Online social networks are changing how businesses and their leaders communicate and leverage their most valuable asset: their relationships.
In this series of articles, entitled New Rules of Engagement, I profile a business leader that I have observed to be using social networks actively and effectively in their leadership role.
This week, I talk with Bill Sullivan, Head of Global Financial Services Intelligence for Capgemini.
Jay Palter (JP): Why do you invest your limited time to engage in social networks?
Bill Sullivan (BS): Relatively speaking, I am a newbie when it comes to social media networking at a professional level. I had been on LinkedIn for many years, but really only to stay in touch with old colleagues and clients. I joined Facebook about 6 years ago, but that was largely to stay in touch with friends and family when we moved abroad to India for three years with my wife and daughters in 2009.
I have to give credit to my company for providing the initial spark to get on Twitter. Capgemini started an innovative program called “Expert Connect” with the objective of creating a bank of experts to drive business influence via thought leadership and expert advice. The program was based on the amplification power of Social Media, leveraging the individual network of key influencers for business and branding purposes.
As part of the program, in addition to my LinkedIn account, I had to either add a Twitter account or a Blog (two separate social media profiles were required to participate in the program). That’s how I got started. I opened my Twitter account less than two years ago in 2013. For the first 6-9 months, I did very little with the account as I didn’t see the immediate value.
It took some time, but I finally found the style and approach that best fit me personally, and was able to achieve some tangible benefits. In my current role as Global Head of Market Intelligence for Capgemini Financial Services, I’m responsible for the full portfolio of Capgemini’s financial services thought leadership, as well as overseeing all of our financial services-related strategic research and analysis that is used both internally to support our Capgemini financial services business leaders (global trends, market analysis, competitor intelligence, account intelligence, etc) and to support our client engagements.
I manage all of my personal social media activity on my own, although I leverage some content recommendations from my Capgemini Social Media partner. There are three core drivers that motivate my engagement in social networking.
- It is incredible how valuable Twitter and LinkedIn can be (if you are looking in the right places) to find the latest on industry trends, announcements, expert opinions, news, and thought leadership. This probably represents the bulk of my efforts in social networking, both in terms of gathering information for my own use, as well as sharing content with my network (and my team). When engaging in social networks, it is critical to spend as much (if not more) efforts sharing and providing value as you do in promoting your own self interests.
- A second objective is promoting my own and my team’s original content, as well as building our overall Capgemini brand. I believe Capgemini produces some of the industry leading, global thought leadership in the Financial Services sector with publications like our World Wealth Report, World Payments Report, World Retail Banking Report, World Insurance Report, and other smaller white papers and points of view. The combination of leveraging our deep domain expertise from our global financial services experts, our senior executive contacts/clients at the largest financial institutions across the Americas, Europe, and APAC, and our extensive proprietary primary research customer surveys result in thought leadership that is highly valued by our clients. My social networking engagement has provided a great channel to promote that work and Capgemini’s capabilities to existing and potential clients, tier 1 media, trade publications, and industry influencers.
- Last, but not least, is the actual social networking. I have had a great opportunity to engage with a wide range of social financial services influencers and industry experts through Twitter. It has provided a great two-way street in terms of expanding my network which I can lean on for input, while also providing me a chance to share valuable insights and perspectives.
JP: What social networks or tools do you consider essential and why?
BS: Over the last 12 months, Twitter has been my core social media network. I feel Twitter provides a fluid, social element to social networking. I have slowly been increasing my use of LinkedIn, especially as the content publishing mechanism has really advanced. The LinkedIn groups can also be really valuable in two-way sharing of information, but I haven’t fully leveraged it to-date.
I primarily use three basic tools. The first tool is Twitter Lists for “listening”. If you have really strong lists set up, you’ll have a robust, continuous stream of valuable content covering a wide range of trends, stats, news, and some heated debates on burning issues. Second, in terms of sharing content or following live events, the use of hashtags is also really valuable. We use custom hashtags for each of our major thought leadership launches, as well as key sponsored events. Lastly, the tool I use the most is the Buffer widget (on Chrome, my iPad, and my phone). Buffer has been a great time saver in scheduling my own content and for spreading out my sharing of content throughout the day.
JP: What techniques or habits have you developed to make time in your busy schedule for social?
BS: I find the key to successful social networking is not dissimilar to other personal or work activities. You need to dedicate time and prioritize efforts to the point where it becomes a habit. However, as with any activity, the more you do it the more efficient you become. I typically try to carve out 3 slots during the day for social media. I start every day over my first cup (or two) of coffee for about 30 minutes going through the feed of my go-to Twitter list, Buffering interesting articles, scheduling any original content I had planned for the day, reviewing all the notifications that came in overnight, and responding to different contacts. I also take a look at LinkedIn for recent posts/stories from my network. Lastly, I also try to tweet a thank you to individuals for their recent engagement (RTs, Mentions, etc). I’ll typically find another 30 minutes over lunch to run through the same process and another block in the evening once my daughters have gone to bed. When I’m traveling, I spend a lot of my free time in airports, cabs, and downtime in hotels scanning for any interesting articles and dialogues. Overall, I probably only spend 60-90 minutes a day. However, I see that time as really well spent not only for the sharing and promoting, but it’s really the equivalent of me reading the local paper that is essentially personally customized for my own professional and personal interests. The value I get back from the time invested is well worth it.
JP: What specific benefits would you attribute to your social networking activities?
BS: The benefits I can attribute to my social networking activities fall along the 3 objectives for why I participate.
- To Gain Knowledge – My team spends a lot of money on external research. Yet, I find much of the secondary research we have used over the past year has come through contacts I follow on my Twitter lists. My social media activity has really helped keep me abreast of the latest trends, news, and events in the industry.
- Promote My Own Thought Leadership – Over the past year, we have seen a huge uptick in Tier 1 media, trade publications, and industry bloggers covering our thought leadership findings or using data from our reports. We have seen a multiplier effect from our strategic use of social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, and Slideshare) for every thought leadership rollout and global campaign.
- Professional Networking – I have built some great virtual relationships over the past year. And through those networks, I have had a great opportunity to be invited to speak at industry events, join industry panels at conferences, serve as a judge for well known global industry awards, and much more.
JP: What’s one piece of advice that you have for your peers about social networking?
BS: Don’t forget the “social” part of social networking. One of the biggest mistakes individuals and firms make when stepping into social networking professionally is they think it’s all about them. They see it as just another one-way channel to promote their own business, or brand, or thought leadership. It’s true, if done effectively, you can absolutely do all of those things. However, that can’t be the only goal/approach. That isn’t how social networking works. Social networking is about building relationships. It’s about having others see the value that you provide to your network. It takes time and consistency to build that value, trust, and brand.
When I first met Bill (online, of course) and spoke to him about his social networking activities, I was very interested in the internal Capgemini thought leadership program referred to above. Individual social networking and positive results in the field requires leadership and support for those activities at the corporate level.
I also think that Bill’s integration of his social networking activities into his work-day is a key factor in his success. His 30-30-30 rule of 30 minutes in the morning, 30 minutes over lunch and 30 minutes in the evening is instructive for many business executives trying to incorporate social into their routines.
Finally, don’t forget to be social in your social networking. After all, as Bill points out, it’s not just about promoting yourself but also the value you offer to your network.
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