Apr 27, 2009

Professional Networkers

Have you ever taken a piece of paper and multiplied the number of staff you have by the number of people they are connected to globally?  How many products/ services that you sell day-to-day are endorsed on these social networks?  At your finger tips is a free user-endorsed brand marketing powerhouse that in most cases isn’t being used.

Isn’t it beyond belief that companies who live in the most international time in history have closed the doors on their future leaders of business accessing networking sites?  Think about it for just a moment... the most interconnected generation in history is using Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, My Space and Ning and yet none of these connections are permitted to permeate into the world of work.  Do all your staff even have your company name on their profiles? What would be the combined brand value of an update going out to all your staff’s contacts (the figure you came up with from the sum at the beginning) saying that they worked for your organisation?

Isn’t it beyond belief that all these connections are being kept purely for social reasons?  Imagine the position a company would be in if it was able to harness the potential distribution opportunity, and knowledge gathering opportunity, that they have in their Next Generation employees all around the world.  Our generation’s blurring boundaries between work and home life mean that out of all the generations they’d probably be the one most up for sharing these contacts. 

Informal social information networks will continue to grow.  This is a trend.  Those that are on the front end of harnessing the ‘informal knowledge ecosystems’ through technological social networks of people will be the future leaders.  We will go so far as to say that the companies that do not allow informal social networks and disconnect their employees from these worlds will lack the capability, through collaboration, to survive and will stagnate.

From the CIPD ‘People Management’ publication this month (23 APRIL 2009):

‘...networks are important and not only in good times.  They are arguably just as important, albeit in different ways, during an economic downturn.  Firms that recognise the importance of informal social dynamics and the technological platforms that power them will be more agile and better able to withstand economic shocks.’


  1. I'd generally agree with this but some compensation needs to be offered for asking your employees to do this. I've been asked to make blog posts, tweets and use Facebook to promote my company. I've also been asked to (and was successful) to find them new employees from my networks.

    I'm generally happy to do so but I don't appreciate being "told" to do so or not being rewarded for it. I'll happy promote a company but I'm putting my "personal brand" on the line when I promote a product or service that I don't personally like.

  2. Mike, thanks for your comment. Absolutely agree with you. Its interesting that you say you'd need compensation for using your personal brand on behalf of the company. If you were fully trusting and convinced of the business product or service i suspect you'd do it for free/ willingly?

  3. This is true, I would be a lot more willing. When I say compensation, I don't necessarily mean financial but just a "thanks!" rather than the feeling that I'd done what was instructed.

    I guess my point is I'd like to see a system when it's seen as a kind contribution by employees to do that rather than an obligation.

  4. You're so right. I guess you also mean: your employer seeing the value in what you've created by your efforts online. Would be great if there was an online currency for this kind of thing! I suppose twitter as created that to some extent with 'RTs' and the '@' convention.

  5. Another thing that occurred to me is that if they expect me to promote their brand on my social networks then they should obviously allow me to Twitter about my job (not commercially secret information obviously) and use social networks whilst at my job.

  6. At it's simplest level, online networking it an extension of our physical interactions. I know many of my colleagues (including those of the Next Generation) generally don't talk about work with many people outside of the organisation for the simple reason that they have a one-way mentality (you can bring elements of home to work, but not the other way).

    This means people talk about what they did last night when they are at work, but very little about what they did at work when at home.

    I can only say that from my point of view in Financial Services tho!

    Advocacy will come from engagement - as employers and employees get better at trusting each other then it can become a natural extension of your living to talk about what you're enjoying. What's putting a smile on your face.

    Building trust with people that they won't (as Mike pointed out) blog about your Company results before they are public or bad mouth a customer on their Twitter feed - has to come from both sides earning each others trust. Maybe that means starting somewhere - be it with internal collaboration (blogs, wikis, micro-sharing etc) - so that you can demonstrate you are competent.

    Then you could get people joining an empoyee advocacy program.

    Wait, I'm building solutions to a problem that might not exist :0>

    Large Corporates have an inherent sluggishness when it comes to innovation. This territory is undiscovered for many (or most?) organisations and therefore requires innovation to get moving.

    All that said, you might find that the Next Generation might just do it anyway because that's their (our!) style!