As part of coursework for COMM1107 Assessment 01: Online Stakeholder Engagement
According to my professional network on LinkedIn, Skills & Endorsement for social media number 50, well above other areas of professional expertise, such as Marketing/Advertising (38) and Public Relations (33).
This doesn’t mean I am claiming to be an expert and I’m very grateful for each and every endorsement. It was, however, a great place to start when examining my use of social media as part of the RMIT course I’m doing.
I was a fan from the beginning: Facebook was fun and it was a great way to keep in touch and engage with friends and family. Being social, gregarious (as so many communicators are) and a little political, my networks expanded into my communities of activism in such areas as LGBTI rights and health and classical music. As Benkler (2006) puts it, I was networking for ‘psychological well-being and gratification and for social connectedness.’ At one point, my Facebook network reached 3,500+ people.
In using the word ‘network’ and not ‘friends’, I’m starting to get to the heart of my confession and studies. This reflects the sometimes complex journey I’ve been through in terms of merging and dispersing this large group of friends. I’ve transitioned from using my personal social media to extend my professional comms reach to isolating networks for purpose, use and mutual benefit.
Amassing contacts happens as we go through life – think of the number of dinners, awards nights, concerts or bars you’ve attended. We meet people in all different ways and usually in circumstances which are linked to our interests or needs.
Like many communications professionals according research among European communications professionals (Tench, et al (2015)), my personal social media became an important place to see what people thought of emerging issues and also to play with ways to impact people’s perceptions via an emerging digital and participatory media. It was never a clinical study and was genuinely motivated by interest and personal investment in sharing information and caring about the people in my network.
I have observed the destruction of trust and personal reputation when individuals try to compartmentalise personal representation in the social media space.
To do this breaks the fundamental law of good communication – honest, authentic representation. (Freyberg (2013))
My journey of having build a large network of people around my personal interests and preoccupations, when these changed and indeed my professional direction changed, it became evident this group no longer fitted its new purpose. While I was sad to have to sever several thousand connections, it was a necessary part of developing my emerging personal brand (Gehl, R. W. (2011)) and changing strategic direction in the way I used social media.
Here’s where those contacts ended up, I’m using a gradient from top to bottom to represent the use of social media to show how I have divided up these networks personal to professional:
One of the key learnings through all of this, is that anything online is accessible. You might think that your networks are watertight but people are endlessly creative and interesting; that Insta post of you in full cosplay at all night gaming festival might be seen by the cousin of your manager. Yes, it’s happened. I was the manager. Pretty innocuous circumstance.But a private one, nonetheless.
Instead of a focus on restricting content between social media platforms, my management of these networks has been about being transparent, creating links and sharing content between platforms. This has a number of benefits for me, but also for my networks.
Showing links between networks demonstrates an openness and transparency, my personal brand is consistent. Whichever network you are in, my values and essential personality are present, even if the content is directed at a different network. It also lets contacts self-select their network if they feel that there’s a network they belong to within the suite of communications.
Thinking about an area of professional practice, I’m the organist at an inner city church – St. Peter’s Catholic Church Toorak. We have a wonderful historic organ and a diverse choir. In terms of social media, some members have low to medium digital literacy and others use email, participatory and social media with an iPad at home, at the beach, in the country and on the yacht!
How could I apply these learnings to the choir to increase communication, build team connections outside of practice and encourage engagement and active participation. I established a blog (https://danielbracemusicasacra.wordpress.com) but is it really useful to the community I wish to serve?
I think the “confession” and learning for me from the first group of readings is that you, the reader, are an important dyadic link (or more than) to me in one way or another. ( Rowley (1997)) Each of these aspects of my life, be it professional, personal or in the case of music, crossing over to my community, is valued by me.
Benkler, Y. (2006). The wealth of networks: How social production transforms markets and freedom, Yale University Press. Chapter 1. Introduction: A Moment of Opportunity and Challenge
Castells, M (2009). Preface to the 2010 edition of The rise of the network society’ in The rise of the network society, with a new preface. The information age: economy, society, and culture, 2nd edn, Wiley, Hoboken, USA, pp. Xvii-xliv.
Castells, M (2010).The Information Age Economy, Society, and Culture Volume I. The Rise of the Network Society (Second Edition). Wiley, Hoboken, USA, pp. 1-27 ISBN: 978-1-405-19686-4
Freberg, K., & Palenchar, M. J. (2013). Convergence of digital negotiation and risk challenges: Strategic implications of social media for risk and crisis communications. In Social Media and Strategy Communications (pp. 83-100). Palgrave Macmillan UK
Gehl, R. W. (2011). Ladders, samurai, and blue collars: Personal branding in Web 2.0. First Monday, 16(9)
Mueller, M. L. (2010). Do networks govern?, in: Networks and states: The global politics of Internet governance. Mit Press, pp.31-51
Rowley, T. (1997) Moving beyond dyadic ties: A network theory of stakeholder influences. Academy of Management Review 22. 4: 887-910
Tench, R., Morena, A., Navarro, C., & Zerfass, A. (2015). Does social media usage matter? How communicators perceive and practice digital communications. Published online https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/29019023.pdf . European Communication Monitor (European Public Relations Education and Research Association in partnership with the European Association of Communication Directors and the Communication Director Magazine.