Stratégie médias sociaux: à distance ou en dialogue? [fr]

[en] I'm always astonished when I hear about people developing social media strategies for a client "on their own". For me, the strategy emerges from the discussion between two parties, each bringing their expertise to the table: social media, and the company/context the strategy is for. I sell a process rather than strategies.

Je me souviens de la première fois qu’on m’a explicitement demandé de “pondre” une stratégie médias sociaux. Pas avec ces mots, bien sûr. On m’a demandé, après un entretien d’embauche, de “juste” mettre par écrit une stratégie pour l’organisation en question.

J’étais à la fois estomaquée et confuse: premièrement, je ne m’attendais pas à ce qu’on me donne une “mission” (et j’ignorais totalement que ce genre de chose se pratiquait, m’étant présentée à un seul véritable entretien d’embauche dans ma vie), et deuxièmement, produire de mon côté, en toute autonomie, une “stratégie médias sociaux” me paraissait d’un non-sens sans nom.

Au fil des années, j’ai rencontré à plusieurs reprises cette idée de production de stratégie médias sociaux “à distance” de l’organisation qu’elle concerne. Comme exercice pour des étudiants, comme demande de la part de clients potentiels, ou encore de la part d’agences.

Et je ne comprends toujours pas.

Pour moi, une stratégie est le résultat d’une rencontre: moi, qui amène à la table mon expertise en médias sociaux, et le client, qui amène à la table son expertise sur son organisation et les contraintes et moyens qui fournissent le cadre dans lequel on travaille. La stratégie émerge de la discussion. Pas de mon cerveau, ex nihilo, après avoir absorbé quelques généralités concernant mon client.

Du coup, ça m’a aidé à être plus claire avec mes clients — qu’ils soient le “client final” ou non. Je ne vends pas des stratégies, mais un processus d’accompagnement pour développer ensemble la stratégie. Economie d’énergie, économie d’argent, économie de temps. Une approche née du monde numérique, dans lequel il coûte peu de tester une idée directement, de planifier en cours de route, plutôt que de prendre des lustres “hors terrain” pour tenter de deviner ce qui prendra.

Certes, la planification a sa place. Mais des fois, il vaut mieux faire, et voir.

(Scoop: je suis restée indépendante.)

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You Never Know [en]

[fr] On ne sait jamais d'où (et par qui) viendront les opportunités qui nous permettront d'avancer dans notre vie professionnelle. C'est la raison pour laquelle je préconise de "ratisser large" quand il s'agit de réseautage. Cibler, c'est se limiter. C'est fermer la porte aux surprises que peuvent nous apporter nos "liens faibles". Le monde en ligne est le paradis des liens faibles. Mais pour en profiter, il faut y être en tant que personne, car c'est entre les personnes humaines (et authentiques) que se tissent les relations.

One of the points I strived to drive home during my talk on the professional importance of a personal online presence is that you never know where opportunities might come from.

I do not believe in a guiding hand or external mystical forces which direct our lives. I believe there is no inherent meaning in the world other than the meaning we humans inject into it. This means that I accept that luck and circumstance can play big roles in our lives. Meeting the love of my life “by chance” does not mean that the universe conspired in bringing us together at one incredible moment in time. It just means that it happened, and something huge grew out of it, but it could just have well not have happened.

Left or right

Back to opportunities. Think of the jobs you got, the gigs that came your way. The important people and moments in your life and how they came to be. With hindsight, we deliver sense in everything. But let that go for a minute. Could you have planned for it? Could you have made it happen?

Granted, we sometimes make things happen. Of course. But more often than not, we don’t. We’re happy to overestimate how much control we have on our lives. It’s less scary.

People who have “made it” will come and tell you how they did it. Again, hindsight.

I had a really eye-opening moment about that myself just three years ago, when I was asked to come and give a workshop on how to build a successful online presence for oneself.

I’d already noticed that when it came to social media strategy, most people telling us about their success story would come up with something along the lines of “we had no idea what we were doing, we were lucky, but here is how we should have done it and how you should do it”.

Halfway through my workshop, I realised that I was doing some variation of that: I was giving the participants an exercise to try and put them on the track I had followed — but actually, there was no exercise I could give them, because I had arrived where I was precisely because I wasn’t trying to get there. I had just followed my interests (chatting, people, more chatting, writing stuff, reading stuff, people, chatting) and opportunities had sprung out of that. Then, I had made something of those opportunities. But I had no intentional hand in creating them. It was a very humbling moment.

