Statistics versus Stories

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Sometimes when I walk the dog in the mornings I just take in the scenery and listen to the birds singing. I am very fortunate to live in an urban area, but to have some great bits of raw nature close to where I live where the dog can be let off the lead to get his exercise.

And, then, sometimes I put the headphones in and listen to Radio 4’s Today Programme to keep up to date with what people are saying about the world.

This morning I did the latter, and caught Anne Atkins speaking on “Thought for the Day”. She posed the question as to why the death of Robin Williams had dominated the news agenda, while the deaths of thousands in genocide in Iraq and from Ebola in West Africa, are dismissed in a few lines. The latter are statistics, she opined, the former is a story that Western people can empathise with.

It reinforces a point I keep making. People who think that reports full of statistics are going to change the world are deluding themselves. If you really want to affect people’s behaviour, and change things, then tell stories about how what you do impacts on people’s lives. People just like you and me. Stories affect people’s emotions and generate empathy. Statistics are just numbers.

Sun, Sea and Social Media, the Intinerary

Excitement is building for the beach-based social media event of the year.  And now, we can announce……

Sun, Sea and Social Media, The Itinerary 

Subject to change (if we find something more fun to do)

Sun, Sea, Social, Media

Saturday 16th August 2014

The Beach, Filey, North Yorkshire

11am   Meet, share notes, and agree roles for the day.

[Meeting point will be announced Friday afternoon]

11:30am Opening of the Social Media Surgery [Surgery will be open all day]

12 noon Video Workshop

1pm Sandcastle Competition

2pm Beach cricket tournament

3:30pm Knobbly Knees contest

4pm Vine Superstar Competition

5pm Close

Tell us if you are coming http://smbeach.eventbrite.co.uk

Are you really, excited, you should be!  Here’s a taster

This event is sponsored by Coast and Country Housing

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Linkedin – Emperor’s New Clothes

I’ve never liked Linkedin. There I said it. It’s a heresy among some of the social media glitterati. But I’ve never liked it. I’ve never seen it as being social. And, therefore, I’ve never understood why it’s called a “social network”.

Today, a specific reason why it makes me uncomfortable finally crystallised in my head. I don’t like corporate environments where people are frightened to show their real personalities and hide behind professional personas. I’ve spent a large part of my working life in those kinds of places, and I’m glad to be out of them. I think it’s an outdated way of working, it makes people unhappy, and unhappy people are not productive people.

And now I realise, that’s exactly what Linkedin tries to do in the online world. It’s getting worse, with meaningless endorsements for skills people don’t necessarily have, and congratulations for vapid anniversaries. I’ve even been invited to congratulate someone on their new role at “unemployed”!

So, if you are tempted to spend your time hiding behind your Linkedin profile, don’t. Why not take some time to join us on the really social platforms where people can be themselves?

[In keeping with the spirit of Linkedin, I have not adorned this post with anything so frivolous as a picture]

Would you ban your employees from talking to anyone? At any time?

According to this post which was drawn to my attention by Paul Taylor on Twitter, the number of employers blocking their employees’ access to social media at work has INCREASED over the past year from 29% to 36%. I find this flabbergasting, I thought we were winning this battle.

Social media is a modern form of communication. Ask yourself how you would feel if your employer banned you from TALKING to anyone. Not just in your working hours, but at all times, because, after all, anything you say could be seen as reflecting on your employer, because; even though it might be a private conversation, it is easy to find out who you work for and attribute your views to the organisation you work for.

Banning social media at work is effectively closing off a modern communication method to employees. It is virtually the same as banning them from talking to anyone….  at any time. That is a recipe for dissatisfied, frustrated employees, and an organisation that is secretive and whose motives will be open to question.

Please don’t do it….

Sun, Sea and Social Media

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Saturday 16th August 2014

11am to 5pm

Filey Beach, North Yorkshire

and

the internet

Join us on Filey Beach, or online on Saturday 16th August for an extravaganza of social media, digital inclusion, and general internet capers by the sea.

