Book Review: “Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do”

Organizations Don't Tweet, People Do: A Manager's Guide to the Social WebYou may think this a strange choice for a Learning Technologist to review – “Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do: A Manager’s Guide to the Social Web” by Euan Semple – but I’m reading this more out of my interest in Social Media and how we use it in our everyday (personal and professional) lives, rather than my interest in management styles or business process. That is to say, however, that these don’t interest my as well, it’s just my main focus is in our use and abuse of social media, whether it’s deliberate or accidental (or just plain ignorance).

I can’t remember now how I came to hear about this book now; it could have been the Amazon digest email recommending it based on other books I’ve bought or browsed, or it could have been someone on Twitter, but the blurb resonated with me on a level of my own use of social media. The book aims to provide:

“managers in all sorts of organizations, from governments to multinationals, with practical advice, insight and inspiration on how the Web and social tools can help them to do their jobs better … this uniquely people-centric guide to social media in the workplace offers managers, at all levels, valuable insights into the networked world as it applies to their challenges as managers, and it outlines practical things they can do to make social media integral to the tone and tenor of their departments or organizational cultures.”

In the book you can easily change the business-orientated wording and terminology to an academic and/or student orientation and the book is still relevant and informative: just how do we use social media, how can a single employee or students ‘like’ or tweet impact the organisation, school, or institution? 

The book centres itself around the need to collaborate and engage with colleagues in different media (blogs, networks, wikis, etc.) to further empower the working process or the workforce. Rather than look at individual tools Semple looks at the techniques of working together and of openly sharing or discussing a need or problem to achieve the common goal: project-based, time-based, team-based, cost-based, etc. Semple is also very clear that the changes in business that he sees are not as a result of the use of social media but that social media has fulfilled a role that was needed, but not present, until now:

“This isn’t a technological revolution followed by social change, but a social revolution made easier by technological change.”

With chapters called “volume control on mob rule”, “your staff are your best advocates”, and “the more you give the more you get” it is clear that Semple has a deep understanding of trends and impact of social media and, more importantly, how the ‘individual’ can have a benign or malevolent impact on the wider community.

Need some examples where employees, or those in authority, get it wrong? How about:

  • October 2011: Chris Huhne, former Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary, sent a public tweet when he thought it would be private. Read more on the BBC News website.
  • January 2013: Employees use HMV’s official twitter account to live-tweet during a meeting where they find out they’re being fired en-masse. Read more on The Independent website.
  • April 2013: Paris Brown’s previous ‘abusive’ tweets landed her in trouble after she was appointed as the UK’s first Youth Police and Crime Commissioner. Read more on the BBC News or The Guardian websites.

The bigger questions being raised in certain circles are, thankfully, more about how do we educate children/students (adults need it too!) to use social media properly and/or appropriately before they come unstuck and do, post, or say something they will later regret, possibly even find themselves being investigated for. Perhaps this kind of knowledge and training will help stop unnecessary trolling? Joshua Unsworth killed himself because of the taunting and cyber-bullying antics of a small minority, a sad waste of life that should not have been taken, and should have been prevented. We know that bullying doesn’t stop when you leave school, that managers and employers are equally capable of bullying … why do we never hear about these stories in the press? Is it so rare it never gets reported, or so prevalent that it’s no longer newsworthy?

Is it something more basic than just educating us on the repercussion of negative activity online, or is this saying more about our evolving human nature in an online world where there is little policing or justice for aggressive negativity?