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November 2010
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January 2011

Delicious: In Memorium

I was offline most of yesterday, so didn't get the bad news until the evening when I saw a Facebook friend was looking for an alternative. It seems that one of my most-used, least lauded social media tools, Delicious, is about to go down the tubes.

Although I rarely am conscious of it, Delicious has probably been one of my most valuable resources. I've been using it since 2006, which feels like an eternity.  It's safe to say that every day I'm on my laptop (which is most days), I tag and bookmark at least one item into it--which is why I currently have 7,000 items saved.

Aside from the items I tag for myself, I also use it as a way to point clients to information that they might find useful, doing this long after my contract with a client has ended because it's so easy to do. The ability to add notes, although I don't use it all the time, has also been helpful. I even used Delicious to create my own online portfolio.  And Delicious has made it easy for me to access my bookmarks from any computer, helpful during presentations or if I'm working onsite for a client.

It's the social arena where it has really shined for me, though. My Delicious network is filled with great people who tag with the same fervor I do. They are often the source of articles I might otherwise not have found. Checking out what other people have bookmarked under the same tags has also been a tremendous resource.

In many ways, Delicious has represented for me the very best of social media. It solved several problems I had with the old way of doing work. Bookmarking, tagging and annotating items were easy to do, so I could easily adapt my work habits to incorporate it. The social aspects consistently brought me value. And all of it was free. Which, of course, is what has spelled its demise.

So today, I'm in mourning. Also in search of other options. At least I'm not alone--Marshall Kirkpatrick is also feeling down and his post makes me feel even worse as he describes some ways he used Delicious I'd never even considered. In RIP Delicious,  Beth Kanter shares my sadness and also offers some alternatives, including Diigo, where I have an account but haven't been active for awhile. (Here's another article with some alternatives.)

In considering these, I'm going to have to think about what is most valuable to me in social bookmarking. If it's primarily about the tagging and saving of my own materials, something like Evernote could be my best bet. I've used the free version and it's really powerful, including providing the ability to read items offline. But it lacks the essential social element that is part of what made Delicious so useful to me. For the social piece, I might be better off with Diigo. We shall have to see.

In the meantime, I will be raising a glass to my dear departed friend, Delicious. If you're a Delicious fan, let me know what you're planning to do in the future. Would love to hear thoughts on other tools. I'm particularly interested in options that will allow me to import my Delicious items so I don't lose what I've already done.

5 Strategies for Supporting Bottom-Up Social Media Use

Jane Hart writes an interesting post on top-down vs. bottom-up approaches to nurturing social media in organizations, making the excellent point that bottom up support of existing social media activities will work better than imposing social media use from the top down. What I've been observing in my work with clients, though, is a tendency to use top-down strategies to support bottom-up initiatives, especially in organizations where they're just delving into social media use. 

For example, one organization with which I've been working identified a project where employees had expressed interest in using Facebook as a strategy for sharing information and connecting with stakeholders. Management rightly concluded that it made sense to experiment with social media by supporting this project. However, despite my best efforts, the "support" for the project quickly devolved into conversations about who was "allowed" to post and what they were allowed to say--classic control issues that characterize the top-down approach.

Reading Jane's post it occurred to me that we need to have a better understanding of the questions and strategies that will nurture bottom-up participation in social media. Nothing kills a grassroots initiative faster than "Big Brother" strategies. So, some thoughts. . .

  • Ask  employees what they need from management to support the project. This is probably the most obvious question, but one that I think can get lost in the shuffle. If employees have shown the initiative to start using social media, then they probably have some good ideas about what would be helpful to them in keeping the initiative going. In particular, they are likely to have identified the institutional barriers that impede their ability to make full use of social media. Pay attention to what they say and use an open mind in evaluating their ideas. Do what you can to implement their strategies.
  • Focus on removing barriers to social media use, rather than on erecting new ones. In my experience, employees who are trying to use social media for work have a wealth of ideas for moving things forward. Their major problems tend to be with the organizational barriers that stand in their way. Although it is tempting to management to want to control social media use, if they're serious about supporting bottom-up projects, they need to refrain from going down this road. They should work with the project team to remove barriers and make sure that they are not putting new ones in their place.
  • Provide employees with resources and ideas that will help them implement their project. Keep an eye out for articles and examples you can share with the team. Share these as a way of indicating your understanding of and support for what they are doing.
  • Highlight their successes. Recognition is always appreciated. Share the results of the social media work done by your teams with other members of the organization during meetings and through organizational newsletters and emails. Focus on what's working and share that with others.
  • Treat mistakes as learning opportunities. Don't panic and clamp down on the team when the inevitable social media mistakes are made. Accept that someone is going to accidentally post something problematic and that this is part of the process. Use these situations as learning opportunities to determine how you can handle situations the next time they arise.

