Talk on my 8 lessons in Social Media to Cambridge University Executive MBA Students 1st July 2011

On Friday 1st July in the evening, thanks to a fellow NACUE Board Advisor, Alan Barrell, Thomas and I were privileged to be invited to do a 20-minute talk to 50 European Students doing an Executive MBA at Cambridge University under the guidance of Dr.Simon Learmount. The Executive MBA is a 20 months MBA provided to mature students who come to Cambridge for 2 days a month for a Judge Business School program. During the morning of this particular day they had taken one of their 3- hour exams.


Following my talk I committed to writing up my thoughts and what I shared, so it can be reviewed. I have done in this in honour of the Ecademy Community that I salute and the Executive MBA students and team.


On arrival Thomas and I were met by the ‘team’ and stood among the awesome buildings at St. John’s College, on the lawn under a marquee, with opening drinks. This was the start of a very special evening in deed. Quite extraordinary for Thomas and I.


The hall for dinner was stunning, 3 long tables and silver service dinner. I sat among senior executives from an incredible array of businesses and business minds; the conversation was casual and friendly, a great deal of interest was shown about my pending talk, Thomas inspired the conversations with his use of social media technology.


While coffee was being served the hammer was heard and I was introduced. Looking out to some of the brightest minds in Europe, I questioned how on earth I had got here. I reflected on a conversation with my beautiful daughter Hannah when she was 11, who had just achieved a scholarship to her next school and asked me ‘where did I get my brains from?’. I have always been uncomfortable about my own academic achievements, I make no bones about this, and now I am standing in front of this group and being asked to inspire and share my knowledge – I gained my confidence by starting with a well known phrase of Thomas’ that he had passed to me about 4 years ago, first told to him by Roger Hamilton in 2005 “to know and not to do is not YET to know’. This statement fills me with the utmost confidence when I am talking about social media and social networking as I sit with Thomas in a fairly unique position in this Industry having built a social network over the last 13 years, no one can question or argue what we know, as we have done it. I don’t state that as arrogance, far from it, the lessons of errors are as valuable to our clients and audiences as the lessons of success.


In front of me was my iphone with the stopwatch showing me that 4 minutes had past and I had 16 minutes left to share my 8 lessons. I invited people to question my beliefs and thoughts at the end and also to regard some of my lessons as deliberately controversial – I am an idealist and I see the world from a humanitarian perspective, “driven to make the world a better place through the ethical connections of business people all working as one to bring an ecosystem of businesses that grow and thrive together as friends”.


I explained that Ecademy is the most amazing experience for Thomas and I, what we witness from the shared values within inspire us daily. I also explained that we are concerned by the lack of desire and motivation for leaders of businesses to embrace the ‘social’ revolution that is taking place – ‘going social’ is not an easy journey for CEO’s and I remembered the 1980’s when I saw companies wall donned in posted that stated ‘Customer is King!’ with a large Lion’s head the reality was that customers were only ‘King’ inside the Customer Service Department, CEOs’ were fooling themselves as around the rest of the company departments were annoyed and frustrated by the workload that customers placed on them! This gave birth to the Industry of Customer Service Consultants, CRM and the world we live in now where we all now that the customer truly is King.


We are back in that same situation now where ‘going social’ is the domain of a department (at best). The Marketing Department are managing social media and looking for ROI, seeking the measurements and returns so they can report successes to their senior managers, who place them under pressure in a belief that this is not ‘real business practice’. For this reason businesses are manipulating the promise of the Internet, the world I believe in, where we are connected through Intention and Values, not though a Balance Sheet.


So now I will share the eight messages, with 12 minutes left on the Stop watch


1. People are not stupid!


You cannot manipulate this new world, people either believe in what you believe in and the contribution you are making to them and their lives or they don’t. Buying ‘LIKES’ or buying bulk loads of ‘Followers’ does not mean you are successful online. It means you are fooling yourself and your company into a false sense of success. Agencies are manipulating the social world for their campaigns and your money. If you want followers share your Values, have Ethics, understand your contribution to the world and live your business life driven by Intention not transaction.


2. Understand the language and culture of the online Social world.


This is a mindset shift, not a technical revolution. The social world has a different philosophy to the old business way of communicating. It is Open, Random and Supportive© (ORS). Businesses have always been Closed, Selective and Controlling (CSC) and changing your mindset is the toughest part of the journey and one that needs to happen first before the technology is put in place.


