According to a recent report, ten million people in the UK are active users of Twitter.
That is remarkable, particularly when you still get people questioning the value of social media - suggesting its a hobby or fad, and others who say they will never be convinced that social media itself is a valuable tool.
These criticisms and scepticism are never passive comments. They are always filled with a sense of superiority, a sense that those that engage in social media are wasting their time - and the time of others. Why is this? What don’t they get? Indeed, what’s not to get? Then it occurred to me that many of the naysayers misunderstand the value of Twitter. They are looking at it through a different lens, in fact the opposite direction of those reading this blog.
Maybe it just happens to me but whenever Twitter or use of social media in the workplace comes up in a conversation with a friend or colleague they always, and I mean always, say the same thing: ‘Why would anyone be interested in what I’m doing or thinking’. They believe they have nothing to say, that they have ordinary and relatively uninteresting lives (like most of us!)
But I think they miss the point. To me, the greatest benefit by far I get from Twitter and other forms of social media is listening to others rather than broadcasting. I want people to engage with me and to understand what we, as an employers’ organisation, do and what we stand for, sure, but I use social media as the most effective tool we have to get news, views, emotions, concerns, opportunities, disappointments, celebrations, anxieties, and pressures.
I do a lot of face to face networking but nothing is quite so rich and quite so timely as that which I get from social media.
On Twitter I follow managers and leaders, nurses and therapists, doctors and academics, think tanks and bloggers. People of all different political persuasions and views and a range of organisations that make up the NHS including trusts, commissioning bodies, FTs, mental healthtrusts, community trusts and ambulance services. These shape my opinions, my views and my understanding. They are brilliant resource investigators, analysing, digesting and sharing information.
Twitter doesn’t take any of my time, it saves my time, in bucket loads. I feel that I am more informed and in touch than I could ever be without it. That has to be good for decision making doesn’t it?
A few years ago, if a meeting adjourned for lunch or a break and directors and chief executives got out their Blackberries, there were a few who would see this as an indication of a lack of strategic insight. The appearance of the Blackberry was seen as operational, a tool to deal with the urgent rather than the important.
The key skill of a leader must surely be the ability to actively listen - to staff, stakeholders the public and service users? So can I suggest that you start being worried if you notice that people are not getting their Blackberries and iPhones out. Then they are not listening enough.
Dean Royles, director, NHS Employers