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One of Canada’s Most Influential Women in Social Media?

I’ve been nominated as one of Canada’s Most Influential Women in Social Media in a poll run by Dave Forde, whom I know from the Toronto technology scene. It’s a little odd thinking about that, because I’m nowhere near the likes of Amber MacArthur (popular geek television / videocasting personality), Leesa Barnes (who made it onto a worldwide list of female social media luminaries), and Sandy Kemsley (prolific Enterprise 2.0 blogger well-known for her comprehensive live-blogged conference notes). Me? I’m a recent hire figuring things out and posting notes along the way. =)

I’ve stumbled across influence by being in the right place at the right time, maybe. My story is now woven into IBM’s story about social media, and we’re helping other large companies figure things out as well. I’ve given numerous presentations helping people figure out what Web 2.0 means for them and for their company, facilitated workshops for generating, developing and prioritizing initiatives, and done a fair bit of hand-holding to get people over their concerns. All of that is pretty cool, come to think of it, but what I’d like to do is make it possible for other people to do even cooler things.

Thinking about this poll on Canada’s most influential women in social media, I realized that I didn’t consider myself any way equal to all these role models I have here and around the world. =) I also realized that I had a pretty good idea of a future me that would feel perhaps at home in that list. So here’s what I think “influential” looks like for me:

  • I would organize regular events that brought together interesting people and helped people connect. These events would include workshops on social networking, storytelling and presentations, quarter-life crises, lifehacking and productivity, happiness, geek growth, personal finance, and other topics I’m interested in or passionate about.
  • I would also build a bit of infrastructure that would help transform the networking aspects of these events: sign-up pages with more details, aggregators to bring together people’s blog posts, business card prints and other in-person networking aids, active matchmaking both online and offline, and so on.
  • I would be one of those people that people mention their projects and ideas to in the off chance that I could recommend people to talk to, books to read, and sites to check out–because I would. =) In order to do this, I’d find ways to more effectively capture information to support a somewhat fuzzy associative memory. (It’s _so_ frustrating to know that you’ve seen something before that people will like, but not be able to find it again!)
  • I would help lots of people to figure out what their passion is, deepen their skills, and share the results with lots of people through presentations, new and existing businesses, and other good things. I’d do that by asking people, helping them connect and make things happen, and helping them find a forum or opportunity where they can talk to other people.
  • I would have a big archive of things I’ve thought about and shared with others so that I can pull useful resources out and give them to people.
  • I would build systems to make it possible for other people to do this kind of awesomeness as well. =)

So that’s what “influential” looks like to me. I’m not there yet, but I think I can get there. =) I can learn how to hold external events, and gradually get into the swing of it. I can keep blogging and summarizing interesting resources, gradually refining my collection of resources. I can keep tweaking my addressbook, and someday I’ll build systems to help other people try this out. =)

Stay tuned.

Notes from conversations: Ushnish Sengupta, consulting

Ushnish Sengupta was interested in exploring social media consulting. He picked my brains over hot chocolate at the Bluestar Cafe. Here are some rough notes from that conversation:

  • The first tip I gave him was to blog. I think it’s a good idea for consultants to keep a blog because it’s an easy and nearly-free way to help establish credibility and build connections. The blog can contain success stories, articles, lessons learned, announcements of upcoming events, tips, tidbits, and other pieces of information that can help both potential and existing clients. Besides, it’s awfully hard to do social media consulting if you’re not immersed in the space and you don’t have a presence.
  • Business cards: I told him about putting pictures and interesting conversation hooks on business cards, showing him mine as an example.
  • Ushnish was interested in potentially getting a PhD looking at consulting services and similar areas. I recommended that he check out services science. A recent conference we both attended (CASCON) had a number of sessions about the topic, so I suggested reviewing the proceedings to find people and topics of potential interest. I also recommended that he get in touch with people like Kelly Lyons – she’s currently doing research in this field.
  • Twitter backchannel: He asked me how the City of Toronto’s Web 2.0 Summit went. I told him about the interesting conversations that happened in real life and on the Twitter backchannel, and suggested that the next time he’s at an event, he should find the tag that people are using and tune in to search.twitter.com for some lively conversation.
  • Professional networking: He asked me which professional social networks I’m on. I told him that I’m active on LinkedIn and I use it to connect with people so that I can find out about changes in e-mail addresses and positions. He asked me if I was on Plaxo. I told him that I never got into Plaxo because it started off with a bad value-proposition for people who entered their data and that it had been fairly spammy. I haven’t looked into Plaxo Pulse in detail, but LinkedIn and my personal addressbook handles most of my needs.
  • Multiple networks: He asked me about being on multiple networks and how networks become popular and then fade away. The key things I shared with him were that ideas and skills tend to be transferrable between networks, and that an external profile such as a personal site or blog is important because it ties all the networks together. I also told him about something I picked up from Rahaf Harfoush’s talk on the Obama campaign: produce a piece of content and then distribute it through different channels.
  • Partnership: Ushnish asked me if I preferred to work with people I know well or if I preferred to work alone. I told him that I definitely prefer to work with other people because I learn much more in the process. I also told him that I actually enjoy working with people I don’t know that well yet, because it gives me an opportunity to develop a new relationship and spread the skills. If I’m asked to give a presentation, I often look for ways to enable other people to give the presentation, perhaps with a little coaching from me. I want other people to develop wonderful skills, too.
  • Teaching as I learn: The point on partnership segued into a discussion of how useful, fulfilling, and effective it is to try to teach everything I know how to do. I recapped some of the points from “If you can, teach; If you can’t teach, do“.
  • Event management: I told him that I’m interested in learning more about hosting external events in 2009. Alex Sirota does a lot of events for the New Path Network (which Ushnish belongs to), so I might see if I can use some of those events as models.
  • Address book: Ushnish was curious about how I manage my network. I told him about my wonderful addressbook setup (automatically tracks who I send mail to, automatically inserts notes into my mail), and the visualization improvements I’d like to make. I also told him of my plans to try porting some of these ideas to Drupal so that other people can experiment with them.
  • Social media and change management: I told him about the spectrum of social media consulting, and that organizational change plays a large part in it.
  • Rough notes: We ended the conversation with a homework assignment: he’s supposed to blog the lecture he was also going to that day, and perhaps the notes from the conversation as well. I reassured him that rough notes are fine, and that he’ll make things clearer and clearer as he writes about them again and again.