I think it took the last three years for this realisation to fully mature into one of the cornerstones of the slightly revamped way I present what I do for a living.

Back to my talk. Once you understand that you are not fully in control or in charge of making opportunities happen, you can try to examine what circumstances are favorable to them. And I would answer: “a diversity of circumstances”.

You know how diverse teams are more creative? I think there is something very similar at play when it comes to networking.

A diverse network — diverse in terms of the people it contains, the reasons that connect them, the strength of those relationships — will generate opportunities you could not have seen coming.

So when it comes to building a business, or finding a job, or clients, or partners, or ideas, it pays to have “a good network”. By “good”, I mean “diverse”. Cast the net wide. You never know who amongst the people you know is likely to lead you to the next big step in your career, or your next client, or the breakthrough which will see you out of the problem you’ve been stuck in forever. You never know.

Autour du chalet, colliers de perles

Weak ties are those who open the most doors. These are the people you may not know that well, or be somewhat out of touch with. These are the people you have met in a context that seems completely irrelevant to the work you are doing. They are the people who connect you to networks beyond your own, to schools of thought your network is unfamiliar with. Weak ties make for better introductions, because the stakes are lower: our acquaintances put us in touch with others more easily than our close friends and family, who know our faults too intimately, and may fear the fallback of a failed connection.

For this reason, I see no sense in being overly focused on one’s “personal brand”, or having an overly intentional online presence. Your network is made of relationships, and relationships are had between human beings. In networking, there is more being than doing. Caring gets you further than needing.

Go where there are people. Be open. Be generous. Be curious. See others, so that they may see you. Be helpful. Ask what you can do for them, rather than what they can do for you. Find the balance of depth and breadth that suits you: too much depth leaves no space for others, too much breadth will see you forgotten like a business card in a pile of papers.

Don’t sell. Make friends. It doesn’t matter what brings you together, as long as you connect. You never know what it is that you do or say that might attract people to you. So be you. Better to be loved or hated for what you are, than for a mask that you’re wearing.

You never know who will come around to be your most precious business (or life!) contact until that day in the future arrives.

The kind of communication between people fostered by social media is perfectly suited to weak ties. It’s not very intrusive. We can stay connected with far more people than we could ever in the physical world, scrolling through our timelines or newsfeeds. Ambient intimacy creates rapport in sometimes surprising and unexpected ways. Distance and time do not get in the way anymore.

But to take advantage of that, for your online presence to play a role in nurturing your network, you need to be a person.

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Measuring a Blog's Success: Visitors and Comments Don't Cut It [en]

[fr] Un blog, c'est un investissement à long terme. Six mois, un an au moins sans se poser de questions, avant d'essayer de voir si "ça marche" ou pas. Et ne mesurez pas son succès aux visiteurs et aux commentaires. Plutôt, trouvez un moyen plus qualitatif de mesurer les bénéfices que vous en retirez, en vous basant sur la raison pour laquelle vous tenez ce blog.

Interestingly, a large part of my work right now seems to revolved around blogging. I’m happy about that. I’ve been blogging for over 10 years now, and went I became self-employed mid-2006 the first “title” I used was “blogging consultant”. Because back then, it was about blogs (and maybe wikis, and maybe social software, but not “social media”).

Anyway, I digress.

What I want to point out is that if you start a blog, or your company starts a blog, it’s important to have realistic expectations about the kind of benefits you’ll reap, and when, and how to measure them.

Even in 2011, too many people imagine that if you’re doing a good job with your blog, it will translate into thousands of visits per day and dozens of comments within a few weeks.

No way.

Those blogs with thousands of visits per day and dozens of comments are edge-cases, and have probably been at it for longer than you have.

Blogs and comments are actually not a good way of measuring the success of a blog. Honestly, if your blog has a few hundred readers a day and you get a comment now and again, you’re doing fine.

To measure the success of your blog, you need to think back to the reason you’re doing it. What do you want to get out of it? Chances are that “having as many people as possible visit it” is not the reason you’re doing it.

Maybe you want to change the perception people have of you. Maybe you want to showcase certain things you’re doing. Maybe you want to attract a certain type of person — reader, writer, or contributor. Maybe it’s the “marketing budget” for your business. Maybe you want to share a passion. Maybe you want an outlet to express yourself.

