Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Event - NetIKX 'Social Media - What Next and What Can We Do With It?''

Yesterday's NetIKX half-day seminar, with Stephen Dale and Geoff Mccaleb was a fascinating look at where the world of social media is heading.

Stephen kicked off proceedings with a YouTube video which asked a simple question:
Is Google the #1 most visited website?
The answer, of course, is 'no'!  The most visited website is Facebook - which has 30m users in the UK alone; that is almost 50% of the population.  The statistics in the video came fast and furious, but as Steve summarised it all the numbers are "big and getting bigger!"

Key themes for 2012 are collaboration, gamification and networking.  While all the social networks are growing in membership and usage, Google+ has had by far the highest rate of growth, reaching 25m users much more quickly than any of its forerunners.

Importantly for businesses is the fact that we are now in a situation where content and information is in abundance while resources are constrained, two way business, communities and value in relationships rule the day rather than 'top down' one way marketing.

Steve contended that the focus now is all about sharing - sharing user generated content, sharing recommendations, sharing bookmarks, sharing interests, sharing ideas.

He pointed out that curation of all this content and working as community facilitators, was an important role going forward for people with information management skills.  Social media sites exist dedicated to gathering information relevant to a community and sharing it already exist (eg; paper.li, storify, scoop.it, etc).

Other key trends Steve highlighted included big data (where data sets grow so large they cannot be analysed using conventional database management tools), mobile internet  (which will be outselling desktop platforms by 2013), and location based services (including augmented reality where your mobile combines GPS, visual and internet data sources into one display).

Steve summarised by saying that social media is most definitely not a fad, it's ubiquitous, growing rapidly and creating new and interesting ways to share information.  People need help with content overload and knowledge curation - and we are best placed to meet this need.

Geoffrey echoed this theme, starting off his presentation by saying that social is taking over the web.  He gave some interesting examples of this in relation to recruitment, including that 89% of US companies used social media tools in recruitment in 2011, either to source candidates or to screen them.

He illustrated the power of social media not only by referring to the Arab Spring and Occupy protests, but also by highlighting that the SOPA protests were covered by only 1 mainstream media outlet (CNN), so Congress changed its mind based almost solely on pressure from a social media campaign.

Dispelling any lingering feeling that social media somehow 'isn't real' or 'is just virtual' or 'just for kids', he also gave examples of companies whose sales and stock prices have been massively affected by social media (positively or negatively), including Southwestern Airlines, Dominos Pizza and Comcast.  Reputation management has moved far beyond a press release in the newspaper, and time to address customer complaints raised on Twitter or Facebook is down to 48hours or less.

After a break for coffee we reconvened into breakout groups to discuss a range of questions:

  • what is the information risk of using social media?
  • what role could/should information intermediaries play?
  • which social media tools to use, when
  • are social media tools appropriate to use within organisations?
  • how can social media help engagement with communities?

During the feedback session after this, the main theme to come up was a discussion of the sustainability of social media - both speakers felt it was here to stay, and that while technologies will undoubtedly keep improving (eg, to enable more sharing via audio/video), the sharing itself will continue, with value coming from the leveraging of connections and relationships.

Information professionals will have a key role to play in this development, curating content, analysing big data, creating visualisations and infographics, evaluating information, validating it and being a trusted facilitator.  To achieve this, traditional skills of information organisation and retrieval will need the addition of more ICT skills, for data analysis, mobile apps, and social media network engagement.    

Friday, 13 January 2012

How do people see you?

One of the free seminar sessions I attended at Online this year was about online reputation management, although that session focused on companies and how brand reputation can get damaged so easily now with mass peer-to-peer communication made so easy with social media.

I have been thinking more about individual reputation and personal brands.  In the past, your reputation depended upon your personal appearance, actions and achievements and was known only to that limited circle of people you had met, or perhaps those who had read articles you may have published.

Today, however, many more people may have 'heard of you', lots of whom you will not have met (and may never get a chance to).  Whether you put lots of effort into creating a certain image or perception (a 'personal brand') or never give it a thought, those people who see your Tweets, read your blog, friend you on Facebook, read your comments on others' blogs, etc, will all have formed their own ideas about who you are, what your views are, what your personality it like.

I came across this infographic the other day, which gives lots of good ideas on how to find out what your online reputation might be like, and some ways to go about influencing perceptions about you.   This got me thinking - why does it matter what people, many of whom you will never meet, think about you?

From my perspective as a recruiter, it matters because you never know who will be on the other end of the next job application you make!  Chances are, even if they haven't come across you online before receiving your application, they will run a Google search of your name as part of their selection process.  

Would you be happy with what they would find?  It can be very illuminating to check it out for yourself - preferably from a PC you haven't used much, and when you are NOT signed into your Google account.

One quite sneaky, but I thought very useful, tip from the Online session I went to was how to 'bury' less-than-ideal search results about you.  Some of the social media sites rank very highly on Google, so if you make sure you have a well filled-out LinkedIn profile, a Slideshare account with some good library-related presentations loaded onto it, and a Flickr account with shots of your workplace or other libraries, then those could 'drown out' any less-than-flattering mentions of you at the office party...

Having a positive online reputation alone will not win you that dream job, but a negative one might just be the deciding factor in preventing you getting invited for an interview.  It is therefore worth investing a little time making sure that you put your best foot forward online, as you do 'in real life'.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Career goals - a good time for change?

It's the start of a brand spanking New Year (and it's my guess that you've already broken any new year resolutions you half-seriously made the week before!).  

Earlier today I was reading James Mullan's excellent blog post about setting New Year goals and finding your focus, and I was struck by the difference between a resolution (generally along the lines of 'I won't do so much of xxx this year' - eating, smoking, etc)  and a goal (much more centred around a positive, can-do idea, something you want to strive for and achieve this year).

A resolution is hard to keep.  We are generally good at convincing ourselves that 'just one' (sweet, cake, gin!) isn't really breaking the rules, after all, it's only one... isn't it? On the other hand, it's harder to 'fall off the wagon' with a goal.

A goal is something you have to actively do things in order to achieve, rather than avoid doing (generally pleasurable) things.  Indeed, the steps along the way to achieving your target can in themselves be pleasurable.  If your goal is career related, then some of these steps might be about learning new skills or gaining new experiences, to enable you to apply for that promotion or that new job, for example.  

Learning new things, that feeling of having mastered a new skill, gives a great feeling of satisfaction and achievement.  Add together a range of these, plus the increasing realisation that you're now equipped to get that new job or move to that new sector you've had your eye on, and the journey can be as pleasurable as the destination.

Maybe 2012 is your year for looking around at the library & information profession, deciding whereabouts in it you'd like to be working, what kind of role and what sort of organisation, and setting about to collect the skills and experiences that will get you there?  Now that's a goal to get your teeth into for the New Year!  Good luck!