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The Online Social Network Revolution and Why You Should Care

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If you think it's a fad, don't bet your job or your company on it.

 

 If you watched the movie The Social Network, there was a story that was even bigger than the one about Mark Zuckerberg's entrepreneurial success, his jilted partner, his legal problems, and his self-absorbed personality. It was about how the Internet and basic social needs collided head-on and went mainstream. Since the advent of Facebook in 2005, the way humans compete for inclusion and validation in their social circles has been transformed forever.

 

It is no secret that social networking activity has exploded. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are currently the most well-known offerings, and many of the interactions, especially on Facebook and Twitter, are around people trading gossip and sharing family photos, music, jokes, and the like, all as a means of trying to impress their social circle. In professional dimensions, however, the interactions are very different.

 

Think of professional social networks as a million different user groups sharing resources, information, tips, opinions, critiques, and more. Certainly, many computing professionals accessed forums, discussion groups, listserv groups, and chat rooms to share information long before Facebook. But now that social networking has gone mainstream, professional usage has exploded across all industries, and these discussions are increasingly happening within mainstream social networks, not just individual forums.

 

Because of these ubiquitous social networks, discussions on every imaginable topic are happening in ways that didn't happen before. If there is any kind of interest on any topic, you can be sure there are communities of people dedicated to sharing and moderating information on those topics. Because of these widespread and ever-expanding networks, corporations, small businesses, non-profits, and government agencies are learning that people are talking about their niche if not about the entity itself (and even the people within it!). Online communities are exchanging and tracking information, as well as giving advice, references, criticisms, and rebuttals. In every group, there are experts and influencers who have arisen because of their consistent, relevant, and useful input.

Ignore at Your Own Peril

If people are talking about your industry, market niche, and company, doesn't it make sense to be part of that conversation rather than ignore it? Watching and contributing to these conversations can bring about remarkable opportunities for you, your peers, your management, and your organization. Or you can ignore these conversations at your own peril.

 

It's not uncommon to hear people say that they don't want anything to do with social networks. Objections such as it being a vacuous time-waster ("who cares where someone went on vacation!") filled with privacy pitfalls are justified. But like any other new kind of media, it is a matter of how one uses that media; it's not the media itself. Think about the advent of TV, the Internet, and email. Sure TV is full of garbage and questionable content, but enlightening, creative, and highly informative content is easily available. Remember when companies were terrified about making the Internet available to employees? Yes, any kind of objectionable content can be accessed in seconds, but the Web has fueled a commercial and informational revolution; there's barely a company or a professional who could do productive work without it. And of course, we'd be lost without email despite the scourge of spam that has taken it over. As with any media, the usefulness or uselessness of social media (all social networks viewed as a whole make social media) is in how one uses the technology. When used correctly, social media is a remarkably powerful—dare I say it, transformative—communication mechanism.

 

As a means for marketing products and services, social media is turning traditional marketing practices on its head. And social media is transforming entire organizations because, as with marketing, it demands that communities are sought out and engaged, not just shouted at with a megaphone. The days of one-way communications from a central power structure to prospects, customers, vendors, partners, stockholders, and employees are numbered. Because constituencies are increasingly using social media, individuals are demanding that the organizations they are associated with—or are considering doing business with—also use social media. More often than not, organizations and professionals are becoming conspicuous by their absence. Just like the organizations that were slow to understand they needed a Web site and then had to rush to play catch-up, organizations that don't provide regular constituent engagement via social media will soon be seen as laggards. Even worse, constituents may already be wondering what the organization is trying to hide by not participating.

A New Climate of Transparency

Social media enables a multi-way conversation; therefore, it's how people and companies participate in conversations that make the difference. Because social media can't be controlled the same way traditional media can, it means one's responsiveness and listening are put on display for all to see. If the content isn't open and transparent, the participant will likely be marginalized. The good news: it's requiring organizations of all kinds to be more transparent, more communicative, and more responsive. The companies and individuals that participate in the right spirit will thrive because their communities will embrace them and pass the word about the trustworthiness of these kinds of participants. The bad news: those that don't participate in the right spirit will be marginalized by the same word of mouth that lifts the good community citizens.