There are many reasons to want a blog. And most of them are perfectly valid (one that’s not, most of the time: make money with it).

But don’t go around measuring readers and comments to judge your success just because they’re convenient numbers.

Maybe what you need to do is create a scrapbook of all the things people spontaneously say about your blog, online or off. Maybe you need to make a list of events or situations where your blog was an ice-breaker or opened doors for you.

That seems to make way more sense than counting visits and comments. I mean, if those are so important to make somebody happy, they can be gamed.

Blogging takes time. It takes time because it takes time to think, write, link, tag, categorize, illustrate, title, proof, and publish. It takes time to be creative, and if your ambition for your blog is to be more than a collection of breaking news, hot topics and catchy headlines, blogging is a creative job.

But blogging also takes time because it’s a long-term strategy. When blogging started being hot, there were these numbers flying around, telling us that the average blog on the web was 3 months old and had 3 articles (or something like that). People started blogging, and abandoned their blogs very quickly.

When starting a blog, I wouldn’t worry about if it’s working or not before at least six months or a year. People are in such a hurry nowadays. All this hype about real-time, the internet being a place of unprecedented speed, the acceleration of innovation, not to say the “overnight successes” we keep hearing about but which languished in obscurity for ages before coming to the light. And even if there are real “overnight sensations”, they are, as I said above, edge cases.

And your blog will not be an edge case.

Your blog can work fine and do its job, but it will not be an edge case.

Unless your blog is your product — and in this case you’re clearly in the media business, and not using your blog as a communication tool — it is not to be looked at as a service or product people are going to use everyday and flock to. Instead, it’s a collection of valuable, long-lasting, well-indexed information. It’s the expression of something. It colours who you are.

And that takes time — not just the time of labour, but the days and months flying by in the calendar, so that value can accumulate, and become valuable.

Let me sum up this long rambling post in a few points:

  • blogging is a long-term strategy: it will take many months or even years for you to see what benefits it’s actually bringing you
  • don’t obsess on visitors and comments; instead, focus on what is said about your blog, and the opportunities it brings, in terms of contacts, open doors, favorable dispositions (qualitative measurement rather than quantitative)

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Intracom: comment intégrer les médias sociaux à sa stratégie? [fr]

[en] Prezi and rough notes of the keynote I gave this morning at Intracom, Montréal, on how to integrate social media to your strategy.

J’étais invitée aujourd’hui à donner une keynote à l’occasion d’Intracomm 2011 à Montréal, et c’est avec grand plaisir que je suis venue faire profiter le public québécois de mon accent vaudois. Je vous remercie d’ailleurs tous pour vos retours élogieux sur ma prestation!

L’outil que j’utilise pour mes présentations, vous avez été nombreux à me le demander, c’est Prezi. Un outil en ligne (“in the cloud”) et gratuit. Mais pourquoi diable les gens utilisent-ils encore Powerpoint? Il y a plus d’un an, je prédisais la mort du monstre, mais il n’a encore pas dit son dernier mot, visiblement.

Voici donc mon prezi, suivi de quelques notes de présentation un peu en vrac mais légèrement retravaillées pour être blog-publiables.

 

Le tout a été capturé en vidéo par Christian Aubry (qui s’est vaillamment mis à Prezi pour l’occasion) et ne tardera pas à être mis en ligne (je l’ajouterai à cet article).

Mes notes, donc, un peu brutes.

Idée-force: les médias sociaux sont un outil qui s’intègre à tous les niveaux de sa stratégie
Public: cadres d’entreprises/organisations moyennes à grandes

Je voudrais partager avec vous ce que j’ai appris durant ces cinq dernières années à conseiller entreprises et organisations sur l’adoption des médias sociaux.

Deux grandes tendances se dessinent quand on parle d’adoption des médias sociaux:

– d’un côté les experts (dont je fais partie) vous diront à quel point il est important, capital, indispensable d’avoir une stratégie
– de l’autre côté, bien des exemples donnés en modèle vous diront qu’ils n’avaient pas de stratégie, il savaient pas ce qu’ils faisaient — mais que c’est capital d’en avoir une.

Je suis donc un peu partagée: j’avoue que je crois à l’approche “se lancer” et c’est la plupart du temps celle que je pratique. Néanmoins, je suis consciente qu’elle n’est pas applicable à tous les contextes, et qu’elle repose plus sur la personnalité des intervenants dans l’histoire que sur une méthode au sujet de laquelle il serait possible de dire quelque chose d’un tant soit peu intéressant — ce qui est par contre le cas pour la stratégie.

