I've been thinking a lot about internal social web recently.

Before you embark on any kind of internal social web project I think  it's important to look at why social media especially facebook, linked
in and Twitter is so popular.

  1.  No one forces you to use it.
    This might sound like a strange statement but it's true. This is the true power of social media, key word social.

    You join because you want to engage with others who are already using it.

  2. Content is King.
    The oldie but goodie statement! if content is good and relevant you will join no matter the platform.

    On my personal social media pages I often block and even delete life long friends because of spamming content that is totally irrelevant to me and my daily lives.

    I tend to follow strangers due to their interesting content aggregation and views.

  3. Content aggregation.
    I often ignore news and other content because it seems to have no relevance to me.

    However when someone else understands it aggregates the multiple sources and presents it in a way that makes it easier to understand it, suddenly it becomes something that seemed irrelevant becomes relevant.
  4. Platform is Queen
    f content is King then platform Queen. You will be surprised how many people will accept and adopt a difficult to use platform if the content is relevant,  but even the most relevant content will be ignored If the platform is difficult to use and not intuitive.

    The adoption rate of a platform is directly proportionate to the difficulty and amount of hurdles a user has to go to, to access the content.

    The opposite is also true the easier it is to access is directly proportionate to adoption

    For example I can access facebook, linkedin, Twitter etc. Via various websites and mobile aps from anywhere in the world.

    Social media sites are now accessed more frequently from mobile devices than that desktop computers.

    This blog was written on the train on my way to work on a mobile app.

    So to get back to my point, what hurdles hurdles you may ask?

    •  Multiple security logins with forced time based password changes
    • VPN login from outside the office
    • No mobile access, this is probably my biggest pet hate.
Ok I hear you say, "what do I have to do to ensure a successful internal social media adoption?"

  1. Leave all your preconceptions of business communications at the door.
    The world has changed. If social media has taught us one thing it's that communications and engagements have changed.

      Traditional methods of communications ( newsletters, memo's, posters on the tearoom board and emails) no longer works and the more you force it he less the uptake is
  2. If you have to force it, you have failed
    The moment you have to force someone to to use a social media platform it ceases to be social media and just becomes another business platform with a declining adoption rate.

  3. Have staff determine the platform to use not the your pre-existing technology.
    Do not have your internal technology determine the platform or format of engagement.

    Social Internal networks is all about people interacting in an environment they find comfortable and familiar.

    The moment you take them away from the  that environment and thrust them into an unfamiliar difficult to use platform your back on the slippery "forcing them to use it" slope.

    Spend some time asking staff how they want to be engaged, what platform they want to be engaged on. 

  4. Test various platforms
    Choosing a platform for social web is probably the next biggest decision you will be making.

    And to be honest, as a manager / business leader, you are not the right person to determine the platform.

    The people are.

    Create a small to medium sizes test group that includes all the gen types (generation X,Y,Z and V). Explain to them what you are trying to achieve and test, test and test.

    Once you know how they will interact you are in a much better position to make a decision.

  5. Get a third party in to help with the strategy and implementation
    If you are serious about wanting to succeed with setting up an internal social web, have an external agency come in to asses, evaluate, educate and advise.

    No matter how much you think you know about Social Media (if you are not in the social media space), you will only know how you as an individual use social media.

    Having a third party come in will open your eyes as to how others use it.

  6. There is no 'one size fits all'
     What will become clear is that there will be no one size fits all communication method.

    The most difficult aspect will be to find the balance that will allow everyone to communicate how they want to.

    The best way to do this is to determine who the influencers and aggregators are (see point 7)

  7. Don't be afraid of aggregators, embrace, encourage and educate.
    Well not much more need to be said about this.

    Determine who they are, embrace them, educate them, trust them and empower them to generate content.

    They will very quickly build up a following and magically your internal social media project will become a success.

  8. Ignore mobile access at your own peril.As mentioned above, more people access social media on their mobile devices than via their computers.

    If your internal social media platform is not accessible via mobile devices you will be cutting your adoption rate by 60-80% 
In conclusion, the world has changed and if you refuse to change, your business will die around you and become a bureaucratic dinosaur.
Hi my name is Johan, and I'm a Twitter backchanneleer and I like to be engaged.

This statement might sound quite self serving, but that cant be helped. Social Media has show everyone that the world can revolve around them and now it's become the norm.

I've not always been into the whole "me, me, me, this is how I want to be engaged" power trip,  its not till I had my first true online engagement experienced from a thriving community that I realised there is a better way.

Bare with me as I take you through my "first time" and then make a few suggestions on how to improve your engagement with the backchannel to truly take your event global.

My first backchannel experience
I've been to a number of events and conferences armed with my trusty paper notebook and pen that I picked up from an exhibitor.

