The Twitter Farmers tending their follower flocks

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I started this blog as I wondered if a window into the work I do could be helpful to people in similar roles to me. The blogs I enjoy the most do this and on Twitter, I tend to be more interested in those who share a bit of themselves along with the insight that made me follow them in the first place. These windows into people’s worlds have allowed me to build new, or strengthen existing relationships and have kept me interested in the ‘worthwhileness’ of Twitter.

What is worthwhile is clearly subjective, but I defy anyone not to see value in (or through) the windows that two sheep farmers, one from Wales and one from the Lake District, have opened on their lives. Enter @1GarethWynJones and @herdyshepherd1

If technology is sometimes accused of dehumanising, then these two farmers are humanising something that a lot of us have lost touch with, namely where our food comes from and the daily challenges facing our British farmers. This morning was live tweeting of lambing but I was struck and hooked by the challenges facing both farmers during the winter floods. This and a radio interview with Gareth on Christmas Day which brought some real Christmas cheer.

It really does lend some perspective to all the bleating on (sorry) about train delays and tweeting about how hard we all work that fills up my Twitter stream.

So what does tweeting from the hills of Wales get you? How about a TV show for starters. The BBC’s The Hill Farm, which has just finished its first, and hopefully not last series, took Twitter as a starting point and delivered more Wyn Jones’s, a whole family. It even inspired this lapsed blogger to get off his backside and write something!

So thank you Gareth and Herdwick Shepherd. Thank you for the photos, the stories, the humour and insight and thank you for getting me excited about Twitter again. In the words of the Farmer in Babe, “That’ll do Pig, that’ll do.”

The big Yak – unbelievable unconference

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Yesterday I attended The big Yak, an unconference hosted by @theICcrowd at eBay’s offices in Richmond.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the day and given it was a Saturday, a sacred day to all parents of young children, I was open minded but still slightly guarded.

I guess I’m pretty jaded by corporate events whose agendas are always led by their sponsors – sessions designed to sell under the thin veil of authenticity. But jaded is not how I left The big Yak.

Right from the start this was different. The friendly Yak at the station giving directions set the tone for the day. Nobody was taking themselves too seriously and the conversation was open, friendly and (shock horror) ACTUALLY useful!

The ‘un’ bit of the conference meant we set our own agenda, talking about the things we wanted to talk about and voting with our feet to decide on sessions we attended. Throw in a genuinely friendly networking lunch and plenty of decent coffee and the day was a great success.

And the sponsors were just that, supporting but never the main event.

Theme of the day seemed to be one of confidence, with many of the sessions touching on not just the blurring line between comms and marketing, but IC people having the confidence to stand up and be counted.

But that’s another blog post.

The success was, in no small part, down to @theICcrowd, Rachel Miller (@AllthingsIC), Jenni Wheller (@jenniwheller) and Dana Leeson (@danaleeson) who organised the whole thing.

Following the ladies on Twitter is the reason many of us were there. (The power of Twitter never ceases to amaze me). We were there because of the community they are creating, and the value of that community to us as comms professionals. There’s a lot of noise out there, so when you find something of value in amongst all the mail shots and phone calls, it’s worth investing time into. Even on a Saturday.

So well done to @theICcrowd and all who participated and hopefully we get to do it all again next year.

Spilling the beans – lessons from social media recruitment

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Tomorrow morning I’m attending the latest Social Media Leadership Forum event in Moorgate to talk about social media recruitment at Grant Thornton.

3 years ago our trainee team gave over ownership of the entire recruitment programme to our trainees. The remit? If anyone knew what students wanted from businesses then these guys would.

A few months later (and not wanting to steal Richard Waite and Astrid Brown’s fire tomorrow) and the trainee blog ‘Spilling the beans’ was created which along with a Facebook page and several individual Twitter accounts, has been the foundation of Grant Thornton’s award winning recruitment ever since.

There have been great successes over the years and the team, which constantly changes with new graduate intakes, have become an example to the rest of our business in how they engage across different social media channels.

We used to look at what they were doing and say, well you’d expect that of graduates…wouldn’t you? But now we hold them up as a bold example of how to use social channels openly to have conversations and stimulate debate that gives a unique view into their world and the work they are doing at the firm.

We’re now seeing people in client facing and support roles talking about the firm, its brand and their own expertise through social media channels and as a firm, are creating an openness not usually associated with accountants and auditors.

As the trainees learn about our business, so others learn important lessons from them.

We may not spill every bean from behind the scenes at our firm, but we’ve embraced social media as a way to show our personality, our knowledge and the fact that now is a really good time to be working with us.

“Don’t want to Tweet, don’t want to be a twit.”

The last two days have been split between Grant Thornton’s Leeds and Sheffield offices talking social media, in particular about better use of LinkedIn and Twitter.

And yes, it’s true. Yorkshire really does take credit for the success of Team GB – it was mentioned more than once! 😉

The biggest takeaway from both days was the number of people who claimed to have no interest in social media, particularly LinkedIn and Twitter, (although to be fair, Facebook gets the hardest bashing everywhere I go, yet we still slavishly stick with it) but who turned up for a session to learn all about it. I think we converted a few, but some stalwarts still left resolute.

It genuinely surprised me though. No pressure, no coercion, “it’s not for me but I realise I need to understand it.”

Given we know that there are the early adopters and the stalwart naysayers, is this new breed pointing towards the ‘tipping point’? Is it the stampeding hooves of inevitability that drove them to involving themselves, or curiosity and a growing sense of missing out?

I’m not sure, but from me they got a “well you’re here and that’s enough.” And it is. It truly is.

Socialympics

I’ve been struggling to come up with a blog post that neatly sums up my experience of the Olympics so far and how social media, in particular Twitter, has enhanced my time in front of the TV. (I’m going today so the armchair guilt factor will be significantly reduced)

A post by Euan Semple this morning, ‘The Olympics – building culture one tweet at a time’ sums it up quite nicely so I’m going to defer to Euan and wait until inspiration hits me before I blog again.

I will say that for me and my role at Grant Thornton, the timing couldn’t be better. We have a wave of cautious adopters, taking to the social media world for what may be the first time, (or at least the first time in earnest) and an internal culture that supports them doing so.

The Olympics and the way that the athletes, spectators and commentators are all coming together on Twitter, is more than a public validation of channels which are, in some way, still a minority sport. They are the validation of community and the sense that anything can be achieved if we all come together with a common purpose.

Enjoy the rest of the Games.