 

The transparency imperative, of course, is a double-edged sword, so it is possible, and even likely, that negative news will be quickly known and shared by the community. But the difference is in how you respond. If a quick and straightforward response is made with an intention to make things right, the community will generally respond favorably. For instance, if a customer is upset by some action by a company, but the company responds quickly and genuinely endeavors to rectify the problem, the bad publicity can be turned into good. I've heard it said that 10 great product reviews aren't as positive for a company as nine great reviews and one bad review in which it was documented that the disappointing experience was made right.  

Do IBM Midrange Professionals Really Need to Care?

As with any social situation, if you want to stay relevant to your peers, you need to know what's going on. If you isolate yourself, you will soon find that your peers and perhaps the industry are passing you by. You can't just rely on traditional media and even your user group to keep you up to date on trends, skills, and job opportunities.

 

But don't get discouraged. You're already engaging in social networks if you are part of forums or listservs. If you're not, take a look at the list of these and many other System i social network resources at the end of this article. These are your communities. Get to know the players, and where appropriate and relevant, have them get to know you.

 

If you are an active part of your user groups such as COMMON, you know the people who have made a name for themselves by speaking, writing, doing workshops, and being the person with the answers. Think about it: these folks probably have little trouble finding a job when they are looking because they built and continue to nurture their network. You may not be a user group hotshot, but you can quickly find and build a wide network within social media circles by providing useful links to Web sites, articles, white papers, and jobs and chiming in from time to time on topics in which you are knowledgeable. Plus, you'll make yourself more valuable to your boss and your company by staying on top of relevant topics and trends.

A Marketing Transformation

If you work in marketing, engaging social networks can be a significant way of building your brand. But in social media, you don't build a brand by touting your brand. You build it by being a thought leader and information purveyor. Be engaged in the community by providing resources and recommendations. This builds trust and a positive reputation. It's okay to tactfully and occasionally mention that you work for a software, hardware, or services provider, but 99 percent of what you write should be about helping your fellow community citizens. Do this and people will remember you and your company in a very positive light and will recommend the company and its products when the subject arises.

 

Traditional marketing can't replace the value of positive peer recommendations, but participating in social media does not take the place of traditional marketing. When your traditional marketing reinforces that the company's primary purpose is to solve problems for customers, it works in concert with social media efforts. Of course, if excellent products, services, and customer care are missing from your company, no matter how clever the advertising and how helpful the participation in social networks, it won't have the same effect. When the product and service are great and the people in a company (particularly management) are valued citizens who have earned trust in online social networks, the effect on sales can be huge.

IBM Rides the Social Wave

One company in the IT space that understands and embraces the social network revolution is IBM. It is somewhat surprising given their size and relatively conservative culture, although they do develop and sell tools that enable intra-business social networking and collaboration. Nonetheless, IBM appears to practice what they preach by devoting a huge amount of people, software, money, and time to becoming a leading example of how the social networks can work. By actively, openly engaging with customers and partners, the improvements in collaboration and customer retention must be showing up on the bottom line or they wouldn't be investing all the resources they do.  A recent article in the publication Business Insider cataloged the social networking activities conducted by IBM and its employees:

 

  • 17,000 individual blogs
  • 29,000 IBM communities
  • 25,000 IBM employees actively tweeting on Twitter
  • 300,000 IBM employees connected on LinkedIn
  • 198,00 IBM employees on Facebook
  • 1 million daily page views of internal wikis and internal information-storing Web sites
  • 400,000 employee profiles on IBM Connections, IBM's internal social networking initiative that allows employees to share status updates, collaborate on wikis and blogs, and share files.
  • 15,000,000 downloads of employee-generated videos/podcasts

 

Far from a Fad

Social networks, social media, and social business are not fads. If you are not participating, then you are missing out on an extraordinary opportunity to be more informed, to be more successful in your job, and to better find new job opportunities. If your company's marketing department is not participating, then it is missing out on significant opportunities to accelerate positive word-of-mouth buzz. If your company's management is not participating, then it is bypassing a chance to geometrically increase its efforts to get employees communicating and collaborating.