Erm... ok when I say "Picked up", I actually mean, "Sneaked up in a way that would even make James Bond proud, grabbed a pen or two and disappeared into the crowd before I'm even a blip on an overzealous sales person's Radar. "

Anyway, so here I am pen ready, paper ready, sitting comfortably and ready to learn from the person behind the podium with more titles behind their name than Stephen Hawkins.

That's where it all starts going wrong. Not just for me, but for the speaker and the event organisers.

The speaker starts by welcoming everyone, she mentions a free wifi service is available and that questions will be taken via Twitter and pops up the event twitter hashtag on the screen.

Everyone gasps (ok not really but its more dramatic that way) and a number of iPhones, androids and tiny teeny laptops are ripped out of bags pockets and purses.

She looses the audience for a few minutes while a large number of the audience is trying to logon to the wifi and setting up twitter searches on the hashtag.

And guess what? the Wifi network is flooded and cracks under the pressure, those that are lucky enough to be in a part of the auditorium that has a 3G signal immediately start tweeting about the event and the broken Wifi.

Within moments the event is all across the world being retweeted and it appears negative. Eventually everyone gets over the initial shock of their being a hashtag and wifi not working.

I must say I missed most of the first speakers presentation as I followed suit and happily chatted away on the trusty tweetdeck for iPhone... and that was it... I was hooked,  I shrugged off the old pen and paper and rose like a phoenix to become a Backchanneleer!

A person/s that belongs to a group of individuals who socialise, comment, fact check, aggregate and interpret content, in real time,  during a presentation or live engagement. Twitter often being the most popular channel
Then comes the Q&A and someone dares ask a question via Twitter, the chairman asks the question and then turns to the audience asking the twtterer to raise their hand.

The gall of the chairman, shattering the poor tweeters anonymity.

So I raise my hand, yes yes, it was me asking the question. All eyes turn towards me, some smiling (due to my participation in the backchannel) others just staring at me blankly.

So the day progresses and I learn more from the twitter backchannel conversations than the actual presentations.

Somewhere during the day the paper and pen obtained at great personal risk, went missing. I suspect the pen had words with the pad of paper and decided to find someone who would actually use them.

That night I find myself exhausted, emotional and surrounded by new friends made during the event.

Something started bouncing around my mind and I finally sat down an wrote down how I would like to be engaged, so here goes:

Engaging the backchannel
  1. Ensure your event has a Twitter hashtag(#) and please make it 10 characters or less, I only have 140 characters to play with. If you do not have a hastag in place by the time your event starts, several will be created for you by the backchannel, fragmenting your event and message.

  2. Publicise the hashtag (#) and start using it to keep everyone informed, use it beforehand to talk a bit more about the event and its presenters. People would like to set up their searches and start engaging before the event, not during the first speaker.

  3. Follow the backchannel chatter and react accordingly, just taking questions via Twitter is NOT engaging the backchannel, its called "We are to lazy to think of better ways to engage with Twitter users, but if we allow them to ask questions via twitter it will keep them happy"

  4. Introduce the speakers with twitter via the event's hash tag.

    • Include name, company, job title and twitter username in one tweet
    • And  @username subject of their presentation in another.
    This will allow me to correctly tweet and retweet the speaker

  5. Tweet golden nuggets out of the speakers presentation during presentation. I have never seen it done before but would love a short 100 character summary of some of the choice quotes and statistics tweeted by the presenter or presenter's assistnt during the presentation. So all I need to do is retweet and I can add some comments.

  6. Answer all questions that is asked via Twitter, even if its a tweet to the person within a few hours. Nothing annoys me more than being given the opportunity to ask a question and then it being ignored.

  7. Have the presenters engage before or after their presentations. Not all questions can be asked during the presentation, so encourage presenters to be available on twitter or a live chat to answer any further questions. A live video chat would be perfect.

  8. No matter how negative the backchannel, Never antagonise or belittle the channel. This sounds like common sense but apparently its not. I have seen many "experts" rant and rave about the negativity. That just angers everyone. 

  9. Provide fast reliable free Wifi Access. Well... what else do I need to say? If you are to offer such a service ensure its exemplary, and that people are aware of it before the event.

  10. Provide recharging points. Laptop, Pones, iPads etc run out of juice quickly. Ensure you have enough recharge points available. If possible have a few spare adapters available, even if you have to glue them to the wall sockets so they don't mysteriously "relocate".
In conclusion
When running an event or you are a public speaker. Please do engage with the backchannel. However think about the what, the how and the when, well ahead of time.

Its better to not do it and let the backchannel sort itself out, than deciding to do it at the last moment without thought and planning.

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