Pat Lucey, CEO and Co-founder of tech and consultancy firm Aspira, takes us through the meaning of operating a personal social media account while running a business.
As a child, I was always into the latest technologies – I build a shortwave radio set and had a computer before most (a ZX-81, less powerful now than a free calculator). In college, I was a prolific email user when most people didn’t know what it was. As an adult, I had a mobile phone when there were no other mobiles to call and I was telling people about this new search engine called Google. Then, something happened. Social Media became the new ‘thing’. But I just didn’t see the point. I dismissed Facebook and Twitter as a fad that people would grow weary of. I was wrong.
Fast forward to 2017. As CEO of Aspira, the IT and consulting firm, I am told that we should use social media to increase brand awareness, so we send out various tweets on different topics related to the business. But I don’t really engage myself – I still don’t get it, and I’m cautious of worlds colliding – work colleagues, family, customers, all on the same platform.
During the Christmas break, over a discussion about New Year’s resolutions – I agreed to my kids’ challenge to send out a tweet every day for January (negotiated down from a year). These tweets were to come from my personal account, and NOT be work related. They could be about anything. So I opened up my Twitter account, which had an average of 3 tweets sent each year, and my Twitter challenge began.
I spent New Year’s Eve in Annascaul, Co. Kerry, and took part in the traditional march behind a group of men carry flaming sods of turf, to the strains of a pipe band. One tweet done – 171 views. Next day, I tweeted a pic of a frozen waterfall (courtesy of a visit to Canada last year) – 291 views. Hey, this was going well!
I started to experiment with tweeting at different times. Evening/nighttime seemed to be the best, but the single most important thing to gain views was to link the tweet to a trending topic. In my role as President of the Ireland Chapter PMI, we have been involved with the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition – helping train teachers on project management (PM) techniques so that they can in turn teach the students how to manage their project better. I tweeted about this during The Late Late Show, which was featuring the winners from the competition – within an hour, I had almost 1,000 views.
Mostly, my tweets were whimsical and random – why do McDonald’s fries lose their heat so quickly? What kind of emoji do you use most often? How to take a phone call in the shower? And then came my mainstream media breakthrough! After driving home from our Dublin office, my wife was watching the car-crash interview of Ruby Wax on the Tommy Tiernan Show. I tweeted a pic of a cat cringing, that summarised my reaction to the interview. It quickly moved to be the Top Tweet on a subject that is trending in Ireland for about 24 hours. The next day, there was a national newspaper article about the show, and yes, my cringing cat is the top tweet featured. With my name and thumbnail pic.
So now I’m back in my worlds-colliding mode – do I really want to be associated with cat pics and car-crash TV interviews? And as a businessman – should I use Twitter? I’m not sure. If you are in the business of building up followers then it’s a bit like a dog chasing butterflies – you have to be able to spot the next trending topic and jump on it.
While there is some definite value in showing personality, and personalising the people behind the brand, I had no long-term focus (in fact, there wasn’t even a short-term focus – just a momentary focus). I don’t think my non-work-related tweets will be of any help long-term to our business – in fact, they could cause harm, if my attempts at humour were to come across as racist/sexist/whatever-ist.
The upshot is that business owners do not have the luxury of maintaining public social media profiles, that are solely for personal use, without careful curation. As the face of the business, what you do and say online, will have an impact on the public perception of your organisation, just as in the offline world.
So now that January’s over, I’m back to a handful of tweets that don’t jar with Aspira’s online presence. I get Twitter now – but I’ll leave the cat pics to someone else.
Pat Lucey is CEO and Co-founder of Aspira, a consulting and enterprise IT services company.
He was recently elected President of the Ireland Chapter of the Project Management Institute (PMI) and is a recognised thought leader in project management and entrepreneurship.
With more than 20 years’ experience in managing large-scale product development, he has also provided project management consultancy internationally to Fortune 500 companies and public bodies.
With a team headquartered in Cork and with offices in Dublin and Limerick, Aspira has delivered consistent growth and won numerous industry awards. Aspira’s client base covers the US, UK and Europe.