 

Ready to start? It's really not that hard; it just takes small but consistent investments in time and attention—just like you need to make to be successful in other important relationships. Here's a simple formula:

 

  1. Find and monitor your communities. Again, see the list at the end of the article.
  2. Listen. Get to know the players and get to know the tone of the community before chiming in.
  3. Contribute. But only do so where and when it's relevant. Be a good citizen of the communities you follow. Bring something to the table or just be quiet and observant (you can learn a lot!). Build trust and do all you can to nurture and protect your trustworthiness as this is the currency of social networks.

 

A Partial List of System i and Power System Social Networks

 

Blogs

Planet i  

The Buzz

You and i 

AS/400 iSeries 

IMHO - Midrange.com 

idevelop

Angus the IT Chap       

The iSeries Blog  

Young i Professionals  

Mike Pavlak   

Pete's Workshop        

Maxed Out

Product Lines 

Industry Bits 

AIX Blog 

www.stevencpitcher.com 

 

Active Groups on LinkedIn

COMMON A Users Group

AS/400 iSeries Pro

AS/400 Advanced Technical Experts

AS400 specialists

AS400 techies

IBM AS/400 Blog

I5/AS400 Application Development and Support Network

iManifest 

iSeries Contractor

iSeries Professionals

iSeries Specialist

AIX Specialists

 

Twitter Hashtags

#powersystems

#ibmi

 

Forums

MC Press

System i Network

Midrange.com

IBM developerWorks for IBM i

Easy/400 (Yahoo group)

iSeries Support (Yahoo group)

 

as/400, os/400, iseries, system i, i5/os, ibm i, power systems, 6.1, 7.1, V7, V6R1

Bill Rice

Bill Rice is a technology marketer and founder of Humanized Communications, a digital marketing agency. He is a former editor of MC Showcase, is a former marketing communications director for Vision Solutions, and even did a stint as an IT manager for a shop that had an AS/400 model C10 (this just dated him). He can be reached at billr@humanizedcommunications.com.

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    SB PowerTech WC GenericA growing number of compliance mandates require sensitive data to be encrypted. But what kind of encryption solution will satisfy an auditor and how can you implement encryption on IBM i? Watch this on-demand webinar to find out how to meet today’s most common encryption requirements on IBM i. You’ll also learn:

    • Why disk encryption isn’t enough
    • What sets strong encryption apart from other solutions
    • Important considerations before implementing encryption

     

     

  • Security Bulletin: Malware Infection Discovered on IBM i Server!

    SB PowerTech WC GenericMalicious programs can bring entire businesses to their knees—and IBM i shops are not immune. It’s critical to grasp the true impact malware can have on IBM i and the network that connects to it. Attend this webinar to gain a thorough understanding of the relationships between:

    • Viruses, native objects, and the integrated file system (IFS)
    • Power Systems and Windows-based viruses and malware
    • PC-based anti-virus scanning versus native IBM i scanning

    There are a number of ways you can minimize your exposure to viruses. IBM i security expert Sandi Moore explains the facts, including how to ensure you're fully protected and compliant with regulations such as PCI.

     

     

  • Fight Cyber Threats with IBM i Encryption

    SB PowerTech WC GenericCyber attacks often target mission-critical servers, and those attack strategies are constantly changing. To stay on top of these threats, your cybersecurity strategies must evolve, too. In this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

     

     

     

  • 10 Practical IBM i Security Tips for Surviving Covid-19 and Working From Home

    SB PowerTech WC GenericNow that many organizations have moved to a work from home model, security concerns have risen.

    During this session Carol Woodbury will discuss the issues that the world is currently seeing such as increased malware attacks and then provide practical actions you can take to both monitor and protect your IBM i during this challenging time.

