we all know how much people like change.  It is the little stories, the small wins, and the campaigners that will increase buy in, and get other people engaged.

Posted in 2.0 Lessons, Business, Social Media, Social Media Tools.

Identifying Your Passions

Many years ago I was asked what my passions were.  I did not know how to answer that question, I liked skiing, hiking, playing beach volleyball, but those were not really passions – at least not related to my current job anyway.

Jonathan Fields in Career Renegade makes it sound so simple.  Ask yourself 2 questions:

  1. What activity would you do for free, purely out of a sense of passion?
  2. Imagine that you just won the lottery, but there was a catch – you had to continue to work, and you could not use the money to fund any professional endeavor.  What would you do?


These are not easy questions to answer.

First off, you need life experience to answer these questions.  The only way to answer these questions and identify your passions are to learn, experiment, put your hand up, and try new things.  Something will stand out, you might not know it at the time, but you will keep coming back to it, you will dream about it, you will find justification to work it into your daily routine.

Four years ago I found David Gurteen’s website (  I have been hooked on Knowledge Management and Social Media ever since.

I am extremely passionate about the efficiencies and networks that social media tools can cultivate, and I try to be an evangelist and promote these ideas every chance I get.  Every once in awhile I get a small win that keeps me going.  More than anything, social media is about change, and people don’t like change, they resist it.  Being an engineer, and being a master at solving technical problems, the human side of the change process is not a technical problem that I can solve.  Now that is a challenge!

I started this blog to share my experiences and knowledge about Social Media, and I find that it is helping me further identify and refine my passion.  If you are really lucky, you will immediately know the answers to the two questions asked above.   As for me, I am still working on those answers.

So, what are you passionate about?

Posted in Business, Social KM, Social Media.

Email Is Where Knowledge Goes To Die

I love that title, I wish I could take credit for it (credit here).  But I do have proof to back it up.

Anyone in a business environment can relate to this.  Email has really become a necessary evil, tied us to Outlook and our smartphones.  “Email is where knowledge goes to die”.  Think about it.  Think about how many emails you get during a day at work.  Someone sends you an email asking for help, and you respond with the answer to the question (never mind the fact that the person knew enough to send you the email – that is another story).  The answer is received, and both the asker and the answerer move on.  The asker is a little bit smarter because they asked the question and got an answer, and good for them for asking and saving themselves some time.

This happened over email, the answerer probably deleted the email, and the asker may decide that it is a good thing to keep.  So they file it in a folder in their mailbox, and never look at it again.  This transaction on both parts probably only took 5 minutes of time, not a big deal, but how many times does this happen?  Worse off, I bet sometimes you find yourself asking the same question to someone else, because you can’t quite remember the answer, or have a slightly different permutation of the problem you are trying to solve.

The transaction, the knowledge gained, has died in your email, for you to forget and for no one else to see.  And what about the next time someone asks the same question?  In fact every time someone asks the same question over and over again, we are wasting time.  And we all know that time = money.

I am going to get technical for a second – I was onsite with a customer making some changes to their production system, and I was trying to figure out how to get a “program running” status from a robot, and pass it to a usable input on my controller.  I posted this question on, a site I have recently started for the controls and automation community.  Since this site is just starting out, I also emailed a couple people that I knew would know the answer, and included a link to the question.    And I knew who could help me because I have been in this business for a long time – how many times do you know exactly who to ask to get an answer?

The next morning I had two answers to my question, and was able to map the status from the robot to the controller.  Yes email would have worked just fine, but now this question and answer is alive and well in the cloud, and one day if you ask Google about monitoring the program running status of a Fanuc robot, you might just get that answer.  By the way, at the time I asked Google the same question and did not get anything close to the answer.  If you ask now, Google will give you the right answer!

Part of the premise of using social collaboration tools at work is to be able to quickly identify who the experts are, and get answers to your questions.  Q&A is a great source of knowledge sharing between 2 people, so why not capture this transaction for the next person?

So the next time you answer a question over email, ask yourself – What could I do to ensure that the answer to this question is available to everyone?

Posted in 2.0 Lessons, Business.

A New Kind Of Community

Awhile back I posted a blog entry about stackexchange and I was waiting to get into the beta for a site I wanted to create.  Well 2 months ago that time came and I got my site configured and launched.  I work in the systems integration industry so the goal of my site is to bring control systems integrators together, to share knowledge in one spot, and build a huge Q&A knowledge base online around controls and automation.