This is event is sponsored by Coast and Country Housing Limited.

Register here

Sun, Sea and Social Media is:

  • a social media adventure, featuring a number of experienced social media users who will document their journeys to Filey and their activities on the day;
  • a social media surgery, offering real-time, practical advice to people on the beach on how to get the best out of using social media to enhance their holiday and beach experience;
  • a digital inclusion event, helping people new to the internet get online by demonstrating what enormous fun can be had on the internet;
  • a demonstrator, showcasing the power of new technologies in a beach setting, including a LIVE linkup with the Costa del Sol in Spain; and
  • a lot of fun! featuring live streamed beach cricket, knobbly knees contests, sandcastle championships, and other beach-based shenanigans

Join in the fun on Filey Beach any time between 11 and 5. Or follow the action online using the hashtag #smbeach with occasional live video at http://www.johnpophamlive.co.uk

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any queries

tweet @johnpopham

Register here

photo credit Paul Stephenson on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/paul_stephenson/

Sustaining the energy generated by great events

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More years ago than I care to remember, I went to see a showing of the film of “West Side Story”. I had thought that it would not really be my thing, but I went because it was at a new venue and I was curious to have a nose around the place. As it turned out, I was very glad that I did go, as I found it a joyous experience, and really surprised myself with my reaction.

As I came out into the street, I looked around and I thought there was something major missing. After a while, it dawned on me that, having been immersed in the musical for 2 hours or more, I was now expecting everyone to be singing and dancing around the streets. It took me quite a while to accept that this wasn’t going to happen.

I’ve had a comparable experience a couple of times recently. And both times it was because of innovative events. The first was Resource‘s Comms Hero; the second was HouseParty, organised by Matt Leach of HACT and Esther Foreman of The Social Change Agency. At both of these happenings, I was swept along by a tide of enthusiasm, energy, and vitality, and began to believe that the world was now like this; that we had won the fight to convince everyone in the Social Housing Sector and beyond, that the principles of openness, sharing, innovation, and the embracing of new technologies, are the way forward.

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Now, it’s somewhat easier for me than many others at those events. I don’t have to go back to an office or workplace where I am in a minority of one in holding the views I do. And, believe me, I had a number of conversations at HouseParty which confirmed to me that there are plenty who are in that unenviable position. But, the truth is, that we don’t leave events like Comms Hero and HouseParty and find the rest of the world dancing in the streets to the tunes we have been singing in the venue (singing literally in the case of Comms Hero). There is still much work to be done to convince the doubters and the blockers. But, the strength of events such as these is that they create and strengthen networks that can support the lone advocates and give them the confidence to take on workplace inertia. Let’s make sure they do.

If you block social media your PR-friendly “human resources” slogans are a lie

Trainee Social Reporters

One of the things that makes me really frustrated is when people treat social media and digital technologies as if they were separate from what they call “the real world”. It is my firm belief that what we now know as social media is a transitional set of technologies towards what will become, in time, ubiquitous, seamless, and integrated communications and sharing tools, which, eventually, will come naturally to most people as the devices become more intuitive and less intrusive.

Thus, on the issue of digital inclusion, some people think there is something special about digital technologies which excludes those who haven’t come on board yet. I argue it is about people’s attitudes rather than aptitudes. I have written before about the case of two 84 year-old men who I worked with on the same day; one who was brimming with enthusiasm about new possibilities and desperate to find out what the internet could do for him; and the other who said he was too old to learn and none of this had any relevance to him. It’s nothing to do with age; it is to do with attitude.

