First of all, this story is pretty long for a blog entry, but it includes interesting findings about the use of social media and what it can do for you.
I am surprised how many people still think that social media is only a new trend that will fade away soon. I run into very intelligent executives and their view of social media is that it is just a distraction and that he/she does not want to have his/her employees to waste time on it. I have even had clients that have told me not to use the word social media in the presence of his/her employees. That is almost unreal to me and I am wondering how these people will be able to survive in the long run running their companies? If they are not willing to understand the world of digital natives and not even try to become digital immigrants, they might have issues running their companies going forward.
Let me tell you a real example of social media from my own life, something that really shows that you really do not have to know somebody to be able to start a discussion and without being categorized as a spammer. This story includes multiple people including me that got connected via social media and the discussion is still continuing. This is an example for those people that do not believe in social media and that still think that social media is nonsense. It might be nonsense to some, but if you want to stay on top of future requirements, you might want to reconsider your stance. I hope this example gets some of the non-believers to at least reconsider their stance.
One night I was linking myself to a person that I knew from the past via LinkedIn service and I found another person that sounded somehow familiar to me. Maybe it was her Swedish name and I wondered if she had gone in the same business school with me in Helsinki (Hanken). I did a quick Internet search and found her fascinating profile. Her name is Cristina Andersson, an author of The Winning Helix and owner of Develor company in Finland. She is a well-known coach and speaker with impressive background. I connected to her via Facebook, LinkedIn and we agreed to meet in Helsinki during my next trip.
Cristina did not know me from the past, our roads had never crossed and it might be that my 12+ years outside Finland had something to do with this as well. Meeting people in the net for social/business connections can be risky if you do not know whom you are connecting with. This connection was confirmed by another strong professional from Finland that is extremely connected and I admire her use of social media. Her name is Riitta Raesmaa, co-founder of Sopima ; a SaaS company that has achieved tremendous recognition during the past few months.
Sopima is building an awesome solution on Windows Azure platform from Microsoft to manage contracts online (Online Contract Bank) and they have a bright future ahead of them. Riitta and I have worked together in the past; she was my marketing director when I was corporate CEO for an international business intelligence company. Riitta put a note on my Facebook wall asking if I knew Cristina from the past… I said I did not but now I know and Riitta also confirmed this connection.
The virtual connection with Cristina led to a physical meeting in Helsinki. My company TELLUS International was contracted to do a 6 country Western Europe business seminar series for Microsoft WebsiteSpark members and one of the countries were Finland so I was able to meet Cristina during a beautiful and sunny Helsinki morning in late May 2010. We exchanged books, I got both her Finnish and English version of her The Winning Helix book and I gave my first book Onnistu suuressa maailmassa to her. I am looking forward Cristina to comment on my new book Rohkeasti maailmalle that just came out as well.
Suddenly I got a Facebook request from person that I did not know from the past. It was Eve Holopainen from Ladywebbi, the owner of a Finnish social media/marketing company. The fact that I got connected with Eve was not a coincidence; she knows both Cristina and Riitta well, whereby the virtual connection is now strengthening with ongoing conversation. Like in physical meetings, I became part of a network that I did not have before and Riitta was the only connection that could confirm who I was and also if either Eve or Cristina wanted to know something from my past.
The relevance of this blog post is that the social networking really works if you do it in the right way. If you spam the network, as many do, you will not get where you need to go. You need to be intelligent how you get connected even with people that you do not know. The way I do it is to refer to people that we both know, as this confirms that my connection request did not come from outer space and that there is a valid connection and reason for me to get connected.
It is sad to see many successful entrepreneurs not realizing the power of social media. These entrepreneurs have everything that is needed to get the word out to the cyberspace of their product/solution, but they limit themselves by not participating in the collaboration in forums/blogs/social media sites. By becoming an influencer in your domain, you will gain respect but it will always take time.
Do not expect your couple of blog entries change the world. You will have to change the way you think about your daily activities and how the social media is changing our ways of working and how you can benefit of it. I have during my worldwide travel seen hundreds of examples of people that have got it.
I am also very impressed how Eve, Riitta, and Cristina are using the social media to educate people about things that are close to their heart. Social media to me is to educate and not to force your sales message to somebody’s throat. Social media is to build your digital presence and continue nurturing your followers with information that they know that you have a passion for. Therefore it is really important to select your focus in the social media as you will fail if you try to be everything to everybody. You won’t be successful in business if you do not focus. The same rules apply in social media world as well.
Time will tell what I will do together with Eve, Cristina and Riitta but the foundation is there to continue innovating of cooperation and collaboration.
If you are not in the social media age, I would highly recommend you to start looking at it to learn what can be done and what is required from you. If you are the CEO of the company, you cannot just order your employees to start working with social media, you need to be part of that as well. This is unfortunately like quality management in the past… The CEO says that now we will be a quality driven company and hire a quality manager and the task of this poor manager is to be the quality guy without organizational support. Do you still remember those days? I do vividly and I remember many of these guys resign as there really wasn’t any organizational support.
I rest my case now and will come with new posts around this topic and how this impact our daily lives.
Vesa Jaamuru says
Thanks Petri for well written and interesting blog!
Especially the real life example of your successes that you shared makes it very concrete to the readers.
Just to take the side of those non-believer executives who see social media as nonsense I wanted to bring up the following which may be their concern. Social media is still seen by many people as facebook only which is (was) very much focused on non-business type of socializing. As we know this is changing and more businesses now also use facebook to collect their user/customer communities together. But the concern most likely is that use of social media (=facebook) could become distraction to the business focus that the organization should have. Executives usually do not have social media strategy and proper way to execute it within their organization. They do not want it to get out of their hands and turn into disservice. Key point is that there is a need to separate the business use from private life use of social media that is not serving the business targets. You probably well know that entrepreneurs with all in stake (if they have a private life ;-o) are ready to present their private side to serve their business or not to hurt it at least, but one cannot expect your salaried people to be able to do the same. LinkedIn is clearly one with business focus, but other most popular ones are used for both business and private which becomes concern for many and focused strategy/plan is needed in each organization in order to become successful in deployment of social media. But you are very right that top management should walk the talk once they decide to go with social media in otherwords be part of it and drive the discussion from their behalf.
I agree what you are saying about the personal and business side, but what I am seeing is that even business people have found a balance how they make their entries and how they want to be perceived in the net. I will have a blog entry soon about digital footprint in which I deal with some of the issues that you are referring to. I also think that larger enterprises are in loss what to do with this whole social media and when participating in conferences, both as speaker and as audience, some speakers are admitting that this field is still in “the workings”. But I am convinced, based on many empirical findings, that social media, is and will be very important and it is the responsiblity of each of us to make sure we understand and “get it”. I am a social media immigrant, while our kids and the generation below us are digital natives and they do not have to think about this in the same way… but hey… we have gone through many waves in our lives.. this is one of them that can’t be stopped… Vesa, thanks again for your good input!
Riitta Raesmaa says
Petri, thank you for this awe-inspiring post! You have managed to describe the pain points and the on-going transformation well. Also nice input from Vesa in the previous comment!
Indeed, the change is not only in the media – Social Media is not primarily about the media, but the processes – instead it is about the fundamental processes of coordination and communication in and between our businesses that are transforming, and sometimes it is painful.
My angle into social media is also though lenses of the new business model – SaaS. My background is in the traditional (software) business, in its partly different sales, marketing, and channels. The transformation in communication and coordination, and in the value creation, in SaaS business model is huge. As my business is to sell services online, I need to build our processes to support the online model. Seems obvious, but I have seen several “traditional” software companies struggle a bit with this transformation. I happen to know that Petri is researching this area – I am looking forward to hear about your findings! I am making some interesting ones every day in my business. And unlearning is my middle name…
For my company social media will be an elementary part of the communication, sales, marketing, and also product marketing. It does not happen overnight, but I feel that businesses need to start unlearning (!) and preparing now! On top of that networking – connecting with your business peers – is a very central driver for my social media activities. During the last year I have via social media connected with the most interesting people within my business area. That’s priceless.
Thank you once again for your nice words, Petri!