Building an online reputation

Following our banter on the CW500 LinkedIn group around use of social media in the CIO community and my previous post on the topic, I heard some interesting views from IT leaders in relation to building an online reputation.

Some senior IT professionals say they “wander around” LinkedIn, but don’t want to be seen tweeting, because it makes them “look like a twat”. When asked whether they were connected to their business associates on Facebook, the majority of the managers I spoken to said they didn’t. Responses vary from “I want to maintain the work-life balance” to “who would be interested in seeing my fishing photos?”

Many CIOs treat face-to-face networking with caution, but the criteria they use in order to decide which events they should attend is changing. Yesterday, I met a leading IT chief who said:

“Because the individuals who normally attend these events are often horrendously boring, I rarely ever make the effort to come along. Maybe if people [speakers or delegates] had some sort of interesting social media footprint that I could research ahead of the event, I could possibly change my mind.”

Now, if we look at the (non-existent) online activity of most CIOs, you can’t help but wonder why they are not using their highly-paid time to share some unique opinion and insight. Or why they continue to compartmentalise online activity – Facebook is for the pub mates and LinkedIn is for work colleagues and business connections – people inside and outside your department want to know what else you are interested in, apart from service-oriented architecture!

If every IT chief was totally aligned with the new paradigm, wouldn’t it be a lot more interesting and productive if you could read your peers’ views online, or even interacted with them online previously, so that when you have an opportunity to meet them face-to-face, you don’t need to resort to loitering around the drinks table or break the ice by talking about the weather?

And the beauty of it is that pretty simple tools such as RSS feeds or Twitter lists can help you get up to speed with what your peers across the world are thinking, even if you don’t get to meet them in person. And that works the other way round too. Considering that we are all competing for jobs globally, building your reputation online is hugely important. 

CIO Connect editor Mark Samuels recently tweeted: “Did the first people to use the phone spend all their time saying how great it is? Because that’s what happens with social media.” Good point, we all understand the benefits. So isn’t it surprising that many CIOs just can’t get on with it and start using social media tools for their own development and self-promotion, even if it is difficult to use them as part of their IT strategy?

By the way, the speaker of our next CW500 meeting on 16 June is James Gardner, chief technology officer at the Department for Work and Pensions. If you are coming along, I suggest you read his blog beforehand to get a feel of his views around innovation and while you’re at it, check his blog entry on how to find out you’re with smart people – I couldn’t agree more.