I was having a – Friday afternoon thought – a moment ago about social media and a career.
I’m not one of those people who went to university knowing what they wanted to do. I ended up reading anthropology, linguistics, Chinese philosophy, before eventually majoring in Chinese. A few years later I ended up living in Taiwan for about three years, or was it five? During this time I taught English, I worked as a translator at the National Palace Museum. After this I ended up in the UK where I went back to university and got my Masters from the University of Oxford reading Sinology (Chinese). My thesis looked at the popularisation of culture during the Ming Dynasty. For this I wrote about a work by Tu Long called ‘Kao Pan Yu Shi’ (‘Desultory Remarks on Furnishing the Abode of a Retired Scholar’) first published in 1606. This compendium was somewhat akin to the gentlemen guides of the 19th century. After this I got my first real job and set-up the South East Asia office for Bonhams, an auction house, and so my career began…until now when I am a consultant at Capgemini.
Did I know what I wanted to do? Did I have a career path laid out in my head? Was there a greater plan? No, to all of these. I’ve worked in marketing, knowledge management, customer service. I’ve had the opportunity to pick up skills in project management, ecrm, email campaigns, search, web site design and development, IA, UX, CEX and more.
I am the sum total of all these parts. I bring this experience, this expertise, these skills, the successes and failures into the workplace. All these things help me each day in different ways consciously and unconsciously. I do not have a blueprint or template. I am working out my playbook as I travel along my journey.
And so too with social media. Why should I think there is an answer, a template, a blueprint? When I began Tweeting as @guyatcarphone at The Carphone Warehouse back in 2008, did I have a strategy in mind, did I have a template to follow? No. I saw what @frankeliason was doing at Comcast and thought to myself it can’t be that difficult Tweeting – ‘I’m sorry, we seem to have got it wrong, how can I help?’
And yet, organisations put so much in the way. Organisations want a template, they want an answer, they want to be sure they won’t be proved wrong (it’s not even that they want to be proved right!). But how difficult can Tweeting be? We converse with each other every day of our lives. Why is Twitter so different? Why is it that companies need to understand what type of value is derived from conversing with their customers? Why is it that they spend time trying to figure out the ROI of Twitter customer service? What is the ROI of resolving a customer’s issue? Is the obverse, not resolving it?
Why has social media become this thing to be feared? Why is it the great unknown that makes you anxious? Your career is equally unknown. It unfolds as you go through it. Yes, you might say I want a career as a musician, or as a journalist or as a doctor. You play sport not knowing what the outcome might be. You do it knowing that the detail will be worked out as the game itself unfolds.
Social media is a bit like that. You want to converse with your customers whether it’s via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, FourSquare, Pinterest, blogs, YouTube… because that’s where they are, and that’s what they use to converse. As to what the detail is, that will unfold as you begin to talk with them. It’s not that difficult. Talking was never designed to be difficult.