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on 5 August 2012
Social web expert Euan Sample moderated a successful session on social media at our conference in March this year. Copies of his book were available and I helped myself to one, which I've now read.

Yes, I know it's been a couple of months, but as with other business books I started it, got distracted and then returned to finish it more recently.

Like every business book I've read, in truth it's a pamphlet in book's clothing. Despite the fairly radical thinking and approach it preaches, it still follows the publishing nostrum that a book isn't worth publishing unless it's substantial.

And like other business books, it relies on the power of iteration and repetition to drive its point and meet the `weight test'. But that said, it's very well laid out and contains a number of interesting and relevant key messages.

Each chapter opens with a title and a paragraph synopsis and closes with five or six key extracts in a text box. In between lie three to six pages of thoughts and argument.

The stated idea is to give a book which can be picked up and put down - as I did - chapters of which can be read individually `in the time it takes to visit the executive restroom'. It works, and you could probably get a lot of value from it by simply reading the summary text box at each chapter's end, though it would be a pretty dry read!

The big message is that businesses would do well to embrace the social web, whether for simple hard return on investment or because society and workforces are heading in that direction in their own time (witness the rise and rise of Facebook, Twitter and Wikipedia). There's a sense of inevitability about it, in fact.

Specific benefits include productivity through empowerment of the individual, the harnessing of collective wisdom (often from unusual angles). Having established the benefits, there are some really good pointers on the use and implementation of social tools in business.

He draws some interesting conclusions on the changing nature of leadership - `real leaders have followers' - and I particularly liked the notion of `unleashing the Trojan mice'.

It's not all plain sailing. The social web can be a scary place and widespread reputational damage can occur frighteningly rapidly. But Semple uses the well-trodden customer service argument that every problem can be turned into an opportunity and that the way people or companies handle situations can lead to enhanced reputation.

He recognises the challenges for managements which have grown up oblivious to the social web, but argues that it is an unstoppable democratising and empowering force for colleagues and customers alike. He also extends this and argues for complete openness, and cites some good reasons why from his long experience at the sometime Birtian BBC.

He closes with perhaps the most uncomfortable thoughts of the book - that your ideas and views should stand up to scrutiny on the much wider scale that the social web brings, and that to be engaging they should be presented with a passion that is still pretty much forbidden in corporate environments.

It's passionate but never crosses the fine line to become evangelical and hectoring. Well worth a read if you are running any customer-facing organisation.

Bob Wootton is Director of Media & Advertising at ISBA, the Voice of British Advertisers
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on 3 August 2012
Just as you think new horizons are visible, the destination clearer, the Financial Times(FT) publishes surprisingly Luddite responses on the impact of social media. Recent items for example come from writer Tyler Brûlé's unexpected and continued blind spot on social media to legal advice sought in the FT Entrepreneur section seeking to exclude staff's interaction with social media tools at work - fortunately the legal response did advise consultation before implementation of any policy proscription!

By contrast, significant books have been published over recent years which lay down a marker on the use and abuse of new technological connections and the changing face of (global) economic and social relations. For example: Ohmae's The Borderless World on globalisation, Levine et al in The Clue Train Manifesto on the internet, Ahonen & Moore's suggestion that Communities Dominate Brands and most recently The End of Business as Usual by Brian Solis on as he puts it the "consumer (r)evolution.".

The significance of these books is their ability to be both intellectually rigorous (always open to debate, but that is intellectual rigor for you) and bearing the essence of emotional connectivity to the human(e).

It is into to this arena that the delights of Euan Semple's first book arrive. Euan is characterised on the leaf of the hardcopy as a "one-man digital upload". His wealth of experience from his time at the BBC, to consultations with major businesses and organizations around the world, is testimony to the experience that he brings to understanding the impact of social media not only in the work place but in society at large. For, as one of the key elements he portrays, is the fact that the strict demarcation between work and home is being eroded. We as individuals therefore have to take a more considered stance on what "life" "work" balance means to us - individually - not according to HR.

What Euan aims to instil from his narrative is the central focus of the "human" per se and then, within an organization. The "tweet" in the title in not of the essence when you come to read the book - more important is his ability to capture the heartfelt core of the social relations we encounter in the work place and the explanation of the confused and generally unarticulated feelings we bump into - whether our own or others when it comes to managing social tools in the workplace environment.

