Credibility: Unknown

According to a post on Twitter, my credibility is unknown. I (partially) disagree of course because I know what my credibility is. But the online community really doesn’t know what it is (at least not yet). So let’s see what can be known about my credibility (and yours).

I’m glad that I was given an opportunity to have my credibility evaluated out there among the *Twitterverse*. So here it is, that indiscreet Tweet:


From this Twitterer’s perspective, the Tweet is true, absolutely true. This person has no way of knowing my credibility. And it aught to be questioned by anybody following my online activity (as well we all should do of everything we encounter online).

But this Tweet raises a particular question: when is credibility relevant?

If you read my current About statement, I don’t claim to be an expert in everything, especially social media (as many are famed to do). I simply state the boring facts of my background, as an RN with a pied array of disparate experiences. My claim to social media is simple and unpretentious:

“I am currently interested in how individuals and organizations use social media tools to improve the way things get done.”

Since I don’t claim to be an expert in social media, the relevance of my credibility can only reasonably be expected to be limited to my general character: whether I am a liar, a snake-oil salesman or evil-doer par excellence. That sort of credibility gets determined over time, by users, by the things I say, Google, etc.

If any of us becomes specialized and experienced in a particular field, then our specific credibility becomes relevant. Nobody wants a random schmuck to just walk into your house and fix the plumbing just because he claims to be an expert or have has a website or blog. But that doesn’t mean we all have to be experts in order to speak our minds or to add something to an ongoing multilogue (getting tired of *conversation*).

Wikipedia discusses credibility and specifically references a mouth-watering proposition called Prominence-Interpretation Theory. You can download that exciting product if you’re hot and bothered. (It uses big words and multiplication to establish its own credibility.)

Basically, it comes down to what users notice (Prominence) and their judgment about it (Interpretation). And it’s an important topic, especially since the rate of information flowing our way is accelerating at an accelerating rate. The arithmetic is straightforward:

Prominence X Interpretation = Credibility Impact

Good luck crunching the numbers on that one. Intuitively, though, what’s our Credibility Impact? My number’s pretty low online, but not because I’m a bad person. The arithmetic says that I have to leave it up to computational and human algorithms, and so do you.

So if you’re an expert in social media, make sure you take that bold Twitterer’s implied advice to heart, regardless of his or her intriguing intentions: establish and prove your credibility. It’s good for your health and your reputation. And it will eventually boost your authority.

Western Union used to be a telecommunications authority, likely with a high credibility rating. It’s still doing OK. But the credibility it had in 1950 didn’t exactly get it the gold medal forty years later on the interwebs, did it? What credibility did Google have in 1998? Yahoo! had credibility, perhaps more so in 1998 than Google (just a supposition). And yet Google’s current stock price (one measure of credibility-ranking) suggests that its credibility gap is a lot smaller than Yahoo!’s. Go figure.

The basic point that I’d like to make is that the interwebs (or innernets as I heard once from a credible authority) has given us all a chance to contribute ANYTHING (from original insights to totally random BS and everything in between).

Examples. If you need an inguinal hernia repair, credibility is the difference between a speedy recovery and a painful death from infection or intestinal ischemia. If, however, you want a new perspective, an opinion, a fresh synthesis of old ideas, or a synergistic perspective from the infusion of multiple experiences, then credibility is secondary to your inspiration of that content. It’s up to you to be a good speneralist.

Credibility is one king in content. Obviously.

But so are: insight, creativity, skepticism, freshness of perspective and the right to be wrong and standing up corrected. And those features of an independent mind are important tools in the ongoing construction of useful and falsifiable intuition pumps.

It’s those pumps that drive knowledge and civilization forward. What are your intuition pumps? Are they credible? Or “merely” inspiring? Could they spring hope? Or leaks? Upset the stodgy status quo? Break a cold heart open and warm it?

This is my credibility: a synestheisa of metaphors. They’re meant to enliven and spread good memes in an often bad world. They’re powerful tools for evangelism, conveyance and leadership. Take them, use them or toss ’em into the drains Lethe-wards to be sunk. Time will tell if my online credibility matters to anyone, including myself.

Be true to thyselves, friends, especially when nobody else believes you. Mahalo!

This post made possible in part by an alert from TweetBeep. It’s a great (free) reputation management tool. I received no payment or solicitation for the shout-out, just remarkable service.

Are We Generalists, Specialists or Speneralists?

I’m a speneralist, aren’t I? And you: aren’t you as well? I don’t know if that’s a good or bad characteristic these days. Maybe you can help me decide (because you need to know too). Let me explain.

Photo: Tidewater Muse’s photostream

A Brief History of Our Species
A long time ago, most people were generalists. They knew how to hunt animals and cultivate the best plants, made living quarters out of mud, and maybe even painted on cave walls in their spare time or uttered poetic stories at night. They specialized of course, but in order to survive they had to be generalists. They had to know it all and do everything. Or die.

