Sunday, 21 November 2010

Social Media will not get you into heaven.

Sorry everyone, but my background in Theology and former life as a teacher of Religious Education requires me to point out to you a simple truth:
Your use of social media is not the factor that will determine whether or not you go to heaven
On the Day of Judgement, when the Book of Life is opened, the test of whether or not you are granted access to the heavenly realm will not be how acquainted with social media you were while on Planet Earth. The Recording Angel will not be checking up on how many followers you had on Twitter, how many friends you had on Facebook, or how many contacts you had on LinkedIn.

Why, dear reader, am I pointing this out?

It's this: there's a breed of individuals evolving at the moment for whom the test of whether you're In or Out, Saved or Damned, appears to be how committed you are to the cause of Social Media.

How about this from the pages of the (I'm afraid to say it) increasingly dubious Harvard Business Review:
As a social media geek, I rarely go a day without convincing a friend that even a 42-year-old can enjoy Facebook, or hectoring a colleague about how much time and effort they could save with social media communications, or coaxing a communications pro into embracing social media as a core part of their professional practice. I bat aside the protests about age, time commitment and personal preference.
HBR: Countering the Excuses for Avoiding Social Media (and Video Games)

Convincing: OK. Coaxing: perhaps a bit patronising. But Hectoring? Batting aside protests? Aren't we going a bit over the top here? (And, incidentally, as a person who is significantly on the far side of the category described, I find the "even a 42-year-old" comment deeply offensive.)

Here's a bit more of what I'm talking about. A couple of weeks ago, I participated in an online discussion which addressed such issue as "Why HR are afraid of social media." To me the debate (to continue with the theological terminology) appeared to demonise those unconverted to the use of social media, and almost suggest that to deny the benefits of social media was tantamount to an Unforgivable Sin. I was eventually provoked into remarking that those who do not use social media are not Bad People!

As recently as this morning I observed a conversation between two guys in my network (sorry, Bill and Gareth - it's not personal!) where the health of attendees at a local CIPD branch meeting was judged largely on the number of Twitter (3) and LinkedIn (2) accounts represented by those present. 

So. Let me put out a challenge to those of you who are avid users of social media:
Where on the scale from Evangelist to Extremist are you? Are you a Missionary or a Zealot? A Fan or a Fanatic? What scope is there for someone in your circle to say "I just don't find this sort of stuff particularly relevant or helpful in my social or professional life" without you looking around for the thumbscrews?
And before sending the inquisition round to the offices of HR Case Studies, I trust that you'll note that I haven't actually stated my position on this one! The point I'm making is that if we're not careful , the message will get in the way of the (social) media.

And on that note, I will run for cover!


  1. Graham,
    the quote is out of context but I take your point. You might find this old post interesting although at the time it provoked a whole range of reactions and blog posts from the great and the good.
    my view is that social media is part of the mix but not the whole mix.
    social media is not the silver bullet, nor is it the devil.
    Like all things, the more evangelical you are, the more scarey you become.
    The actual twitter conversation you dropped in on was refering to a social media evening for the local CIPD. I was suprised to find only 3 twitter accounts and 2 linked In accounts amongst them. I suggested that #connectingHR were needed in these parts.
    Thanks for the call out though, i'm glad somone is reading the tweets!

  2. Hi Graham! Interesting post and despite my tweet I actually do think you have a point. I do think we make far too much of "social media". We currently talk about it like we did 12 years ago about "the Internet" which is just a feature of how we tend to jump on something and blow it out of proportion. I'm pretty convinced that in 5 years time we will look back on these times and laugh at how we talked about "social media" in the way we do. It's just communication after all.

    And it's not really new. People have been being social for decades and indeed twitter, as I have said before, is like a global chat room. Its just that the technology has evolved to make it mainstream. And of course, we have elected to make it widely acceptable whereas 15 years ago chat was seen as something geeks and or odd folk did. (for the record I was one of those!). Unfortunately though we have a horrible habbit of overdoing everything, from propery development to dot com, we make such a big deal.

    However, what I would say is that the acceptance and spread of social connecting (let's drop the media tag) will have a profound influence on the way organisations are run and people are led. Of that there is no question. But we wont notice it, simply because it will have become part of what we do by then.

    The internet had a profound effect on business over the last 15 years, but the effects took a long time, way longer than it took the hype of the internet to die down. From email, to websites, enterprise solutions in the cloud, none of which are possible without the internet. Hell, we hardly own anything anymore - its all in the cloud!

    There is a huge opportunity for organisations with social connecting, but it will take time to become folklore. Unfortunately, many organisations still view this social communication growth as some sort of evil or bad thing that must be controlled or stopped which is wrong. And HR are in the middle of it all, trying to make policy for it and making judgments about it when many know very little or nothing about it. Im sorry but you cannot make valid policy about something you do not understand. And you cannot understand the value of social connecting and communication unless you are actually involved and taking part.

    I have no wish to brand those HR folk that are not involved as "outsiders" or anything like, but I do accept that in my enthusiasm I might have done this inadvertently. I will make a conscious effort not to do this in future. But HR professionals should be engaging. There is a fundamental shift in the way people are interacting and communicating at work and outside and HR need to be there, as does every key player in the organisation.

    We may be in danger of making a bandwagon out of social communication which would be a shame as it is far too important to be classed as such.

    My final point would be to refer specifically to my tweet exchange with Bill that you mention. Tools like linkedin are already mainstream and are not only key components in areas like strategic resourcing but also in areas of learning, information provision, employer branding and networking. Given the mainstream use of such a tool, it really is disappointing to see only 2 out of 20 of the HR professionals with a Linkedin profile.

    Gareth Jones

  3. I think you've brought up several important ideas in this post. Ultimately, however, I don't think that HR reps should be afraid of anything and social media participation is something that is the norm of their roles (unfortunately). To go along something that Andria L. Corso ( From Gatekeeper to Trusted Advisor) would suggest, it's not an HR rep's job to police their employees, or even be friends, but to rather lead them in a positive work environment. Simply by stating, "Hey, I know you have Twitter/Facebook/etc" isn't a threat, but it's a statement strong enough to suggest that they know what's up.