If you are reading this and don’t have a clue what controls and automation is, that’s okay because there are other sites you can join. Everything from parenting to finance or even math.   See stackexchange for the complete list of communities that have been started (there are 108 of them!), or you can even start your own.

Fog creek software (Joel on software) decided a couple years back that their programmer community needed a Google friendly Q&A community.  They are in the computer programming business, and sure, there are a ton of PC forums out there, but they did not want a forum or a discussion board, and they knew exactly why.  It had to be open, free, easily read by Google and most importantly, allow a user to easily ask a question and get an answer, and of course, easily answer a question.  They built which is now the #1 tech site on the internet, reaching an estimated third of the words programmers (and that number is from quite awhile ago).  There are almost half a million questions (and even more answers) on!

I am really excited about my new site and others like it.  Systems Integrators are knowledge based companies. The knowledge of their people, and their efficiencies are what makes the company successful – and that is true of any service based company.  There are so many different controls platforms out there, so many different application and solution combinations, and combine that with old and new technologies and regulations,  it makes your head spin.  And most companies don’t talk to each other for competitive reasons.  But the basic stuff out there is not even close to rocket science and there is way too much stuff out there for any one or any company to know it all.  Don’t share your trade secrets or IP of course, but the little stuff.  The annoying little questions that you know someone has the answer to, someone has done what you are trying to do already.  Give yourself some web presence and free marketing, and participate!

The stackexchange engine is the  next generation of discussion board, incorporating all the features of web 2.0 and removing all of the bad features of discussion boards.  You can ask and answer questions without even signing up. You can vote, tag, subscribe, comment, and edit questions and answers.  The best questions and answers rise to the top because the community votes them there.  No searching though pages of threads to find an answer.  And you get reputation points for the Q&A you provide and badges for sticking around and doing things.

It is a fun way to share knowledge and build a community, so if you were looking for a way to join in, there is bound to be a site that peaks your interest.  Go ahead and try one out!  And maybe you won’t be able think of a question right now, but there will be a time when you have one, and just maybe you could have some fun with it and ask the community, and even find a question to answer to earn some “rep”.

I guarantee you will never look at a discussion board the same way again.  They are soooo last decade.

Posted in 2.0 Lessons, Business, Social Media, Social Media Tools.

Knowledge Management Is Going Social

What started as a single blog post has turned into 3 and a ton more ideas on how people can have an impact utilizing social media.  I really want to finish up this thought.  The first one Personal, the second Marketing, and the third area –  Social KM, using social tools to engage employees and share knowledge.  This is an area I am passionate in, and I think my blog posts here will start to reflect that.

North America has turned into a knowledge based economy.  No longer is it the companies that dictate how workers work, it is the employees and their ideas, their passions that shape the company and make it successful.  Knowledge workers have the power and it is the companies responsibility to support them and provide an engaging, open environment.  There is too much stuff to know, too much information out there, and too much change for everyone to know everything about everything.

Companies need to be open to engaging and empowering their employees, and encourage creativity and innovation.  Take Google for example – many Google products come from an employee idea – Google employees are encouraged, if not expected, to spend their own time (as well as company paid time) pursuing their own ideas  for products.  Some will be great (Gmail, Wave…) others may tank, and the company has to support both.

So companies using tools internally like social networking, blogs, knowledge bases, idea databases, wikis, etc.. are going to survive.  These are all example of how to share knowledge and get information more easily available to all employees.  The old school companies not investing in these tools and their people are not going to be around much longer.  It is time to change.

KM did it all wrong years ago, when companies built huge KM systems from the top and tried to record every piece of information they could get their hands on.  Employees were not engaged in the system, except for the ones doing the capturing.  Maybe “all wrong” is harsh, at least they recognized the issue and tried to solve it the only way they knew how.  Wow how things have changed, and are still changing….  Social media tools have allowed knowledge workers to integrate knowledge sharing into their daily work processes.  They are simple and inexpensive tools to use.

Think about it for a second – How much time do you spend looking for information? Do you know who the expert on a certain topic is?  When was the last time you heard from the CEO of your company?  How much time did you waste trying to get and process feedback from 4 colleagues on the last document you had to write?  Who has the latest version?

Social media tools can be applied internally to save you time, and engage your employees.  The social part of it is very important, because if management installs one of these tools and mandates its use – guess what is going to happen?  (It is probably not going to work.) But if a PM recognizes that he needs a better tool for collaboration on a product specification document, then a simple wiki type solution might be an interesting thing to try out.

And once the team uses it once, its hard to go back.

Posted in 2.0 Lessons, Business, Social KM, Social Media.