C’est pour ça qu’aujourd’hui je vais tenter de vous donner quelques éléments pour intégrer intelligemment les médias sociaux à votre stratégie — de toute façon, je ne crois pas que j’arriverais à vous tenir en haleine durant 45 minutes en vous disant “il faut juste vous lancer” 😉

1/ Aujourd’hui, en 2011, clair que:

Les médias sociaux sont là “to stay”, il faut faire avec, ce n’est pas une mode qui va s’en aller — pas plus qu’internet n’était une mode qui s’en est allée

2/ Les organisations sont en train d’avancer dans l’adoption des médias sociaux.

Modèle de maturité de l’utilisation des médias sociaux en entreprise d’Alban Martin (source)

  1. canal “remontant” non pris en compte
  2. médias sociaux écoutés et inclus dans la veille
  3. l’entreprise réagit à certains messages clés
  4. attitude proactive d’encouragement à la discussion
  5. intégration des médias sociaux dans les processus d’innovation et le service client

où sont vos partenaires? où sont vos concurrents? où en êtes-vous?

=> On n’en est plus à “faut-il?” (absolument) ou “pourquoi?” (ce sont les outils de communication de notre temps, et si vous êtes dans les médias, votre core business va être touché) mais à “comment?”

C’est à cette question que j’aimerais tenter de répondre aujourd’hui.

Voici ce qui rend ce “comment” compliqué:

– caractéristiques des médias sociaux qui tirent dans l’autre sens que la communication traditionnelle => rupture de paradigme, clash culturel
“on veut contrôler ce qui est dit de nous sur facebook”

– considérer que les médias sociaux sont un monde séparé (instance de “internet comme lieu d’altérité”)
“on va engager un community manager pour mettre à jour notre page facebook et Twitter”
(le placer dans l’organigramme)

– manque d’expertise en matière de médias sociaux chez les décideurs
(soit expertise de l’organisation, soit médias sociaux, mais il faut une rencontre des deux pour faire de la stratégie)

– vulnérabilité au hype et aux marchands de vent (ça va résoudre tous nos problèmes)
“on va faire une campagne virale dont tout le monde va parler”

– inadéquation entre solutions “social media” proposées et les problèmes qu’elles sont censées résoudre (fausses solutions à des problèmes mal identifiés)
“on va écrire un blog pour vendre plus de savons”

– histoires de succès qui semblent déconnectées de la réalité dans laquelle on se trouve
(décourageant, les font sembler irréalistes)

=> échecs et déception que l’on rejette sur l’outil (les médias sociaux) plutôt que sur le véritable problème

Donc, compte tenu de tout ça, comment s’y prendre?

La solution est assez simple:

– les médias sociaux sont un outil, comme le téléphone ou l’informatique
– cet outil s’intègre à tous les niveaux, comme on rajoute du chocolat dans un cake (photo gâteau au choc)
– pour introduire un nouvel outil, il faut que ce soit en réponse à un problème ou un besoin réels et concrets

En pratique?

– d’abord, il faut avoir un bagage en médias sociaux: l’essentiel en quelques minutes
– ensuite, il faut comprendre le contexte (l’entreprise) et identifier la problématique: la démarche sceptique
– puis, il faut mettre ensemble tout ça: voir comment d’autres l’ont fait

1/ que sont vraiment les médias sociaux? que font-ils? quelle forme ont-ils aujourd’hui?

outils qui connectent les gens
permettent de publier/diffuser du contenu

=> espace d’échange, de conversation et de réseau

Pour comprendre les médias sociaux et leur culture, ça aide de comprendre le réseautage: pour prendre ça le fait pas — réseauter, c’est mettre les autres en relation, leur apporter quelque chose

social media: pervasive, just like the phone is now pervasive — it is a communication channel

Ce sont des outils qu’il faut pratiquer.

2/ démarche sceptique: le plus simple mais le plus dur à expliquer

– revenir à la base: identifier les vrais problèmes, et voir si les médias sociaux peuvent faire partie de la solution
– ne pas faire des médias sociaux “pour les médias sociaux”

poser les questions qui font mal, creuser, démarche intellectuelle qui exige l’explication (e.g. “comment est-ce qu’écrire un blog va nous faire vendre plus de savons?”)