These are a few of my thoughts. What do you think are the best ways to support bottom-up social media initiatives. What has/hasn't worked in your organization?

Reason 543 Why You MUST Stop Site Blocking: Your Employees Can't Solve Their Problems On Their Own

Why Did Etisalat Block Flickr

Yesterday was a typical day for me as a knowledge worker--lots of unrelated problems to solve, ranging from troubleshooting an issue with a Wordpress blog I was setting up for a client to gathering information on employment statistics for people with disabilities. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in having this kind of wide-ranging work to do. Even the specialists among us have found their job duties broadening in this tight economy.

For me, solving these problems turned out to be relatively easy. I work for myself and don't have to worry about site blocking, so was able to easily access and search the blogs, social networks, videos and forums that gave me the answers I needed. If necessary, I would also have been able to access my own networks through social media.

Unfortunately for the vast majority of front line workers at the organizations I work with, this would not have been the case. For them, many of these sites are blocked. If "blog" is in the title or URL, they can't go there. If the information is on a social network or forum, they can't visit it. Forget YouTube and its vast array of tutorials.  Even many basic websites are blocked.

At the same time, their managers will complain that staff don't solve their own problems, that they aren't innovative or creative in their work. Well of course they aren't--they are denied basic access to the people and information that might actually help them get their jobs done! They are forced to rely on people within their own organizations--many of whom don't have the answer either--and on those websites the powers that be deem to be "acceptable."

When I do trainings and presentations, participants will frequently ask me how I "know so much." It's simple. No one is blocking my access to the web, so when I have a question, I can get an answer. I'm empowered to get information and solve problems on my own. If you want people to do their best work, they need the same access.

Are You Listening?

listen to ME!

Wayne Turmel has an excellent post about the power of using social media for listening. The post summarizes his podcast interview with Jim Kouzes, author of several books on leadership, who says that  the intersection of social media and strong leadership lies in the opportunities for listening that social media provides:

“Social media is a great opportunity to get input from your people and let them feel listened to and heard- if it’s used effectively”.

That effectiveness is demonstrated by not only gathering feedback, but responding to it and displaying it for all the world to see, even when it’s not flattering. Then (and here’s the hard part) taking actual action based on that feedback.

The importance of listening with social media is echoed in this article on what separates social media rookies from veterans. SmartBrief and Summus Limited asked the readers of various SmartBrief newsletters to complete a survey about their businesses’ use of social media. They heard back from about 6,500 readers. One of the key findings was that veterans were more likely to listen than rookies:

The rookies are about as likely to say they use social media to put out news releases (38.7% of veterans compared with 39.3% of rookies) and maintain active fan pages (39.5% of rookies compared with 36% of veterans). But when it comes to listening, engaging, soliciting feedback and other activities that involve having a more open, fluid relationship with customers, the veterans lead the way in every category.

In talking to both organizations and individuals about using social media, I find that the listening component is seriously under-valued. There's a focus on what you should say, how you should say it and which channels are the most effective for getting out that message. But both leading and learning require us to listen, too.

It's the listening that gives you actionable information and feedback that can help you shape your interactions. It tells you what stakeholders are worried about or find challenging or value so you can engage with them in a more authentic way. Listening helps you really understand what's going on with people and provides you with the best opportunities for bringing them value.

Some Listening Resources

If you want to start listening more, here are some resources to get you started:

  • 8 Stages of Listening--this is a good first step to determine where you are in your listening behavior. 
  • Creating a Social Media Listening Dashboard--This is a webinar and resource page that I did for a network of organizations serving youth in Pennsylvania. It includes lots of links to other articles and presentations.

What do you think? What role does listening play in your use of social media? What advice do you have for becoming a better listener?