What did I learn?

  • I seem to have learned something about social media consulting after all. =) Hooray! I need to package that into some kind of internal blog post and presentation so that my coworkers can make the most of it.
  • I should find a way to package up these social networking tips into a blog post, a presentation, and maybe an event.
  • In an alternate future, I could probably keep myself very busy building and selling tools for making all of these things easier…

Knowledge [shared] is power

Here’s an excerpt from Aaron Kim’s blog post about meritocracy and social media:

Furthermore, Web 2.0 and Social Media are leveling the professional playing field. Two quotes by Pauline Ores (who is the IBM personification of Social Media Marketing) during the O&M event caught my attention:

  1. In the Social Media world, the most powerful person is the one who shares the most.
  2. Control in Social Media is like grabbing water: the stronger you grab, the less you hold. There’s a right way to retain water, but not by being forceful.

Meritocracy, Pauline Ores and the multi-dimensional IT Professional « The bamboo raft

It reminded me of something that I learned while putting together a presentation on Generation Y and how work is changing.

Knowledge is still power. The old way was to keep knowledge secret, thus ensuring your power. The new way is to share it, and thus to make it grow.

Together with lots of other people in IBM and elsewhere, Aaron Kim helps me realize that I’m on to something good.

Vision + Value + Voice = Connection

Gary Brown e-mailed me this insightful manifesto from Michael Lee Stallard, an expert on client and employee engagement. In it, Michael describes the key ingredients of a connection culture: vision, value, and voice. More and more companies are focusing on developing deep, rich connections between their employees and their customers, and this document has a number of good examples of the benefits of this approach. Check it out at ChangeThis :: The Connection Culture: A New Source of Competitive Advantage.

Geni – Your family tree online

Okay, I did find another social network I wanted to join online.  Geni is a family-oriented application, and you can use it to collaboratively build your family tree. I don’t know if it can handle the complexities of the Chua clan (my grandmother led a complicated life! ;) ), but it isn’t a bad way to start. The good thing about it is that it doesn’t rely on everyone opting in, because you can fill in other people’s details. And once you’ve gotten your family tree in place, you can share photos, look up birthdays, send messages, announce events, that sort of thing.

Check it out!

Passed it on!

I came across an internal blog post about making sense of the intranet social networking tools. Joseph, a communications assistant from the UK, asked us to help him make sense of the overwhelming choices we have in terms of Web 2.0 tools. When I checked out the wiki he created, I found out that Joseph was doing his Ph.D. dissertation on social computing in the enterprise. This just happened to be the area that I got my masters in, so I sent him an instant message and I shared a copy of my thesis with him, in the hope that my bibliography might save him some time. He had read some of my blog entries, but he hadn’t realized I had done my master’s research in the same area. I then proceeded to brain dump a whole bunch of tips, such as:

  • Blog about your research. This is the single best thing you can do to get the word out and to find people who are interested in this kind of thing. I can’t begin to describe how helpful people were. And if you end up falling in with the way the company does social networking (like I did!), people will help you find a great job too!
  • Build relationships. Again, the internal blog’s a terrific place to do that, particularly for this area of research. Invest time in scanning the blogs and commenting on things you find interesting.
  • Don’t worry about disappearing off the dashboard. Plenty of people use feed readers and subscribe to specific people or tags, so once you get on their radars, you’ll stay there.
  • Use a feed reader that lets you create keyword searches. That way, you never miss discussions that you are interested in. Feedreader, Omea, and FeedDemon all have this feature.
  • Get to know people. I recommended a whole bunch of people who are interested in social computing. =)
  • Read these books: Crossing the Chasm, The Diffusion of Innovations, The Tipping Point, and Influencer.
  • Check the blogs for news about interesting tools. Our internal early adopter program is good, but the internal blogs catches the coolest hacks from all over.
  • … and other tips! =)

I tried to squeeze as much as I could in half an hour, but I’m sure I’ll think of other tips! I loved just passing on everything I could think of. It was the best way to give back to all the people who helped me with my research, and I was happy to have stumbled across someone else who could learn from what I did. Besides, it was the Right Thing to Do.

Thank you, blogs, for this opportunity to help!