3/ exemples d’intégration médias sociaux

métiers émergents qui nous disent aussi comment les médias sociaux commencent à prendre place dans la hierarchie organisationnelle, et nous donnent des pistes sur des cas de figure type:

social media marketing
social media manager
social media strategist
community manager
blogger relations
social media optimisation

– comprendre certains fondamentaux de la gestion du changement
– ouvrir des portes, petit à petit
– communication interne et externe

exemple: Lego (communauté)

point de départ: oh mon dieu ils parlent de nous!
rejoindre la communauté humblement
mettre en place canal remontant, encourager ce qui se fait, jusqu’à en tenir compte dans le développement produit

exemple: Leclerc (crise)

un blog comme canal de communication direct
jouer le jeu de la transparence
gestion de crise en supprimant les intermédiaires (sur le blog comme ici, ou plus récemment en vidéo)

exemple: Old Spice (marketing)

campagne marketing en ligne
vidéo YouTube
réactions sur Twitter etc.
dialogue

exemple: Swiss Vibes (campagne)

objectif: faire connaître la musique suisse à l’étranger (France surtout)
compilation
en plus de la compilation, on fait un blog avec des coups de projecteurs sur les artistes présentés, et une page facebook, et on encourage tout ce monde à se connecter en ligne
petite campagne de pub pour “lancer” la page
présence sur MySpace et MX3 (plateforme locale) pour se rendre présent/visible où sont les gens

Pour terminer, j’aimerais revenir sur le message fondamental que je veux vous communiquer ce matin:

– les médias sociaux sont aujourd’hui un ingrédient de toute stratégie
– pour intégrer les médias sociaux à sa stratégie, on a besoin d’amener dans la même réflexion une expertise en médias sociaux et en stratégie de l’entreprise (un ou plusieurs cerveaux)
– chercher un problème réel et concret (qui peut être aussi petit ou grand que l’on veut) où les médias sociaux apportent une véritable solution

Merci!

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Thoughts on Dystopian Tech Future Vision [en]

These last weeks I’ve been catching up with On The Media (partly thanks to being back in the saddle), and earlier this evening I was listening to the February 18 piece on “Our Future With Technology”.

I had a few thoughts as I was listening that I’d like to share with you.

First of all, I quite strongly believe in the position defended by Brooke at some point which says that technology mainly allows us to become more of what we are. This is along the line of what I try to explain about “dangers” of the internet regarding teenagers: most of the trouble they face online is the same kind of trouble they face offline. Yes, sometimes with a twist, and other consequences. But in a very general way, the internet is not a completely alien place — as our local online world sociologist Olivier Glassey said a few months back during a talk I attended, we need to stop thinking of the “online” as a “separate space” (the expression he used is “le lieu de l’altérité”).

A bit later in the show, they are talking about augmented reality: what will it be like when we can wear glasses or contact lenses which, along with facial recognition software, will allow us to identify the people we come upon in the streets? OMG-there-will-be-no-privacy-anymore the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it <insert more dystopian panic here>.

I’m always surprised that this kind of thought experiment never includes things like “well, some people might end up covering their faces” or “we’ll start wearing masks” or “there will be a way to opt out of being ‘facially recognized'” or… whatever coping mechanism one can imagine. Because as technology advances and disrupts the way we are used to living, we also evolve coping or evading mechanisms to resist change. Why does run-of-the-mill dystopian thinking always depict us as passive victims of the unstoppable advance of technology?

We’re not passive. We usually actively resist change. For example, we now carry on our phones everywhere we go, but we choose to mute them or screen our calls — something that was pretty unthinkable 30 years ago when all we knew was landlines.

With the dystopian glasses on (the show was constructed as an attempted dialogue between utopian and dystopian visions of our tech future) the idea was brought up that augmented reality might at some point allow us to ignore or obliterate what we disagree with — extreme example: not seeing people with radically opposed views to ours. Bob concluded “people obliterate people”, which in my sense is right: we are already obliterating what we don’t want to see. Technology might allow us to do it better (“becoming more of what we are”) but sticking to what is familiar and ignoring the rest is fundamentally human. If I wasn’t so tired right now I’d fish out this article I read (no memory where) which shows how we very selectively remember what already fits in our worldview and obliterate the rest.

I see the “people obliterating people” thing at play in India. In the same spaces (I’m talking of streets or neighbourhoods here), you have completely parallel and distinct societies that live on with very little knowledge or understanding of each other. Literally invisible to each other.