Then these generalists got better at refining their civilizations. Their economies sprouted up and out. They invented new gadgets, like printing presses and steam engines and assembly lines. To be good at something, these people had to become specialists. They had to specialize in printing books or navigating ships or installing gear shafts. Poets started to get paid less. Painters starved. And our modern world arrived like a thief in the night.

Our World Soul Got Owned
And this modern world brought forth more gadgets and grew things like computers and transmission protocols and weblogs and AdSense. Specialization became a specialization onto itself. And the unconscious manifestation of all this specialization was the invention in 1968 of the cubicle with its eventual domination of our Anima mundi (world soul).

We’re all now plugged in. Soon we will be enmeshed. Information is flowing so fast at us now, that we can’t depend on others to do specialized things like journalistic investigation. We have to specialize a bit in journalism and skepticism ourselves if we are not to be fooled again and again. We have to write our own blogs and tweak our CSS or compose our own slide shows for those special presentations. We are able to specialize in many things in order to accomplish our specialized tasks. But wait: doesn’t that make us generalists? What, exactly, is going on here?

Outsourcing Your Marketing Department to Your Customers
On one hand, in order to thrive in the economy of the 21st Century you must specialize, you must be better than best: you must be so damn good that your customers become your marketing department. Being a know-it-all doesn’t cut it. And yet you leave out so much of the life radiating around you when the very focus onto your specialty is laser-guided. You’re stuck in a trap my friend, or fast approaching one.

So, again, the question: we’re Speneralists, arent’ we? Isn’t that what you call a stressed out, Moore’s-Law-spaghettied group of human beings tweaked between the need for specialty and the widsom of generality?

Those two animals up there in the picture. What are they? Well, they’re both mammals. Is the dolphin the specialist whose evolved refinements enable her to sleekly fly in and out of ocean waves? Is the cow a generalist who learned to specialize in acquatic miracles and really good Photoshop? Or is she a speneralist? Evolution is a snappy bitch, ain’t it?

Long You Live and High You Fly
That cow. That cow is what we are beginning to look like I think, dear friends. A swimming cow that leaps over turbulent green. But should she be doing that? Is it cool? Or is it utterly nuts?

So, what do you think that you (or the company you work slave for) is? A generalist? A specialist? Or a speneralist ready for anything under the sun?

The dusk is coming. Will your personal or corporate philosophy open its wings, or fold?


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Blog ROI: It’s About Value, Stupid!

Simple question: why would a hospital have a blog? Or use Twitter? Or maybe even FriendFeed? Simple answer: value.

A hospital aught to be one of the most valued kinds of facilities in our communities. Every effort aught to be encouraged for such organizations to optimally utilize those resources which can improve the delivery of care, expand an organization’s presence, and even generate positive returns from the investments in those resources.

But not every organization blogs. Not every one needs to. Why? Because the theme of returns and cost efficiency have been propounded so heavily into our heads that we overlook the obvious. We need to kick ourselves and say: It’s about value, stupid.

Hats off to ROI Harper and Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)

Before addressing the specifics of hosptial blogging we aught to dip into some accouting theory, finance and arithmetic.

Organizations benefit greatly anytime they can create interactive means for people to find, experience and share value. A company’s Return on Invesment (ROI) is a simple quantitative method to express the expected gain from a deployed asset. But often, analysts focus so much on the number that they forget the value that drives it from the start.

Investing in social media is an investment in an intangible asset. Intangible assets generate both tangible and intangible losses and/or returns. Tangible assets include hospital beds, ventilators, infusion pumps, buildings, operating rooms, etc. Accounting theory offers ingenious methods for quantifying these assets in order to provide valuable information to investors and other stakeholders to make the soundest decisions about their resources.

Intangible assets include competent nursing care, physician experience, goodwill, communication styles, etc. They also include blogs and other social media that are currently evolving. Accounting theory has yet to work out how to measure a blog’s asset valuation (it could use a market costing methodology perhaps).

But the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) hasn’t yet seemed to issue a promulgation on the matter. If you’re a CEO, CFO, CIO or CAO of a publicly traded company maybe you can get a conversation going with the SEC or FASB (who knows, you might be able to get some tax deduction rules going: hint, hint).

Until someone establishes a standard measure of Blog ROI, I think it’s helpful to focus our lens on a fundamental question:

What information is needed to decide whether a blog is worth its cost?

There’s probably a complicated anwer to that question, one which depends on the economics of your particular organization. In its place, I’d like to offer up three simple intution pumps:

  1. Value drives ROI
  2. Price is a function of Value
  3. Value-Multiplied is replacing Value-Added

Value Drives ROI

ROI is just a noun. A number. A goal. It’s important.

Value is a verb. A movement. An infection. It’s essential.

If you want to generate positive ROI, you will have to create the setting through which customers (who these days aught to be called citizens) feel the value they seek (consciously or unconsciously). You will not only have to be the creator of value, you will also have to provide the means through which citizens can express their passion for the value they perceive.

