Sunday, August 08, 2010

I Participated In ProductCamp Austin Summer 2010

I spent the day yesterday at ProductCamp. While this was the fifth ProductCamp in Austin, it was the first one I had ever attended. I am careful not to commit my Saturdays away from home, as I travel during the week in my career as a professional speaker, but many friends encouraged me to participate.

This is an "Un-Conference" in that the speakers are not pre-determined. Over 50 people submitted proposals to speak, but there is no "speaker selection committee". Instead, the attendees show up and vote in the morning for the speakers and topics they want to hear. About 30 were chosen and a schedule was created. Once in a session, people vote with their feet, if they do not like the speaker, they walk out to go to a different room.

I was honored to be selected to present "Your Personal Brand Is Tied To Your Company". The participants in my session and I had a fun, informative and interactive discussion.

The flow of the presentation took its own direction as people asked a lot of questions and shared their thoughts. There was some division in opinions over the good and bad of being too transparent on social media, but I was impressed with the high level of respect that those with differing opinions showed to each other. There were lots of laughs.

While encouraging participants to look closely at the nuggets of information they got from all the speakers they saw at ProductCamp Austin I blurted out "Go home and look at your nuts" (yes, I meant "notes", but sometimes in a high energy presentation the wrong words gets out of a speakers mouth). It was funny, and the participants and I had continued chuckles with that line over and over and over.

One ongoing conversation in the hallway and on Twitter after the presentation was about generational differences in how much they share online. Some people thought I was too "old school" in my views, but I think we agreed more than we disagreed on the topic. The examples used were too superficial, but my point was that while making mistakes is part of life, sharing EVERY mishap could hurt your reputation. I did not mean never share anything, but why give people reasons NOT to hire you in the future.

Example above --- I am cool sharing things like the mistake of saying "nuts" instead of "notes". It was as mistake, but it did not hurt my personal or professional brand (did it?)... and it was really funny to everyone in the room! In fact, some could argue it makes one more human and approachable when you share harmless faux pas.

But there are other things people share on the internet (sex, drugs, politics, crime, dis-respect, hate-speech, etc....) that are hurting their chances at employment, client engagements, and other relationships. Plus if your employees are doing these things it can harm you company's brand. One participant shared that HR Departments conduct searches looking for reasons to eliminate people from contention for jobs over things online that could later embarrass the company.

My message was to think things through. I don't buy into the argument from younger professionals who say "it does not matter" to their generation, as in 20 years these types of things will make no difference to anyone. While society always gets more accepting over time, some things could come back to haunt you later in your career.... thus one should be cautious and careful.

When I was in college 25 years ago there were not cameras and video cameras on every cell phone (here is a shocker... nobody had cell phones!). Thus we were not recording each and every thing we did (THANK GOD). The times are different and the tools we use to communicate are different, but that does not mean people should not think about this topic of personal brand and the long term ramifications!

I think the organizers of Product Camp Austin did a great job. I will certainly attend again. The next ProductCamp in Austin will be January 15, 2011. If you live in Texas, save the date!

Have A Great Day.

thom

3 comments:

Darin Kirschner said...

Good post Thom and nice to hear a little about an event I ALMOST attended. I'll make the next one.

I agree about NOT adopting an "it does not matter" attitude online. While I don't honestly do anything that couldn't be posted about, much of it is everyday and mundane, so why write about it? I find that too many people make postings about nearly anything from how hot their coffee was at breakfast, to where they walked their dog. It's filler. Reading that level of detail fills up people's streams and boarders on being spammy. On the scale of Netiquette issues, its low, but common courtesy is still a bit uncommon.

Of course, you seem more at issue with "should people be posting potentially inflammatory political and religious views and how are they being perceived." I agree equally, to a point. An employer needs to be concerned with your efficacy on the job, not where you stand on issues, unless your job involves those issues. Putting TOO MUCH of yourself out there WILL be taken into account if you post it to the public. Kids who were for "free love and drugs" in the 60's & 70's may have had difficulties finding work in the 80's had their exuberant youth been part of the public record. Between friends however, I think it's healthy for a discussion to turn to opinions about issues of the day. It has been like that over back fences, on front porches and in marketplaces for thousands of years. Social Media is the new century's Agoura. We don't spend just money online, we "spend time" online and "the conversation" is ultimately the most important collateral invested there.

