Forgive me world, it’s been eight days since my last blog.
I don’t know why, but every time I leave gaps between blog posts, I have the attack of the guilts. Although it may look like laziness to the untrained eye, it’s more likely to mean that I’ve been spending more time doing something else – namely, going down another rabbit hole to explore an idea that has lodged itself into my brain. That, or my social life is busy. As I’m a bit of a geek with crazy hair, might I add that it doesn’t happen to be the latter.
Like entering into a dark confessional box where I slide the screen open and ask for forgiveness from my blog followers, I know that my lack of blog posts will be forgiven. We are always forgiven when we have momentary lapses of blogging transgression. So dear reader, thank you from the bottom of my heart, for your patience….. and I’ll ignore that eye roll.
Right, where were we?
Last I left you, I was making some inane poetry about the similarities between holes in buckets and the use of email however, since then conversations have taken a surprising turn for the better.
Allow me to explain.
For today’s blog post, I’d like to talk about Signal To Noise ratios:
— ideocial (@ideocial) October 8, 2015
This week, I had the opportunity to meet Benjamin Elias (@ideocial). Benjamin is the CEO and Founder of Ideocial, an innovation platform that allows teams to capture their ideas, articulate their business problems, have a space to showcase their ideas as well as measure the analytics behind the various solutions. Benjamin and I worked for the same company previously but we hadn’t met in person as we worked in different business units. What was fascinating for me to learn was his incredibly diverse experience across from electrical engineering and the intriguing world of high finance to now, an entrepreneur. He took a typical frustration that he had (we all had, and still have) when he was in the corporate world namely, how to search and find information you need to solve your problem instantly within the enterprise social network and came up with an idea and program to solve it.
Ben talked about our use of social networks and he smiled knowingly as he mentioned that he can tell whether or not a person will resign from their employment soon by following the pattern and trend of their social media use.
We’re Not Talking About Big Data
Leaving data analytics and sophisticated algorithms that drive social media sites aside, what we were talking about was our own ‘real time’ observations of what was happening in our network based on the trends and patterns of posts and updates of those around us. That is, how much do we leave open for interpretation by others through what we post and what we share on social media?
Sit back and observe these patterns and you may glean what they’re working on, who they’re connecting with, what they’re learning and who they’re talking to. In some ways, even though social media espouses openness, surprisingly, others – especially those who are not so open or give social media lip service – may use it to their advantage.
We talked about an example of LinkedIn. Some people who have a LinkedIn profile and who don’t use it often, will take to it when they need it the most. When I see their flurry of activity all of a sudden (a “spike” in their use), it usually means that the person is exploring potential new job opportunities, may resign soon or that their company is going through a major restructure or reorganisation.
So even though some companies may want to keep what is happening inside secret, I sometimes wonder if the actions of their employees on social networking platforms are actually giving away clues of what is happening internally anyway.
One recent example, was a pattern that kept showing up in my LinkedIn networks of people connected to me and in the same industry. I was curious as to why all of a sudden, people who I hadn’t had any ties or recent connections with were suddenly appearing in my wider network or endorsing me. Something was obviously going on and I had to find out.
I like to think of myself as a bit like Sherlock Holmes (rest assured my deductive powers are actually quite crap), so after seeing this activity in my social media networks, my first step was to check the online job boards to make an assessment of the company and the industry. I love the job boards – in many cases, they’re like an ‘open book’ telling you what is happening in the organisation. Watch the same jobs come up over time or stay online vacant for months at a time and it’s pretty much sending you warning signals about the company. In my books, watching the job boards are just as exciting as watching the stock market.
The second step is to test your assumptions and check the Australian Finance Review to see if there’s any stories about that company or the industry. Rest assured if it’s reported in the financial papers, it’s serious because there’s shareholder impact. Last of all, is to actually confirm your assumptions and speak with people who have worked there or know of others who do.
Patterns Of Social Media Use
So what usually gives people away in this situation? Here are my own personal observations from LinkedIn and Twitter:
- You hardly use social media or social networking sites but now you’re using it more often – and your network sees this spike in use.
- You’ve used social media mainly to send out updates of your social life, take photos of every day life but now your tweets and updates are all work related
- You become ‘nicer’ on social media – you may not have retweeted, liked, commented on posts or sent endorsements or testimonials or even a thank you – and now you happen to be doing all these
- You update your job title on LinkedIn to something snazzier
- You’ve had a LinkedIn profile for some years but only recently uploaded your photo (or you updated an old photo to a more professional looking one)
- You’ve updated your LinkedIn profile (and forgot to turn off the Showing or Hiding Activity’ function so people can see that you’re actively updating your profile).
- You’ve connected with someone who has a wider network than you asking for personal recommendations or connections
- You’re connected with a LOT of people in the one go from different industries (my observation is that many people only connect, or invite to connect with others in similar industries so when you see that they’re connecting with people outside their usual network, this is another indicator).
What Can You Tell About My Patterns?
This post made me reflect on my own use of social media sites and how much ‘noise’ I’m generating to mask the signals of what I’m trying to do and achieve.
It’s a fine balance between what you choose to be made open and what is not. What you share and what you don’t because people will be making assumptions about you regardless. I’ve quickly come to the conclusion that I cannot control what people think about me but my goal must always be the WYSIWYG approach. Whether you meet me in person, or you have connected with me via social media – you get the one and the same person and a generally consistent use of social media across the board.
So rather than you deducing my social media patterns, I’ll mention them here so that you can make of them what you will (or bust the assumptions):
- Usually a flurry of tweet activity means that it is morning and I’m tweeting over breakfast and coffee OR that I happen to be in a tweet chat (I always forget to apologise to the public before entering a tweet chat).
- If there’s a flurry of activity related to one theme in blocks over a certain period in the day (eg Social Learning, Future of Work etc), it’s usually because I’m sitting in front of my PC researching something about this topic
- If there’s Retweets with no comments – it means that I have READ the tweet and the associated link (I read all my RTs) and believe that it is useful to share but I don’t always add my own comment if there’s nothing further to add
- If the tweet doesn’t make sense – it’s an unfinished sentence – it usually means I’m having a Twitter conversation by myself. Check the ‘View Conversation’ to see the entire thread. Sometimes Twitter to me, is my personal muttering platform
- If I retweet your tweet, it doesn’t necessarily mean endorsement.
- If I favourite a tweet, it’s because I agree, I like what you said and I will come back to it because it’s my way of ‘saving’ a tweet for further digestion and reflection before it gets stored in Evernote or unfavourited (ie my version of deleting)
- If I favourite a tweet, it could also mean that I agree with the intent of the tweet but don’t feel comfortable publicly drawing attention to it
- If I favourite a tweet – it could also mean, that it’s one way I’m closing off the discussion with you – the social equivalent to the telephone’s ‘hanging up’
- If I delete a tweet, it’s because I had a momentary anxiety attack that it may be inappropriate or come across to the world as indecisive – which by default, this action happens to be
- If I’m tweeting about a particular industry, it’s because I am exploring and researching a new industry as I may have a new client in that area OR building my network into a new industry
- If I’m tweeting out ridiculous photos or funny tweets, it’s usually because it’s Saturday or Sunday and I’m not working.
- If I’m posting updates on LinkedIn or publishing posts, it’s because I want to expose my work and writing to a wider business network who is not on Twitter – and hopefully generate a few more leads.
- If you read a post I wrote on LinkedIn that reminds you of a post I wrote on this blog, you’re right. I just edited the original blog post to make it more ‘business like’ for LinkedIn to get more views, access to a wider network and hopefully build my network, generate new leads for work.
- If I’m posting archived blog posts, it’s because I know that some people may have missed the original blog posts and it may widen my network.
- If I put you into a Twitter list, I value what you write and share.
- If I don’t follow you back – don’t stress – I will, but I need you to actually have a conversation or dialogue with me, connect in some way.
- If I start sending out some weird updates or getting you to click on suspect links – my account has been hacked.
- If I don’t tweet, share updates, written blog posts – long social media silence – it’s likely I’ve ended up in hospital or died.
So What’s Left?
If this post leaves you in a somewhat anxious state about your own use of social media and how it’s interpreted by others, don’t be.
All I can say is to embrace it. We get it. We understand. We’ve all been there and we’ve done the same.
The ultimate test of courage come from those in the spirit of authenticity, openness and honesty, just lay it all out there and share their employment search publicly. They’re not hiding it. For those in my personal learning network who have done this on open social media, I take my hat off to them and I would gladly help, support and assist them in any way.