So if you’re not able to derive an equation that gets you to ROI, you’re still not in the dark. If you’re trying to decide about developing a blog for your organization, you can just follow one word: value. What value would your blog offer to the people who read or join? Could you list out the (hypothetical) values? I think you could: around a conference table or in your armchair.

Price is a Function of Value
If your service isn’t valued there is no price strategy that will keep your going concern, well, going on. Price is simply a numerical expression of value. It’s either determined by monopolistic Short Snouts, oligopolies, government regulation, or the Long Tail of perfectly competitive market forces.

Be the Genhis Kahn of social value.

Mongol Lego-Archer

Photo: Dunchaser’s Photostream

Your strike-price is a derivative of the value people perceive. So strike value right into the hearts of your target. Be the Genghis Kahn of social value. I say Genghis Kahn because his small horde of lithe soldiers wearing silk shirts conquered more land mass while ridding on tiny horses than any other force in history. His enemies wore thick, heavy, metallic armor and everything they did was big. Why did his strategy and tactics work? Because in silk, there’s value. (Lesson: you’re going to get wounded, so make it easy to pull out the arrows.)

Value-Multiplied is Replacing Value-Added
It’s no longer good enough to “add value”. You’re sinking down the Long Tail. You might be in denial about this, but it’s true. Technology will own you (sorry, we’ve passed the singularity). The value you create and which your customers/citizens perceive has to be multiplied, not simply “added”.

And that’s where intelligent applications of social media come into play. Can you think of a better way to multiply the shared values of your going concern? Word-of-Mouth (WOM) was always king. But know the kingdom of WOM has come. Know thy king. He’s a little different this time around. He’s wearing new clothing: a crown of truth, a cape of respect and a staff of democracy. In fact: he’s you!

You cannot lie in the New Kingdom of WOM without being cast out. This is good news: you can now multiply your value with nobility. You can now impress your citizens with your infectious passion.

Value-Multiplication. That’s the new math you need to learn. And learn well.

Family Values are Social Values

There is an endless list of things people value in general. Here are some activities that I think most people value greatly:

  1. Kvetching
  2. Praising
  3. Sharing
  4. Bragging
  5. Linking
  6. Being flattered
  7. Being Right
  8. Never Being Wrong or Hurt (unless it’s a Dominatrix service)
  9. Loving
  10. Being Loved
  11. Inputing
  12. Suggesting
  13. Being Listened to
  14. Commenting
  15. Creating
  16. Meeting Others
  17. Learning
  18. Getting Great Free Stuff
  19. Taking Action
  20. Being Offered Simple, Easy Choices
  21. Hearing “Thank You” (even when they mess up)

These are all ingredients to successful blogging. Successful relationships. Successful business. Succesfful Successful anything, really. You don’t need Excel for the formulaic recipe. But you can cook. Be creative, use your senses, surprise yourself and become a remarkable presence in the kitchen of your marketplace.

Remarkable Opportunity Ingenuity (ROI)

Let’s redefine ROI. Let’s give ourselves permission to take a few steps back from the professorial whiteboard, put down the calculators and take a look at where we are along the Long Tail. If you don’t know where you are or what value your blog will create, how will you ever hope to properly calculate the returns on your investment? Would it even matter?

“There are some things that count that can’t be counted. And some things that can be counted that don’t count.”

John C. Bogle’s paraphrase of an old proverb

You’ve read Seth’s blog (I hope!). So you already know what to do. You know the answer: be remarkable (don’t just feign it). Be remarkable in your decision about whether to blog or not. It’s not as easy as it looks. It’s hard. It’s costly. Which means it can be numerical and maybe calculable. But do the calculations AFTER you do the valuations. If you lay down the tracks for your customers’ value-train then ROI will come chugging along.

Some Rationales/Reasons for Hospital Blogging

Let’s return to hospital blogging, since it seems to be one of the most challenging. There are considerations in the healthcare industry that may not exist in others, including but not limited to:

  1. Patient Privacy
  2. Empolyee Privacy
  3. Safety
  4. Efficacy
  5. The Provision of Authoritative Content

There are of course other considerations. But they are manageble Dips. They’re not dead-ends (although I think many hosptial cultures automatically conclude that these are the dead-ends that deceptively justify the easy choice: not to blog at all).

So what are some of the rationales for crafting a remarkable hospital blog? Here are some suggestions (I use the word citizen in place of patient, family member and general public because it’s the only word that makes sense in a remarkable democracy):

  1. Citizen Complaints (These Should be Prominent!!!)
  2. Citizen feedback and praise
  3. Services updates (a new Operating Room or Surgical Procedure)
  4. Introduction of New Staff
  5. Nursing Notes (I Know a Bit Nightingalish)
  6. Up-to-Date Content on Disease Processes and Management
  7. Community News
  8. Pledge Drive Announcements
  9. Guest Posts from Prominent Doctors, Nurses & Other Healthcare Professionals
  10. Staff Recruitment (Show Off What a Remarkable Facility You Have – Be The Zappos of Healthcare!)

The same could be (partially) true for services like Twitter or FriendFeed. