This is a guest blog from one of the 2014 #socialceos winners, Cliff Prior of UnLtd.
My first encounter with social media was on a dive boat in the Red Sea. My diving buddy – also a musician – was using MySpace to put together his band’s music and get it out to fans. I was fascinated. This was really early days, back when MySpace was still for musicians and hadn’t gone public. I thought how useful that could be to people leading social projects. That led on to UnLtd working with Alberto Nardelli to build UnLtdWorld, a platform for social entrepreneurs to share and learn. UnLtdWorld reached 14,000 people, going way beyond UnLtd’s direct connections – and now it’s integrated into the Guardian’s professional networks.
UnLtd uses social media extensively, in all the ways you would imagine – for outreach, promotion, peer to peer connections, exchanging knowhow, even online public judging for awards. It’s intrinsic to how we work and allows those horizontal connections, person to person, which can leverage out impact hugely and bring in new ideas and talent instantly.
The social entrepreneurs we support use social media even more, from www.patientopinion.org.uk/ to http://karismakidz.co.uk, using public platforms or building their own, creating impact and business models that couldn’t have been conceived before. It’s enabling grassroots youth and community engagement right through to high-end social tech like dnadigest.org sharing genetic medicine advances.
Personally, I’ve gained a lot from use of social media. For me Twitter is work, LinkedIn is professional, YouTube is promotional, and I guess Facebook is sort of going out with colleagues for a meal – the social side of work. Oh, and I’m still getting my head around how to use the likes of Instagram, WhatsApp and Vine. Social media is different, more personal and less formal, and it’s fascinating to see how that is changing business conversation more widely.
UnLtd has an increasingly international network through @GlobalSEN , and for that social media is incredibly important – invaluable to keep in touch and swap ideas. It’s still vital to meet people in person, but social media holds that personal connection far longer than otherwise. Of course it’s a challenge, not just timezones but also how different social media channels can be in different countries, especially China.
I guess beyond all that, beyond the tweets, the facts, and the joy of cats doing crazy things on Facebook, for myself and for UnLtd it’s that feeling of being part of a community, of a movement for social good, joined with a feeling of being connected to the world. If we don’t talk to each other, we will stumble. If we only talk to people of like mind, we will trap ourselves. Social media has temptations – to rant, to narrow your circle, to think the virtual is the real. But used well it’s a fabulous tool and a truly exciting, warm and human journey.
And winning a place in the #socialceos list was a surprise, but made me think what we’ve done here – particularly encouraging staff to do their own social media about their work. We take the risk of not having detailed rules about that – simply saying stick to our usual values of being helpful, bringing energy, making connections, sharing the learning, and acting with integrity. Our team can work out what that means in each situation much better than any rulebook.
So it was almost exactly two years ago at party conferences that I had my first lesson in all things Twitter (thanks @ladylaxton), and sent my first tweet. I was pretty sceptical about the value of working out how to say something meaningful in 140 characters. But I soon realised several things: the most important for me, as CEO of a large membership organisation, was that Twitter gives people a simple, direct route to me, to share their thoughts on Girlguiding – both good and bad.
It’s crucial for me that, as a charity CEO, I’m accessible and transparent – but importantly it also gives me an achievable means to share some important messages about Girlguiding directly and widely with colleagues in the sector, as well as Girlguiding volunteers and young women. I also realised about six months in that my 140 characters didn’t always have to be meaningful (check my Twitter feed for proof!), and that actually people also enjoy reading some of the more mundane or daft things I may tweet – it allows them to see I’m human.
One of the most common views I hear from my non-tweeting peers is that they don’t have time to tweet – but it only takes a few seconds. I do much of my tweeting on train journeys or when I’m waiting to go into meetings. I see it as communicating with our key stakeholders – and for me there should always be time for that. So if you are also a Twitter phobe – I encourage you to give it a go.
Tweet me hello @juliebentley – good luck!