Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Back to school! #socialmediacourse

Summer holidays are over, and I have started studying! Being a doctoral student means most of the times quite an independent work so it’s actually quite nice to be connected to other fellow students in this way. And the course couldn’t be more intriguing. The course title is Social media and marketing one’s own expertise (a rough translation). The course includes topics such as communication in social media, personal brand, networking, social media & law, and communication planning.

The course format is based on blogs. There’s a course blog and every student has to start his or her own blog for the course assignments. Since I already had this one and the course contents are somehow linked to this blog, I decided to write my assignments here. Hopefully the reflections and thoughts related to these assignments will provide new ideas for you too. I shall mark the course assignments in the title, so that the connection is clear.  

The first assignment is about myself as a communicator. How convenient! And I warn you, this might become a long one… ;)

During my communication studies and also in the work context of organisational consultancy, I think there hasn’t been a day of not analysing and evaluating myself as a communicator. In fact, for the past 11 (!) years I’ve been quite actively given feedback on my communication style, I have been recorded and evaluated. Most of my studies have been about writing reflective essays about the topic. However, there’s always more to learn and one can never become ”ready” in this area.

I guess the first impression of me is that I may seem a bit reserved, sometimes even shy. That may be the other side of the story. The other side is that since I was very young I made friends and got to know people quite easily. Also having been an exchange student and afterwards working with a networking organisation for erasmus students, has shown me that I am capable of moving to another country or going to a bigger event where I don’t know anyone and just start speaking with people. I think it mostly depends on how I am feeling at that moment, sometimes I just want to be by myself and sometimes I am eager to make new connections. 

My communication depends quite a lot on the context. When I am presenting or providing training I am usually quite clear, articulate and energetic. As a teenager I received a lot of feedback that during presentations I start to talk more formally. I used to fear those situations and was anxious about public speaking, which may have caused this. I believe my communication has become much more relaxed and personal as I’ve gained more experience of those situations. Nowadays, I really enjoy being in training situations and would claim that my presentation skills are good. Of course people always have different preferences of what they like. :)
I would describe my overall communication style as friendly, positive, and calm. I rather listen than take the space to talk, which sometimes causes that I start to bowdlerise my own ideas. I start to think if what I have to say is useful/meaningful or is it better just stay silent, whereas in many cases I should just let it go and speak up. This is something I’ve been struggling with for a long time and have kept on my ”to be developed” list, and I guess the more comfortable I get with the people the easier it is for me to express myself more naturally. This implies mostly when I am in bigger groups. I am quite talkative in smaller groups and in one-to-one conversations.  

In a way, I probably am a typical Finn in many situations. And in a way, I am not. The Finnish communication culture has been described in the following ways:
  •        Factual communication, focus on the task
  •        Direct and honest communication is expected
  •        Using formal channels when searching for information
  •        Appreciation of silence
  •        The quality of speech is appreciated over the quantity of speech
  •        Maintaining harmony in groups
  •        Avoiding to disagree
  •        Preferring long monologues
(Sallinen, A. 2000; Pörhölä, M. 2000, summarised by Minna Haapsaari)

A picture of a Finnish bus stop ;)

I see my communication style linked in many of the above mentioned characterisations. I appreciate direct and honest communication, and I try to communicate that way myself. I have no problem of being silent. But I have to disagree with some of the things. I value different opinions and perspectives, and I like to be challenged every now and then. The difference is how you disagree. If it’s done in a constructive way it might just improve the original idea and create more energy and cohesion between people. I would also claim that these days more and more people are pro dialogue rather than monologue, and several organisations and workplaces are waking up to learn and improve their dialogic skills. And I would like to think that my communication style is more dialogic than monologic. I try to make sure to relate to people and their ideas by continuing from what they have said.

Also the increased use of social media has done that people, including me, are using their informal online networks for gathering information. I consider myself more of a people person and I am keen on hearing more personal stories. However, I have to say that balance is a key word for me. If others are starting to focus too much on personal things, I get frustrated and would like to direct the conversation towards the task. And if people start straight away talking about the task I would like to step back and say “hey, let’s hear first how everyone is doing”.

The question about how my communication can work for or against me in social media is tough to answer. I guess I am a bit more careful and thoughtful of what I say and do in social media than in real life, and therefore it might be a good thing. I am conscious of my professional identity and what I am presenting in different situations, but this applies also to face-to-face situations, not only to social media. My communication style depends very much on the media I am using. Facebook for me is mainly for being in touch with friends and therefore I share more personal and informal things there. But I am aware that whatever I share in Facebook or elsewhere stays there.

I think the way of communicating in social media depends also on your intention, for what purpose you’re using it. Currently I am feeling different tensions concerning for example this blog. I started this with a purpose of sharing the bits and pieces of interesting perspectives, learnings and methods that I come across when consulting people and organisations, reading different theories and writing my research - imagining that writing this blog could serve my learning and at the same time provide useful ideas to others. In that sense this started as a professional blog. The challenge I am feeling is how personal I should be. I have always preferred more personal approach in blogs and love to hear more about the person behind the text.  So I am still figuring out what I want from this blog and how I would like my personality to show here. Maybe it already is showing in some way.

Please feel free to leave a comment and join the conversation! Would be lovely to hear what kind of thoughts started to emerge.

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