The 45 chapters, each a few pages long, are aphoristic in style with key points at the end of each chapter as a refresher and for recall of the key arguments. Straight to the nub of the problem the first chapter is entitled: "We all need to grow up"; throwing down the gauntlet to the reader to engage with a new and refreshing mood to be found in the book - i.e. wake up and find your voice. Like any good guide this is a hand holding exercise through the highs and lows of how the new media opportunities have permitted the individual to break free of the social constructs we have lived with in the workplace in the late 20th century.

"Dealing with a Boss who doesn't "Get It" is another example of the author addressing the unasked questions in the workplace. Funny thing is that the boss once spoken to with confidence can actually begin to see their own unasked (& thereby unanswered) questions being brought into consciousness - no bad thing.

For a confidence booster there is the delightful chapter entitled "Unleash your Trojan Mice". The suggestion is that lots of small initiatives made at small to no cost, will gain traction if the environment is right, a matter of having trust and a little faith. The large scale IT projects where you have to convince all and sundry before action is taken are probably dead in the water before you even start to expend your limited emotional energy. Far better to learn what works - "persuade through results rather than convince people in advance and ask for forgiveness rather than permission." writes Semple.

What you conclude from reading this book is how generous Euan Semple has been in relaying his knowledge and experience to aid people in their growth and development, as individuals - as self and as individuals within the latest iteration of the social context. Would you give away all your trade secrets? It would seem Euan Semple has. However in the final chapter he begins to address the reason why. The chapter is a reprint of a blogpost he published on his departure from the BBC in 2006 on love, "the force that makes everything hang together." On a deeper level it is the recognition that the love you give away will only go to replenish your own resources. A fine example then of, "In giving so shall you receive".

It remains to be seen if the fount of knowledge from Euan Semple's desktop will provide a sequel . We can only hope so.
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on 1 May 2014
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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on 15 April 2012
I recommend the book to anyone wanting to take part in social media and to managers who want to know what to do about social media in their department or organisation.

At a high level, the book addresses:

- Why should you as an individual use social media? What is in it for you?
- How to get started; overcoming your fears. There are lots of useful tips to help people start blogging.
- How to convince you boss or organisation that it is something you should be doing. Euan provides lots of good ammunition for people wanting to convince their bosses of the benefits.
- How to tackle any problems that do occur, taking a very practical approach.

The book also set out the wider context - that in reality there is no option but to engage in social media as your competitors already are and your customers expect it. In other words, that traditional "broadcast" marketing is dead and social engagement and conversations are replacing it.

He recommends an incremental approach - start with something small that is achievable and evaluate the results.

The book is structured as 45 short pithy chapters, which makes it an easily digestible read. Perfect for reading on the train. The chapters have 4-6 pages with key point summaries at the end. My favourite chapter titles are "Unleash Your Trojan Mice" and "Don't Feed the Trolls".

There is a significant focus on large organisations as you might expect from Euan Semple's background at the BBC and advising organisations including NATO. Having said that, there is also considerable value for people in smaller companies.
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on 8 June 2012
I won't talk about the contents of the book as others give a great overview elsewhere.

In a nutshell; accessible, thought provoking, valuable.

It's very accessible; every chapter is a bite-sized chunks of wisdom distilled from years spent with corporates de-mystifying social media. Each chapter is focused on a single point or concept and perhaps because of this I found myself taking in three or four at a time. It's very easy to read, with a conversational style rather than an academic one.

I tend to read books front to back, regardless of the kind of book it is - if the author has arranged it in a certain way then that's how it should be read. (I also listen to albums in their entirety, so basically I'm old). However this isn't mandatory - you'll get value out of this book in the future when you think, "grr, my boss doesn't 'get it'" (Chapter 11). This is why this book should have a place in your library; it's a reference manual for challenges that the author has faced and you probably will too.

The book will play well with its target audience; managers seeking to understand. Plenty of managers are either concerned or clueless. This will speak to them or will give you information to help you speak to them, probably in a more accessible package than you'll find elsewhere.

Others don't care. This book will help you explain why they should.

I particularly liked the mentions of social media as being more than just another marketing approach. The author rightly focuses on the impact of social software across the organisation; how people collaborate, problem solve and learn.

Although the author makes clear that this isn't a book about technology, rather a book about what technology enables, towards the end of the book there's a section on the technology that's around today. I think this is pretty useful as there are people out there who won't use some of the tools - and perhaps are afraid to look stupid by asking. So this is a good move. Obviously it'll age quickly given the nature of the subject matter, but the author has split it along sensible lines; the technology used for blogging may change, but the reasons, reach and scope of blogging itself will evolve much more slowly. So it should stay relevant.

Without doubt books on this subject and of this nature stand on the shoulders of giants; the reading list at the back is a "who's who" of modern internet and management thinking. It would keep you in reading for some time and is well worth a look - though it should be said that this book extends these through the author's experience. The way these influences are credited throughout and in the bibliography is more than just good academic practice; the way it's done demonstrates the author's belief that 'sharing makes you stronger' in action - that he is prepared to live his advice.

In summary this is a worthwhile addition to your bookshelf.
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on 13 February 2012
A simple question mark, for me, symbolises the difference between the old way and the new way of managing and working.

The old way is about command and control and hierarchies while the new is about personal responsibility and networks. The old way was predicated on authority (whether deserved or not) and the new way on inspiration.

The question mark I mentioned represents the difference between being closed (do it my way) and open (how do you think we should do this?).

Given a choice, who would you prefer to work for - someone who bosses you or someone who inspires you?

These, and numerous other thoughts, are what Euan Semple's "Guide to the Social Web" triggered. I reckon that if a book shifts your thinking in a significant way, then it's worthwhile. That makes Semple's book extremely worthwhile. It's a book about management thinking much more than a book about the tools available, although they can't be totally avoided. And it's rooted in practicalities, although you may find yourself resisting some of them. I'd say, "keep an open mind until you've read the whole book."

I'm someone who's been actively involved in social web stuff since just before I first met Euan in early 1985 and I've held several management jobs as well as being a writer and a columnist. (Yes, that's partly a disclosure - I interviewed Euan for a magazine article about his experience of introducing social networking tools to BBC employees and we've stayed in touch ever since. I also mention it to show that I have lived through the old way and the new way and have a certain perspective.)

I've always, right until I read this book, been a bit wary of Euan's evangelistic tendencies. But he's drawn his conclusions from the university of hard knocks and tends, when conversation time is short, to be long on conclusions and short on explanations. But this excellent book changes all that. It is a book of profound depth which reveals his innermost thoughts on each of his conclusions and practical suggestions while staying humble enough to acknowledge that other ways may suit certain organisations.

He's convinced, though, that successful organisations will all adopt social tools to a greater or lesser degree. This book is a way to accelerate management's insight and understanding of what the social web means and the potential it holds for transforming the workplace. It is not a black and white book that says, "do this, or you're doomed". Semple knows that companies have their own systems and their own ways of doing things and, indeed, that social web tools can be complementary rather than replacements.

It is a business book, aimed at business managers. And it's written in a way that each short chapter is designed to stand alone and can be read on the train, in the bath or wherever else takes your fancy. This inevitably causes some minor repetition, which you notice if you read it straight through (as I did). And, one chapter left me slightly puzzled about something, but this was the topic of the very next chapter. So I was only puzzled for a few minutes.

Have I got any complaints about the book? Well one, I really don't like the white type on a grey background which is used to introduce each chapter. Anything bigger? Hmmm. I wondered why he didn't mention 'search' very much. Then I realised that he's much more in favour of asking questions and getting recommendations than wading through search hits of variable quality.
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on 28 January 2012
At the heart of Euan's wonderful book is the context for why anyone should take the risk of going public with their lives and their organizations's lives. Euan talks about what you do so that by the doing you can learn to BE a more grown up person or organization. "Growing Up" is a central theme. For most of us - me back in my corporate stage - are so child like. So much "Look at Me!" And the "Me" is not you but what you think it should be.

Euan shows us how you can find the real you again by using social media well. He reminds us that being vulnerable and compassionate in public enables us to "write ourselves into being". So the person who does this reclaims what actually makes us most attractive as a person - that we are who we are - and this does the same for an organization.

This perspective is what is so valuable. Most of the so called Gurus miss this and focus only on the doing. I think that this reveals that they don't really understand. It is only "Look at me" on steroids.

