Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Blog matroyshka

At the risk of this getting a bit meta, I thought I would blog about my process of blogging and communication more widely. The reason and inspiration for this post is a request from my manager to talk about Twitter, Google+ communities and blogs at the Organisational Development team meeting. I'm going to present (in some way) this post at the meeting, so I will be communicating to my team about blogs, using a blog as an example, hence blog matroyshka. It made sense in my head anyway!

As a team, we use Twitter and Google+ as part of the way in which we communicate about what we are doing. Due to the low number of followers we have on Twitter, we cannot use this as our sole means of communication, and the Google+ community is supposed to be a place for all University staff to share information on personal and professional development, so it doesn't belong to the Staff Development team. Therefore there are limitations with both of these methods, however they do provide a way for us to share information quickly and informally with people who are interested enough in what we might have to say to follow us on Twitter, or have engaged with development by joining the community.

But using these methods has presented us with challenges. As a team, we share responsibility for tweeting from our account. Something we struggled with was around the 'voice' of our account, and whether this should be consistent.  This was something that was actually quite tricky to achieve, and we asked questions like "what would our voice sound like" or "should we sign each tweet" or "should a person have responsibility for a week". We decided however that we would all have access to the account and tweet when we wanted to.

A challenge with Twitter that I don't think we've resolved yet is tweeting enough. One way to think about Twitter is it's like standing in the centre of Meadowhall and shouting to everyone about what you are going to buy. It sounds embarrassing, and I'm sure you would get funny looks! However, doing it once isn't enough, you need to keep shouting, and shout about different stuff, about what you had for lunch, about how you feel, about what everyone else is buying or eating, asking what other people are thinking of buying, or if they are getting the tram home, and so on. You need to come back day after day, shouting all the time. In Meadowhall, you couldn't keep this up for long without getting kicked out, but let's imagine that people don't come to Meadowhall to shop, they come to listen to people shouting, you need to shout the right things to get people to listen to you. And you're not the only person shouting, there are millions of other people all shouting at the same time, and you're all competing to get people to listen to you and only you, and trying to shout the loudest or the most profound or amusing or interesting or offensive thing.

Except of course, you aren't.

Twitter is a mass of noise, but I don't think that means you have to try and be louder or more overwhelming than the rest of it, you need to try and be a part of it that people will want to listen to. It is up to the listener to tune out what parts of Twitter they don't want to hear by following and unfollowing people. What we need to get better at is being ourselves more, and reflecting who we are as a team in how we tweet, for instance by putting our team photo on there. We also need to tweet more and about things other than just big announcements. In a way we perhaps need to think about how we can be quiet.

I am really pleased with how the Google+ community is developing and growing. Colleagues from around the University are engaging with the content on the community, and contributing items themselves for discussion. This is great because although we set up and moderate the community, it isn't the Staff Development team's community. It would be great if in time the majority of content was generated by community members, and for community members to become moderators. However, I think this will take time, but I don't think this is impossible.

The final communication tool I am going to cover is this blog, although I hesitate to call it a communication tool. This is because I'm not really sure who the audience is. I know one person who reads it, who for all I know may be the only person who reads it, and that's me. There is definitely something solipsistic and self-serving about blogging, but I don't think I can shy away from that. As a reflective exercise, I have found it really useful as a way to think about what I am doing in a new light, and gain insights into why I do things the way I do. I don't write it to share my wisdom with others, because I don't think I have wisdom with which to enlighten others. However, I have done some things, and written about what I learnt, which if other people read and take something from, then great.

I could of course keep a diary, which would help me to reflect on my own experiences, without it being a big public sharing. Sometimes, I also think "Do I need to get my manager, or her manager, or her manager to approve what I'm saying", or worry about what people will think about me if I write about a particular topic (such as I am doing now!). However, something that I have blogged about previously is the idea that development is everywhere, so in some ways this blog is a way to demonstrate that with an actual example of how someone can learn and develop from lots of different experiences that they have. It could also serve as an example of how we can share our experiences with each other. Or I could just be shouting in Meadowhall.