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A Mess of Facebook Pages, Groups, and Profiles (Part 1) [en]

[fr] 1er épisode de ma tentative de mettre un peu d'ordre dans mes Pages Facebook.

Facebook “Like” buttons are starting to spread and I think I’m going to add them around here. So, I’m wondering which “Facebook Like” WordPress plugin I should install, and also, trying to sort out the mess between my various pages, groups, and profile on Facebook.

I recently started importing Digital Crumble into my Facebook profile, a move I’m pretty happy about because it seems to be making my online wanderings more readily available to a bunch of personal friends of mine who interact with me online mainly via Facebook, Twitter and IM. But on the other hand, I wonder: am I drowning my Facebook presence in too much Digital Crumble?

I’m now wondering what feeds to import where on Facebook.

I’ve always been wary of sending my Twitter firehose into Facebook: not the same audience, and too much Twitter at times, to be honest.

Let’s start with what’s easy: Bagha. He’s got a Facebook page and a Twitter account (@bagha) which he doesn’t use much, and in his case I have no problem linking them. I’ve installed the Twitter Facebook app to do that. I tried to use MyFlickr to import Flickr photos of him, but it was such a pain in the neck (can’t figure out exactly how to use it, + timeouts) I gave up and am looking for another solution to import Bagha’s Flickr photos into his page. I’ve also imported CTTS posts mentioning Bagha (feed) into his articles (hmmm, maybe I should resurrect his Catster diary…).

Have to say, though, that Facebook is a pain in the neck: getting it to accept a feed takes multiple tries, and connecting apps like Twitter or MyFlickr to their respective external services is no walk in the park either. Be persistent!

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Invest in Social Media Training [en]

For all of you in companies around the world who are wondering what place to give social media — you’ve heard about it, you know there’s quite a bit of hype, but that you should be “doing it” — here’s a piece of free advice: invest in training your staff and providing them with the “social media” skillset.

The trend I see these days is companies and organizations hiring social media consultants, strategists, and community managers. They want somebody to “do their social media stuff”, and often this person is external to the company.

Take a few steps back and think about computing. Nobody today would even dream of hiring somebody into the company to deal with the “computer stuff”. Instead, employees simply know how to do things on a computer. Some more than others, I’ll grant you that, but “working on the computer” is usually so much part of the job description for any office position that it’s not even specified in the job description anymore.

A few years from now, it’ll be the same thing with social media. Knowledge workers will know how to write a blog post (or even open a blog and manage it to some extent), use a wiki, create an event on Facebook and use their network to promote it, set up a Twitter account and put a video on YouTube — just as your average knowledge worker today knows how to create a Word document, send an e-mail, search for something on the web.

You can wait until people naturally learn how to do these things, or the younger, more social-media-literate generation invades the workplace — but you can also speed things up by actively providing your employees with opportunities to acquire these skills.

And yes, shameless plug: if you’re looking for somebody to train your staff, this is clearly something I do (I’m working on preparing proper marketing material for my services these days, so in a few weeks I’ll hopefully have shiny handouts/PDFs describing all the things I do).

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Office vs. Errand Days [en]

[fr] Ma solution pour rester un peu en contrôle de mon agenda: bloquer des journées entières de travail au bureau sans rendez-vous, et concentrer tout ce qui implique sorties, courses, cours, meetings, rencontres sur d'autres journées. Etre ferme, avec soi-même tout d'abord.

These last weeks have been pretty hectic. Large amounts of stress (work and personal), slipping deadlines, contemplation of possible big changes ahead… I had the feeling that I was spending each of my days running around and not having the time to do any of all the hyper-urgent things I needed to deal with.

Now things are much calmer. I caught up with my deadlines (boy, were they running away fast!) and am much more relaxed. So, of course, it’s easy to figure out solutions that make things better and talk about them when things are better but… who knows, maybe these solutions did actually help me 😉

Actually, “this solution”: concentrate meetings and errands on given days. Book whole days in the office. Be firm with yourself. I actually put huge “booked!” meetings in my calendar. And I don’t make exceptions. Because when you start making exceptions, even with very good reasons, it’s the beginning of the end — and before long your whole week is just riddled with appointments and meetings, like a piece of old Emmental cheese.