3. Social Capital is an Asset.


Little understood as a concept but widely created by many successful people is the asset of achieving Social Capital. Achieving your goals through the people you know. Sitting along side Human and Financial Assets, Social Capital must be a subject that is taught in schools and businesses to help people build their reputations, their networks, their personal brands and their futures. Social Capital cannot be bought, it cannot be manipulated, it is a direct result of your values and your attitudes to others. ORS behaviour helps you to achieve Social Capital and it reflects the humanity that exists or doesn’t exist within networks.


When a network encourages the growth of social capital through its values of reciprocity it will become a community. It no longer exists as a utility that can be picked up and put down as a tool.


4. Create Corporate Shared Values.


Shared by Michael Potter in his Harvard Business Report this is a significant change to the processes of Corporate Social Responsibility. CSR has become a task a line in the P&L, something that can fool the company into believing they care and allow the fabric of the business to delegate once more to ‘that department’. Corporate Shared Values run throughout the organisation from recruitment, social media and into the treatment of its stakeholders. It gives purpose and intention to the actions and drives change that can be witnessed and enjoyed by the communities that they influence throughout the world.


The opportunity for this to become highly achieved exists though social engagement on the ‘followers’ terms with their needs in mind. This is about real time, true engagement, not automated tweets and delegated Blog writing.


6. Ethics.


One of my biggest concerns is the commitment to knowing your own values and that of your companies. The transparency and openness of the online world will not be controlled and removed. My excitement about the ‘connected world’ is that those that are good will feed themselves and their families, those that are bad will be shunned and not spoken about online. We are in an Attention war and we need people to believe in us, our companies and our values to gain that attention. I am an idealist, I will leave and breathe this goal until the day I die, therefore I beseech everyone to stop using the Internet as a weapon against others, as a way to complain, argue or show frustration and anger, instead use it for the positive creation of world wide wealth.


7. Free is not free to the Economy.


Free comes at a huge cost. Over the last 9 years since we observed social networks coming into the market and offering ‘free’ to use we have been curious, as many of you have, about their business plans and desire to make a service available for free. I am all for the free sharing of knowledge but I believe that communities and business services should be charged. This is controversial and perhaps may be skewed by our own stresses of funding a business that relies on contribution from the community by way of a subscription payment. But let’s examine the economy as it is now. During a time of rapid growth of a new massive, global, industry, we have mass unemployment and failing businesses. We could all argue that people and companies are not adapting fast enough to the shifts, and that is also true, but what about the expectation of free. Free entertainment, free networking, free applications. Do we apply as much thought and commitment to things we have for free, the answer is no. A purchase takes consideration and means a commitment. Our observation is that Ecademy has a strong community of contributing individuals as they have made a considered purchase and commitment.


We, on Ecademy, are like a distilled network of highly engaged and collaborative people, who not only can trust the authenticity of the fellow members due to their obvious credit card payment, but also because they too have made a financial commitment to get an ROI.


This leads me onto my last thought for tonight….


8. Unemployed Youths – NEETs.


We sit as a Nation and as a world of businesses with a massive, increasing problem in youth unemployment, one million under 24’s in the UK alone are unemployed. We have an ageing population with an increasing chance of living to over 100 for many of us. The Youths have one thing in common; they are born digital and have grown up building their online social networks and utilizing digital tools. They are nomadic, they live in the ‘cloud’ and they will be the innovators of tomorrow. They can save businesses, yet they are not being embraced into business.


I have a strong passion and belief in this generation and the good they will do for us all. For this reason I am working on a program to create a path to employment within Small Businesses, helping them to gain experience, self esteem and a future, in turn utilizing their resource to help small businesses to set-up, implement and learn how to have a digital mindset, innovating their company and bringing the vast number of small businesses that are not adapting into the 21st Century.


Finally, I ask that you read the following and support the manifesto for Digital Business Britain



Thank you to my hosts:


Dr.Simon Learmount


Professor Michael Barrett


Joanne Bester


Angela Aristidou




and Alan Barrell for introducing and recommending me.


…this truly was a remarkable night for Thomas and I.