Also most of the so called Gurus also have never achieved anything real in the field other than to collect fees. Euan is the real deal. A true pioneer whose work at the BBC in groundbreaking. This is a book born from the real struggle and the ups and downs of finding out what works or not at a time when all of this was new.

Finally Euan is true to what he asks us to try. His own humanity shines through very page. Like the true master he is, he does not have to shout out. His deep understanding also is revealed in how he has distilled his thoughts. There is a quotable gem in nearly every paragraph. I all but blew up the commenting system with my own favourite moments . [...]

My fave quote - "By changing within we can change what is outside. In fact this is the only way we can change what is outside - despite decades of management theory to the contrary. Blogging can help people to understand themselves and their work better and by doing so help them to change at a profound and fundamental level. Once more people become more self-aware you will be amazed at what starts to happen. Sure there will be an initial period of awkwardness, but over time tensions will reduce, energy will increase, and disputes will be resolved more quickly. In effect we will start to grow up and take responsibility..."

If you seek to find out how you can be more of who you are - this book is for you.
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on 17 June 2013
Whether you are a business owner/manager or just an interested 'employee' this book has a lot to offer you to understand how social media can benefit your business, or not. Understand the reasons why businesses need social media in the same way you need to understand why individuals need and use it, and from this will come an understanding on how your success or failure can come from a single tweet.
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on 22 February 2012
OK, let's get the declaration of interest out of the way. First, I consider myself a technologist and second I have met Euan, just once, a few years ago at an event where he was speaking. My organisation was trying to understand what to do with and about social media and I was fortunate, subsequently, to be involved in the project that put some of Euan's expertise to good use. We did a few of the things he described in this book but we also made lots of mistakes - classics, all of them. I have also worked in and with many organisations also trying to either exploit or banish social media - all of us could have done with this book to guide and challenge our approach.

'Social media' is a phrase that can certainly get most IT professionals going. Challenged as they are to do more with less, embrace the cloud, allow staff to plug in their own devices and have access to work emails on their iPhones. Then some nutter turns up and starts asking for a corporate Facebook site and demanding to use Twitter, blogs and wikis at work!

Euan presents an interesting take on this scenario. IT Departments, often seen and cited as a barrier to social media use at work are a child of the organisations they work for. As God (allegedly) made man in his own image, so did the corporate hierarchy with the IT Department. Euan presents powerful arguments as to why these structures are fundamentally flawed and explores a number of aspects of normal human behaviour. He considers why the workplace of today seeks to suppress these behaviours; getting us to act in a very dysfunctional way. We substitute management speak for natural language and we use process and protocol to eradicate the risk of an emotional response. We labour long over "dust-covered strategies that paint compelling pictures of a world that never happened." Lord knows how many of those I wrote or contributed to over the years!

So this is not a technician's guide to the social web, such a book would probably be out of date before the ink was dry. "Start small, aim high" is the message. Euan talks of cultural change: "a social revolution made easier by technological change"; not of a technological revolution.

So why, as a technologist, should you read this book? Euan has an important message for us:

"The goal of conventional IT has been to manage information in structured ways that reflect the business models of their organizations. The loose, networked, unpredictable environment generated by social tools is a considerable challenge to them. Indeed if there is a single biggest block to making social media happen encountered by my clients in large organizations it is their IT department."

This is a challenge to which the IT industry needs to respond positively. Euan's book is primarily about people, fundamental human behaviour, corporate thinking, the lost art of conversation and revolution. This book is a challenge and an opportunity, to those of us with the chance to help define the kind of work place the next generation will inherit. I for one would like it to be different from the one I have occupied for most of my career. And, if this is all a bit too 'soft skills' for you and too far removed from the bottom line; Euan closes his book with the assertion that `social computing is capable of taking 25 per cent out of the running costs of most businesses.'

So this book will not give you the answers, but it does ask some difficult questions and will hopefully prompt you to do the same. Available as an ebook or conventional hard cover, it is an easy read with - as Euan himself says - each chapter "intended to be just long enough for a visit to the executive rest room". I read the entire book on a smart phone a few chapters at a time (but not in the rest room I hasten to add)!

I highly recommend this book to those who are already in tune with social media for business, those who think they are and of course to the naysayers who think social media has no place in the world of work.
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on 7 June 2012
Short, sweet chapters. Clean, focused advice. To the point, lacking fluff, there's no way you can miss the key messages here. Brilliant.
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