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To Be or Not to Be a New Media Strategist [en]

For years now (since I became self-employed, and maybe even before) I’ve been struggling to define myself and what I do. There are two main components to this problem, as I see it:

  • working in a fast-moving, cutting-edge field, where I’m creating my job and job description as I go along, and boldly going where none have gone before (haha)
  • inside that field, having a bit of a “generalist specialist” profile, which means that I do tons of different things which don’t always seem to go together (talk about teenager/education issues online; give strategic advice to startups; install blogs and teach people how to use them; etc)

Now, along my freelancing career, I’ve called myself a bunch of things (non-exhaustive list following):

  • blogging consultant
  • social sofware consultant
  • social media consultant
  • web consultant and commentator
  • 2.0 consultant

More recently, I more or less dropped the whole title thing, going for taglines like “I help you understand the internet better” and even giving up almost entirely before Lift09 and having “Online Person” written on my badge.

So, again: part of the problem is me (and my issues with defining myself) and another is the field in which I am. High tech and social media is a bubbly field. An expression is hot one day and cold the other. Hot in some circles, passé in others.

Take “blogging consultant”: when I started out, there were hardly any blogging consultants around. A year or so later, everybody and his dog who knew how to set up WordPress suddenly started calling themselves that. I remember talking to a friend some years ago: his company had hired a “blogging consultant” and we were both appalled at the kind of advice he was giving and things he was doing.

So at some point, to distance myself from such people (newcomers clearly more intent in blinding their clients with buzzwords), I stopped calling myself a “blogging consultant”.

Basically, it’s been more or less the same problem for all the titles I’ve tried to wear (like clothes).

Now, back to my own issue: the trouble I have explaining and defining what I do. I had a breakthrough conversation with Florian Egger at the Lift09 party (despite the dreadfully loud music during what was supposed to be a “networking lounge” time slot).

Here’s the image I like to use to explain this breakthrough: what I do could be represented by a tree. There are many branches and leaves, and a trunk. Until then, when I was asked what I did, I would talk about the leaves and the branches, but I never managed to pinpoint what the trunk was. It left an impression that what I was doing was ill-defined, scattered.

I have now understood that the trunk of what I do is new media-related strategic consulting, thanks to Florian who made me go through example after example of what I did, concluding each one with “well, that’s strategy too, if you think of it” — and I’d go “no, it’s not strategy… oh, actually, yes, I see what you mean… it is!”

So, that would make me a New Media Strategist. It sounds nice. And it fits. You know, like when you finally find a pair of trousers that seems to have been stitched for you?

And clearly, being able to say “I do strategic consulting” sounds way better than “well, I know a helluvalot of a stuff about the internet, and all this so-called web2.0 stuff, and I’m really good at explaining it and helping people and companies figure out what the hell they’re going to do with it, and how they can use it, and why it’s interesting for them, and I can give talks, do training, help set blogs up, promote stuff online, coach people on more or less anything social-media related, oh, and give advice, of course, people keep coming to me for advice, you know, and a whole lot of other things…”

See what I mean?

I also realised that until then, the services that I had advertised were my “side-services” — my branches. In a way, I’ve always tried to do the strategic/advisory stuff undercover. Not very satisfying!

So now, the question this post is leading to: is “New Media Strategist” already old and loaded? What does it sound like? Is “everybody” calling themselves that nowadays? (I hope I don’t come across as pretentious because I consider I have a tad more expertise on the subject than newcomers in the field who have been blogging for 18 months and tweeting for 6…)

One could argue that titles don’t mean much, specially in today’s hypernetworked world, where connections are the most important thing in life (aside from drinking water… and even that could be subject to debate). Reputation, that’s what counts.

I disagree. I may be well-known and respected amongst my peers, but given the nature of my job, my clients are usually outside (even very far outside) the social media bubble. A title of some sort gives people a starting-point to figure you out.

“Social Media Consultant”, in my opinion, is dead from overuse and abuse. “New Media Strategist” seems better to me (because I “came up” with it during that discussion — of course I’d probably heard or seen it somewhere before, but it didn’t sound like something that is being thrown all over the place on Twitter et al these days). Or “Social Media Strategist”? What about “Social Media” itself… does that sound too much like an empty buzzword today (just like “Web 2.0”, which I never liked and honestly, was a media/marketing buzzword from the start). And then, for me, is the added issue of translating things in French. “New Media Strategist” doesn’t translate well — neither does “Social Media”, actually.

Lots of questions, as you can see.

