Books, Social Media, Work

A review of Euan Semple’s “Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do”

A Manager’s guide to the social web 2012




When I first started reading this book I thought it was a guide to how to use twitter, for businesses.

However I quite quickly realised it was something else. There are 45 chapters, each following almost exactly the same length, 3 to 3 1/2 pages, with a summary of key take away points at the end. The final chapter is explicitly described as a blog post, however the consistency in length of all the other posts, sorry chapters, make it seem like the other chapters were all previously blog posts too.

The good thing about this book though, is that it doesn’t feel like an unconnected collection of articles.

There is a theme running through the pieces. Having recently worked for a large multinational, which had a limited social media policy “it’s ok to use it, but don’t be on it for too long”. It was really interesting to read his account of how he had battled to convince senior management of the value of social media engagement by staff.

It is a massive challenge for large, and small organisations, who feel it is a risk to empower staff members to be able to speak / blog / tweet on behalf of the company. The thing is, in some ways, you should be able to trust your staff to represent you in a professional way, whilst also offering their own particular take on how things can be done. This should be possible, because in any job were staff interact with the public, this type of behaviour, in a verbal context, has been permissible for many years. Bus conductors have to talk to the public, bar staff, the police, now the challenge is to enable staff to also do so in a written context too.

Euan takes the idea of business blogging, tweeting, and any other chosen social media outlets, and looks at what is required from the creator of the content. It requires a higher level of personal honesty, and consistency. This will obviously be a challenge, for those who are neither of these things. However for those managers who are more open, self aware, and willing to learn and receive meaningful feedback rather than mere platitudes, social media engagement offers the opportunity for much more effective engagement and communication of ideas and vision.

This is why I found the book enjoyable in an unexpected way. Most social media books I have read recently seem to be about maximising your reach, gaining more followers, improving SEO. Euan is still concerned with increasing impact, and the return on investment from time spent on social media. However his series of chapters are, in many ways, mapping out the wider holistic benefits of such an approach.

By the end of his book, he speaks of his dilemma at wanting to sign off from one long running series of blog postings by talking about how it was all, ultimately, about love. At the time however he recoiled from writing this, because he felt it would be ‘too out there’.

An ‘all you need is love’ vibe, might seem a little too hippy-esque for large modern day businesses. However if you substitute love for caring, you are then close to describing the work ethos of Zappos, and many other successful contemporary businesses, who have gained a market edge for being known to go that much further for the customer.

Out there, ‘in the wild’, it is hard to convince a lot of traditionally raised managers of the value of social media engagement. This book has very real and grounded experiences. Illustrating very concrete examples of why greater sharing of ideas helps to promote better practice, more efficient work habits. He said that he kept a series of specific successful examples near to hand at all times, ready to combat senior managers who doubted the value of social media engagement. Twitter for example often coming to the rescue in terms of asking for, and receiving quick suggested answers to specific problems faced, drawing on the wisdom of many to confront problems. Also enabling staff to draw on the value of their wider networks, and shared knowledge, rather than just their own.

I would recommend reading or giving this book to those managers and clients who remain unconvinced of the value of using social media to improve their working practices.


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