     

  • How to Transfer IBM i Data to Microsoft Excel

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_Generic3 easy ways to get IBM i data into Excel every time
    There’s an easy, more reliable way to import your IBM i data to Excel? It’s called Sequel. During this webinar, our data access experts demonstrate how you can simplify the process of getting data from multiple sources—including Db2 for i—into Excel. Watch to learn how to:

    • Download your IBM i data to Excel in a single step
    • Deliver data to business users in Excel via email or a scheduled job
    • Access IBM i data directly using the Excel add-in in Sequel

    Make 2020 the year you finally see your data clearly, quickly, and securely. Start by giving business users the ability to access crucial business data from IBM i the way they want it—in Microsoft Excel.

     

     

  • HA Alternatives: MIMIX Is Not Your Only Option on IBM i

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericIn this recorded webinar, our experts introduce you to the new HA transition technology available with our Robot HA software. You’ll learn how to:

    • Transition your rules from MIMIX (if you’re happy with them)
    • Simplify your day-to-day activities around high availability
    • Gain back time in your work week
    • Make your CEO happy about reducing IT costs

    Don’t stick with a legacy high availability solution that makes you uncomfortable when transitioning to something better can be simple, safe, and cost-effective.

     

     

  • Node Webinar Series Pt. 1: The World of Node.js on IBM i

    SB Profound WC GenericHave you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application.
    Part 1 will teach you what Node.js is, why it's a great option for IBM i shops, and how to take advantage of the ecosystem surrounding Node.
    In addition to background information, our Director of Product Development Scott Klement will demonstrate applications that take advantage of the Node Package Manager (npm).
    Watch Now.

  • The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security

    SB Profound WC Generic The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security
    Here’s the harsh reality: cybersecurity pros have to get their jobs right every single day, while an attacker only has to succeed once to do incredible damage.
    Whether that’s thousands of exposed records, millions of dollars in fines and legal fees, or diminished share value, it’s easy to judge organizations that fall victim. IBM i enjoys an enviable reputation for security, but no system is impervious to mistakes.
    Join this webinar to learn about the biggest errors made when securing a Power Systems server.
    This knowledge is critical for ensuring integrity of your application data and preventing you from becoming the next Equifax. It’s also essential for complying with all formal regulations, including SOX, PCI, GDPR, and HIPAA
    Watch Now.

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  • Backup and Recovery on IBM i: Your Strategy for the Unexpected

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates the routine tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:
    - Simplified backup procedures
    - Easy data encryption
    - Save media management
    - Guided restoration
    - Seamless product integration
    Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Try the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Manage IBM i Messages by Exception with Robot

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Managing messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events?
    Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated message management
    - Tailored notifications and automatic escalation
    - System-wide control of your IBM i partitions
    - Two-way system notifications from your mobile device
    - Seamless product integration
    Try the Robot Message Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Easiest Way to Save Money? Stop Printing IBM i Reports

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing.
    Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

    - Automated report distribution
    - View online without delay
    - Browser interface to make notes
    - Custom retention capabilities
    - Seamless product integration
    Rerun another report? Never again. Try the Robot Report Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Hassle-Free IBM i Operations around the Clock

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413For over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i.
    Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated batch, interactive, and cross-platform scheduling
    - Event-driven dependency processing
    - Centralized monitoring and reporting
    - Audit log and ready-to-use reports
    - Seamless product integration
    Scale your software, not your staff. Try the Robot Job Scheduling Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • ACO MONITOR Manages your IBM i 24/7 and Notifies You When Your IBM i Needs Assistance!

    SB DDL Systems 5429More than a paging system - ACO MONITOR is a complete systems management solution for your Power Systems running IBM i. ACO MONITOR manages your Power System 24/7, uses advanced technology (like two-way messaging) to notify on-duty support personnel, and responds to complex problems before they reach critical status.

    ACO MONITOR is proven technology and is capable of processing thousands of mission-critical events daily. The software is pre-configured, easy to install, scalable, and greatly improves data center efficiency.