About a year ago, I was explaining a new social integration feature in one of BMC’s IT Service Management products to an analyst from a leading industry analyst firm. I happened to think this feature was pretty cool and was quite excited to be sharing it with others – and I’m pretty sure my excitement came across in my voice. As I was finishing the explanation, the person I was in conversation with promptly dismissed my explanation and deflated my excitement with a simple statement – “Erin, That’s not social.” he replied. Yep, I was deflated, disappointed and confused. I’ve been dipping my toes in the social waters for years now and by my definition, it sure was social! To this day, I’m not sure if he was being argumentative or really truly challenging me to think differently, truth be told, it was probably a mixture of both.
Fast forward a year. A few weeks ago, I was attending my teenage nephew’s birthday party where there were lots of teenagers glued to their phones. Of course I had to make a joke about how they were all in the same room but not talking to each other because they were communicating using mobile devices (anyone who has spent time around teenagers lately can relate to this scenario.) One of the kids at the party was quick to explain to me the social communication dynamics of the group when I asked what they were doing. He proceeded to (very patiently) explain me that they were all using Instagram. I of course had to make a comment about my Twitter proficiency (wanting to show my social credibility) and my blogging skills which earned me a roll of the eyes and the following explanation of social communication in 2013 (from the perspective of a 17 year old high school student). He explained, very seriously, Twitter is for adults, Facebook is for college kids and seniors (as in high school seniors) and this group of High School students (minus any seniors) exclusively use Instagram. He then grabbed my phone and in less than 15 seconds had downloaded Instagram and created an account for me, snapped a picture of the birthday boy and I and posted it. Forget Klout scores, in that moment my social credibility soared… with a group of teenagers in high school. Now I’m connected with my nephew in a whole new way and he’s sharing a glimpse into his life I would never get through the occasional catch up over a family dinner. And that makes me one proud aunt!
Two social experiences, a year apart. Two radically different groups of people with very different perspectives on what it means to be social. Turns out neither of them are right or wrong. You see, from where I sit, social is a way of thinking and connecting. It’s not just tweeting or posting, it’s a different way of communicating without boundaries. It’s connecting with your peers, your coworkers, your customers and people you have no relationship with – yet.
In the IT Service Management industry, we’re at this awesome cross-roads. Our customers (the business and those employees) are more dependent on technology than ever and they need us to delivery that technology in a way that empowers them to be successful. And when things go wrong or when they face a barrier they can’t resolve, they’re going to turn to you for help. And their cry for help may not come over the traditional channels your ITSM organizing is used to using. Nope, they’re going to reach out through the social connection technologies that work best for them. There are two epiphanies I’ve had as a result of the conversations I shared above:
- Today social is what your customers want it to be and we have to be flexible and open to communicating and in new and different ways.
- Social isn’t about using one platform or another, the platforms aren’t changing by generation folks, they’re literally changing by age group. What’s not changing, what’s consistent across generations is the desire to connect in new and uncharted ways with technology.
Social technologies tear down the barriers of time, distance, perception and culture (insert other barriers here – this list is long). They super charge us and our ability to connect, enable and empower! Which, in the IT Service Management industry, is what we’re really focused on. Social is a way of thinking, behaving and communicating like we’ve never done before as an industry. It’s unchartered territory which I find to be pretty cool and presents a ton of opportunity. It’s not about supporting one social platform or another, it’s about stretching yourself and your team and connecting with your customers, wherever, whenever and however they need.
In my opinion, there is no right or wrong way to be social. How you incorporate social technologies into your life is completely up to you. Social technologies have empowered me to connect with family, friends, coworkers, customers, industry experts and folks I’ve never (and probably will never) meet in person. The challenge issued by an industry analyst over a year ago and the excitement of a few teenagers who wanted to teach me about Instagram helped me realize social technologies make my life richer, my perspective broader and evolve my thinking.