I am exercised about how we unlock the potential of new technologies to help people realise their own personal potential. I am thinking here about the kind of people (gross generalisations coming up), who are of the opinion that they stopped learning when they left school. They sit in an office all day doing mundane tasks, very often on a computer with no speakers or soundcard, and on which access to social media is blocked. The office may be totally quiet, or some “inoffensive” muzak is playing, or, worse still, Radio 2. They then go home, either in silence, or listening to music on their headphones, or Radio 2 (again) in their car. They get home, switch the TV on and spend the evening watching “unchallenging” programming, such as soap operas, cooking programmes, and reality game shows. Once in a while, they reluctantly go on a training course, mandated by their employer, where they sit on uncomfortable chairs, their bum going numb while they listen to someone droning on about the latest health and safety legislation, or whatever.

That may possibly be an extreme stereotype. But contrast it with the person who has access to social media during the day. They are constantly bombarded with new ideas and new angles on things. They have access to Youtube for inspiring talks and “how-to” videos”. They can connect with like-minded people on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Yammer or Google+  to test out and pursue new approaches. And, instead of Radio 2, they can get podcasts full of challenging viewpoints and interesting arguments. And, when they go home, instead of watching TV, they might just watch some TED talks, listen to another podcast, or join in with a Twitter chat.

This is what I mean about the dangers of treating social media like its a separate universe. It means that people can get away with never being challenged to step out of their comfort zone. And this is as negative for their organisations as it is for themselves. Surely an organisation full of engaged, inquisitive people is much more likely to succeed than one where the majority of the workforce are resentful and bored?

So, if you ever see an organisation which says it prides itself on developing its people, but it doesn’t give them access to social media, challenge them on that. Their PR-friendly “human resources” slogans are a lie.

And I am really keen to work out how we can chip away at people’s reluctance to learn new things and give them access to the vast potential which the internet and social media opens up for many of us. How do we get people listening to challenging podcasts in their offices instead of Radio 2? How do we persuade them to turn off the TV every now and again and do something that involves them being creative  and active rather than a passive recipient of received cultural wisdom?

The challenge is to show everyone that none of us ever stops learning. And that learning new things can be fun.

 

What it means to be social

Comms Hero Unconference

A few weeks ago I was delivering a social media training session to a group who were all older people (not the group in the photo).

Early in the session I went around the group and asked them to tell me about their experience of social media.  One man in the group said he had been using Facebook for a little while, but he was thinking of leaving. I asked why? He explained that he had recently met up with his daughter for the first time after a long period of being estranged from her. Following the meeting, his daughter had connected with him on Facebook, and had posted about how happy she was to be back in touch with her father. What followed was that a lot of other people liked that status, and a number commented on it. The group participant did not like this at all. He considered it an invasion of his privacy and suggested that these people should keep their noses out of his business.

My take on this is that those people were just saying “this makes me happy”. I likened it to a “digital smile”. He accepted this, and, indeed, I am pretty sure I was successful in completely changing his attitude to the whole incident.

This illustrates, for me, how we can never take other people’s reactions for granted. Something that we might take as a positive might be taken differently by somebody else. But, it also says something about how people who are not that familiar with new technologies and social media might be put off in the early stages. It highlights for me the challenges and potential benefits of social media for older people. I had a discussion with the whole group following this. One of the issues that came up was that, as people get older, their social circle diminishes, for a variety of reasons, including deaths of friends, and decreased mobility of themselves and others. In this context, social media can seem like a big challenge because it opens them up to a potentially huge range of contacts. That can seem daunting when you are not used to interacting with many people.

We hear a lot about how older people suffer from loneliness, and while I would never claim that online contact is a total substitute for face-to-face meetings, I firmly believe that social media can be a power means of combatting loneliness. We just need to get people to take those first steps.

My interview on BBC Radio 4 “You and Yours” about Free Wifi for Hospitals

On 29th May I appeared on BBC Radio 4’s “You and Yours” programme talking about the need for Free Wifi in Hospitals. The feature is below.

Join the campaign at https://www.facebook.com/groups/hospitalwifi/

Thanks very much to “You and Yours” for raising the profile of this vital issue.