Do you have trouble defining what you do? What do you put on your business card? What do you do? I’d love to exchange stories. And, of course, hear what you think about “New Media Strategist” — as a title in general, and to describe me… if you know me, of course. 🙂

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E-mail and Dirty Dishes [en]

[fr] Cet article fait le tour de ma méthode pour gérer le flux d'e-mail qui assaillit quotidiennement ma boîte de réception ainsi que le flux de vaisselle sale qui remplit inexorablement l'évier. Deux choses qui a priori n'ont rien à voir, mais qui au fond peuvent faire l'objet du même processus.

I’m a rather disorganised person. I know it comes as a surprise to many of my readers, because my online presence is reasonably organised (in the highly disorganised digital space we live in) and also probably because my writing is, well, pretty structured or something.

I’m a reformed perfectionist (in some areas). I’m somebody who read A Perfect Mess with glee, because it validated a conclusion I’d reached myself over the years: find the sweet spot between too much mess and too much order.

A few years ago I wrote a blog post titled Keeping The Flat Clean: Living Space As User Interface, after I realised that usability principles and accessibility apply to living space too, not only to websites (nothing revolutionary for the world, but it was for me). This kind of thinking has never left me.

So, what does keeping one’s inbox empty and taming the dirty dishes have in common? It hit me the other day.

It’s about keeping some constantly filling “bucket” from overflowing. It’s about having a process to deal with what comes in on a regular basis, and seeing the bottom every now and again.

Over the last year or so, I haven’t been too bad with e-mail. Here are my seven tricks:

  1. turn off notifiers but check regularly
  2. reply immediately to “small stuff” that doesn’t require much brain power
  3. archive, archive, archive: stuff I’ve dealt with, as well as bacn (I create filters for bacn)
  4. stay on top of the “longer” stuff I need to reply to, at max a few days after getting it
  5. identify the stuff I “should” spend time replying to but for some reason I won’t, and deal with it accordingly instead of letting it rot in the inbox for six months before giving up
  6. if things go out of control, I still try to keep up with what’s incoming so it doesn’t get more out of control, and take stabs at archiving/processing the backlog (in that way, my inbox hovered around a stable 300-400 messages in it for most of last year)
  7. if things are too out of control, I don’t hesitate to do a radical “inbox to zero” (my way).

Result:

  • my inbox regularly goes down to zero (about once a week or so)
  • there are usually between a couple and a dozen e-mails in my inbox
  • people are happy because I’m responsive to their e-mails
  • I’m happy because I’m on top of my e-mail (“empty inbox” has a very interesting psychological effect).

Caveats?

  • I’m not regularly active on any mailing-lists, and filter them all out
  • my estimation is that approx 100 messages a day reach my inbox, bacn included
  • I have to “deal” with 30-40 message a day, probably, once you substract what has been filtered out.

So, what about the dishes? I’ve actually been really bad at keeping up with my dirty dishes over the last year (and cleaning in general, ack). A few weeks ago when I was sick, I decided to take control of my kitchen again, if only so that mess in the kitchen would not:

  • depress me
  • get in the way of preparing food and eating regularly.

So, I did the kitchen equivalent of “emptying the inbox to zero” to get a fresh start (warning: this goes a little beyond dishes). Taking inspiration on my inbox mastery, here’s what I did:

  • put all the clean dishes away (they tend to pile up on the draining board)
  • washed all the dirty dishes, and put them away a little later once they had dried
  • cleared the kitchen table of all the junk that was on it and cleaned it
  • did the same thing with one of the working surfaces and the stove

That was my “kitchen to zero” state. The process for keeping things that way is pretty basic:

  1. make sure I see the bottom of my sink regularly (every day if possible, in the evening so it’s clean in the morning — no rigid rule, but an objective I try to meet regularly)
  2. make sure the draining board is regularly empty
  3. near-to-zero tolerance for anything remaining on the kitchen table and working surface once I’m done eating/cooking

It’s been working well so far. Here’s what I think are the three keys that my systems for e-mail and washing dishes have in common:

  1. go for emptiness: seeing the bottom is important, psychologically
  2. flexible “keep the spirit” approach rather than rigid rule: keeps me from feeling “failure guilt” when I slip a bit, and provides living space (life does not fit in rigid rules)
  3. contingency plan for when I drop off: I know I’ll drop off at times, but I know how to get “back on track” when I do (GTD taught me that was vital)

I’m interested in hearing if you use similar methods, or different ones, and what you think of my “three keys” to a successful system. Does it work for you, or not?

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