The bells, the bells ….

Mike Woolcott isn’t the only one who finds the hype surrounding Web 2.0 off-putting.

My spidey sense goes into overdrive when I read universally glowing endorsements of social media, as described in “Social Media Will Become a Single, Cohesive Experience Embedded In Our Activities and Technologies”

Okay, I confess to being a social media greenhorn. This is my first blog. To date, my SM activities include a nominal presence on LinkedIn and Facebook. I appreciate that social media is transforming communications, and offers many opportunities. However, I think it is prudent to take a hard look at the target audience/market before jumping on the social media bandwagon.

Social media tools may not be appropriate for everyone. In some cases, a target market may be uncomfortable using them. Demographics play an important role in a customer’s acceptance of marketing via social media. Is your target market over 60 years old? Does technology threaten the profession they worked years to develop?

I had the opportunity to be involved in a start-up company that produces software for petroleum geologists, an ultra-conservative profession. The average age of decision makers was around 60. Many of them could be described as luddites: their ability to use and interest in learning new technology/software that would make their job faster, easier, and potentially earn more money, was negligible. Fear that their years of training could be replaced by a computer was at the heart of their non-consumption. Our start-up got close to the customer, developed user-friendly software, and produced a professional website with some social media widgets hoping to attract our target market. We socialized the product at trade events, symposiums, lectures, field trips…In the end, we were forced to concede that a few geologists liked our software, but a significant portion of the decision-makers preferred traditional pen and paper. Conclusion? It’s important to identify the risks and disadvantages of incorporating social media into an organization:

I look forward to expanding my SM consciousness.

COM0011: Open Government?

The potential of social media truly exciting. Successful implementations are cropping up everywhere. Naturally, some implementations are better than others, as shown, for example, by governments around the world.

A goal of government is to communicate effectively with citizens, businesses and employees. Using social media tools like Twitter would seem to be ideal devices. The intent of Twitter is to be fast, if not instant. This link to a recent Ottawa Citizen article describes a less successful Twitter implementation in the Canadian government:

According to the article, before sending out a tweet at Industry Canada, civil servants have to run each proposed tweet through a 12-stop protocol and also get the Minister’s approval. Woo, definitely not in keeping with the “instant” intent of Twitter! Must be costly in more ways than one.

At the Department of Foreign Affairs, Minister John Baird wants to improve the use of SM, recognizing that diplomacy is different and has to move fast. He wants Canadian diplomats to “take risks” with Twitter and Faceboook to reach “civic actors” who can promote democratic freedom and trade worldwide.

Here politics butts heads with technology. The Conservatives are well known for keeping a tight grip on all outgoing communication, so it will be interesting to see if Baird’s actions will back up his words. It remains to be seen if he, or his office, actually allow diplomats to tweet. Maybe the inherent benefits of SM will be impossible for the Conservatives to deny.

One interesting question is would Industry Canada Canadian diplomats’ use of Twitter have been restricted if the NDP or Liberals were in power? Are the Conservatives preventing the uptake of social media tools in GoC?

On the other side of the fence, a bona fide SM winner within the Canadian government has been GCPedia, an internally wiki developed to encourage collaboration and knowledge sharing, open only to GoC employees. The uptake by civil servants has been very positive.

Moving to the international stage, American and British diplomats are ahead of Canadian diplomats in using social media. They’ve been given the latitude to communicate and make mistakes. Clearly, the senior management in those governments recognize that freedom to communicate builds experience/judgement.

But a real surprise is the Russian government which paradoxically has a progressive view of social media – at least in some areas. When a new law on police was being discussed, the government created a forum, called, where citizens could post comments and connect their social networks. The commission is also the first government body in Russia to get its own mobile app.

People around the world are still trying to figure out how to use social tools, and no one understands this more than me… :^) There will be missteps along the way, but the movement to open government, and social media usage, is at hand.