Mike Boudreaux said...

I enjoyed your session. It is a very important topic and I don't think that there are any standard answers. Everyone has to make personal decisions about what level of privacy that they require and how important their personal brand and reputation is to them.

After your session, I was thinking of this as a risk management issue. Risk is a function of probability and consequence (I'm an engineer).

Increased use of social media increases your probability of having an embarrassing moment captured online. It also can have significant benefits to you socially and professionally, which is the reason why social media is becoming so popular. However, your frequency of embarrassing behavior around cameras and in public can have an impact on the likelihood of your mistakes being captured. This can hurt you both socially and professionally, depending on the kind of mistakes that you're making.

The severity of consequence depends on your personal situation - Are you a job seeker or are you in a secure employment position? Are you happy in your current position or are you looking to advance your career to higher levels? Are you on the outside of your organization interacting with customers and suppliers, or are you on the inside and only interact with your team? Are you a public figure with a team of PR people that are dedicated to responding to your gaffs, or are you on your own? Is your situation likely to change in the future?

There are negative consequences, but the severity isn't the same for everyone. If you are using social media extensively, then you are increasing the probability of your mistakes being captured online. The one thing that you have the most control over is how you behave. If your personal risk scenario is higher than your tolerable risk, then the rational response will be to behave more professionally wherever you are. I think that this is the point you were making when you said that the best thing a marketer can do is protect and promote the company's brand 24/7.

The other thing that you have control over is who you connect with and how you connect with them. This is where the privacy control issue is most relevant.

In the end, it is a personal decision and there is risk involved. Each person has to consider the level of risk that they find tolerable vs. the level of risk that they are exposing themselves to on a personal level. It is a challenging problem for many people, because social media can be very complex, the technology is continually changing, and people are too busy to think all of this through. This is why many companies are developing social media policies that help people understand their personal risks and to provide very basic guidelines for people to follow in order to stay out of trouble.

Mike Boudreaux said...

I enjoyed your session. It is a very important topic and I don't think that there are any standard answers. Everyone has to make personal decisions about what level of privacy that they require and how important their personal brand and reputation is to them.

After your session, I was thinking of this as a risk management issue. Risk is a function of probability and consequence (I'm an engineer).

Increased use of social media increases your probability of having an embarrassing moment captured online. It also can have significant benefits to you socially and professionally, which is the reason why social media is becoming so popular. However, your frequency of embarrassing behavior around cameras and in public can have an impact on the likelihood of your mistakes being captured. This can hurt you both socially and professionally, depending on the kind of mistakes that you're making.

The severity of consequence depends on your personal situation - Are you a job seeker or are you in a secure employment position? Are you happy in your current position or are you looking to advance your career to higher levels? Are you on the outside of your organization interacting with customers and suppliers, or are you on the inside and only interact with your team? Are you a public figure with a team of PR people that are dedicated to responding to your gaffs, or are you on your own? Is your situation likely to change in the future?

There are negative consequences, but the severity isn't the same for everyone. If you are using social media extensively, then you are increasing the probability of your mistakes being captured online. The one thing that you have the most control over is how you behave. If your personal risk scenario is higher than your tolerable risk, then the rational response will be to behave more professionally wherever you are. I think that this is the point you were making when you said that the best thing a marketer can do is protect and promote the company's brand 24/7.

The other thing that you have control over is who you connect with and how you connect with them. This is where the privacy control issue is most relevant.

In the end, it is a personal decision and there is risk involved. Each person has to consider the level of risk that they find tolerable vs. the level of risk that they are exposing themselves to on a personal level. It is a challenging problem for many people, because social media can be very complex, the technology is continually changing, and people are too busy to think all of this through. This is why many companies are developing social media policies that help people understand their personal risks and to provide very basic guidelines for people to follow in order to stay out of trouble.