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Opinion: The importance of digital power players

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Opinion: The importance of digital power players

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing

Opinion: The importance of digital power players Opinion: The importance of digital power players

By John Popham, Digital storyteller who was placed second in the digital Power Players top 50.

I suppose if you have to come second, then there can be no shame in being beaten by Helen Reynolds. I am most chuffed, and somewhat taken aback, at being named no. 2 on the list of digital Power Players in Housing.

I am not a great one for lists and awards, but this is one where there is a high degree of being chosen by your peers, so it is certainly welcome. And, I’ll not be resting on my laurels, be warned, Helen, I’m coming for top spot next year!

Actually, I’ve never been much of a competitive person, and that’s why I think I took to social media. Since gaining something of a reputation in social media circles, I’ve increasingly been drawn into events and circles where I’ve been mixing with communications professionals and marketing people.

To an extent, I’ve sometimes felt a bit uncomfortable with this. My background is in community and social enterprise and in public and voluntary sector management. I’ve sometimes, in the past, seen marketing and “official” communications as being about pushing messages that people don’t particularly want to hear. But, I suppose that what is now happening is that the worlds of marketing, communications, and community are coming together, driven by social media.

Communications and marketing professionals are increasingly recognising that what people really want is not be sold official lines, but to be involved in conversations. That has always come naturally to me because of where I came from, working with and supporting community organisations. The disappointing thing, for me, is that, on the other side of the equation, community organisations, and those who work with them, have been relatively slow to realise, and take advantage of, the power of social media.

I’ve moved around between a variety of different sectors in my career. Once upon a time, that used to be viewed as a disadvantage.

It used to be thought that people needed to immerse themselves in one sector, develop an expertise there, and pursue it for all or most of their careers. In the age of social media, having a portfolio career has suddenly become an advantage, as it allows you to see beyond the silos, identify where the common ground is, and make vital connections.

It allows you to be what Paul Taylor and Shirley Ayres have called “super-connectors”. Over the past few years I have met, and worked with, some great people who work in social housing, and, from my perspective, I can see that many are not celebrated for the skills and knowledge they have, and, often, they don’t have the confidence to implement some of their ideas because they lack access to evidence that it might work. Looking beyond their own sector will often provide such evidence.

This is also why I have moved towards orienting my work around storytelling. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and that, often, finding and telling one’s own personal story can give people confidence to pursue their ideas. Social media provides opportunities for gaining feedback on personal stories, which can often offer affirmation not available through traditional hierarchies and management structures.

In challenging times, when radical change is needed to protect and develop services with dwindling budgets, the old aphorism that “if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got” has never been more true. And it is equally true that, if you talk to the people you’ve always talked to, you’ll only have the ideas you’ve always had.

Recognition of the housing digital power players is one step towards making sure that the silos come down and the cross-fertilisation of ideas and strategies can take place.

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