social media
October 6, 2023

Social media accounts for your work profile, are they worth it?

By Tony Boobier

Many books have been written on the benefits of Digital Minimalism or regaining your focus, some have prompted leaders to reconsider their use of social media accounts.

The antics of Elon Musk with X (the artist formerly known as Twitter) have also prompted many to reconsider that channel. With all these challenges, I think it worth even data & analytics leaders reconsidering their use of social media.

Many professionals have been told for years the benefit of developing their personal brand via such digital channels. But, is the distraction & effort still worth it? Is there really an ROI here? Guest blogger, Tony Boobier, returns to muse on this topic in his normal reflective style. He is a globally recognised author on the impact of AI to workplaces, most recently including the public sector. Tony has blogged here many times before and in this post he prompts us to think again about our social media usage.

Are your ‘work’ social media accounts worth it?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the benefit of membership of social media sites. Specifically in a business context. Do we ever get out of them what we put into them? Let me explain. 

My starting point was over a decade ago, perhaps nearer two decades. Then my line manager required that I become ‘digitally active’. Furthermore the activity would form part of my annual performance assessment. Digital ‘activity’ comprised a minimum number of blogs, tweets or other online contributions to business-related social media sites per month. A failure to hit what was a required target would adversely impact on my performance-related salary. In a performance managed culture the measurement was, not unsurprisingly, that of quantity not quality.

In fairness, linking digital activity to my pay packet was a reasonable incentive to do something. Content mainly comprised corporate fodder, so the need for me to be imaginative wasn’t too important. I just needed to reflect any other corporate messaging that was topical at the time. 

How I’ve benefited from being more digitally active 

In many ways it provided a personal breakthrough, and ultimately would remove my fear of writing in public. I was already fairly comfortable by then with speaking in public. Online writing was, on reflection, a natural extension. 

I also came to recognise that, unlike the printed word, online publishing and commentary is imminently flexible. It can usually be edited after the event or even withdrawn completely. One can almost be lazy about creating content provided regular contributions kept you or your employer in the public eye. What was there not to like? 

It became easy to be sucked into the worlds of Twitter, LinkedIn and other online sites. Using these sites became a matter of habit and routine, rather than a deliberate choice. I’ve been with some sites now for well over a decade and, to be honest, to date I haven’t given enough thought to why. I’m now beginning to have second thoughts but its better late than never. What value do my contributions really create? Can each view of our profile be converted to some sort of monetary value.

Assessing the benefit & costs – how do you do it?

It’s not difficult to measure the time we spend on these sites, either by way of time contributing to them or by reading other people’s contributions. Sometimes time passes too quickly and you wonder where the minutes or hours have gone. The question is, however, is this time well spent? If you weren’t online, what else could you have been doing with that time?

One other problem of being online in a business context goes beyond that of being a contributor or a voyeur. It’s suggested there is a link between being participation in online business networks and with mental stress in the workplace. As we look at others online, how difficult is it for us not to make personal comparisons in terms of career progression, even if some of the job descriptions have to be taken with a pinch of salt? The fact that access to these sites exist on a 24/7 basis also does nothing for our work-life balance.  

Of course, it’s very flattering that there are people who like to reach out and connect with you online. The ‘number of followers’ metric is an interesting one. Sometimes it feels like when, as a kid, I would collect football cards given free with chewing gum. Isn’t collecting followers much the same, other than you can’t exchange them with your friends?

How has your social media presence boosted your career?

Perhaps we fool ourselves about the extent that business social media sites actually help us in the way that we work. The reality is that, on the whole, aren’t we spoon-fed algorithmically-driven content, job opportunities or friends suggested based on our ‘likes’ and other people who we already have in our network? In some way, isn’t our personal flexibility, innovation and creativity being diminished by these data-driven recommendations?   

Corporate sales pitches are continuously pushed to us on-line but to what extent can people actually influence the behaviour of their followers in a business context? An entire industry of ‘content marketing’ has been created to satisfy a market for online distribution and consumption of information. How can that online influence be accurately measured? It’s arguably easier for larger organisations who can use ‘AB testing’, a process which compares parallel campaigns. That’s less easy at a micro level, for example amongst smaller organisations or even at an individual level. Sometimes the only option is to try something differently, on a trial and error basis, and see what happens, if anything?

And so it was that, 12 months ago, I stopped using Twitter, or X as it is now rebranded. It felt a dramatic decision especially as I wondered what I might miss in terms of news or comment. Might I even be letting my ‘followers’ down in some way?  I wasn’t alone in leaving, as many others seem to have done the same for different reasons. But, to be honest, I don’t think that my business has deteriorated because of this decision. 

Is it time for my Digital Detox?

But I have to ask myself, if I were also to withdraw from another business site, LinkedIn, how much of a difference would that also make? How much news would I miss? Perhaps I might be a little harder to contact, but aren’t there are other ways to do it ? And after all, how many business opportunities truly emerge solely from that particular channel? 

If I withdraw from Twitter and LinkedIn, then what’s next? Is one answer that of becoming a ‘Digital Recluse’ or ‘Digital Hermit’? If I did, would anybody notice? Surely the answer to my ‘network angst’ can’t be to adopt an ‘all or nothing’ approach but rather to adopt a more balanced way forward.

Don’t we just need to be clearer about the real benefit of being online in a business context? If we choose to remain, then we need to ensure that we are realistic about its value relative to any personal contribution we make as part of a wider portfolio of activities. There is no argument for using business networks as a matter of habit and routine without any real purpose and measureable outcome.

How do you respond? Will you join the social media exodus?

Thanks to Tony for those reflections. Even though I have twice in the past gained clients for my business because they found me on Twitter, I too am considering leaving.

What about you? Will you stick with X? Are you reconsidering the value of LinkedIn? It would be great to hear other voices, perhaps even those who’ve developed their careers via Mastadon, Tic Toc etc. Perhaps we can explore the present day consensus on whether or not such digital activity truly helps develop your data career.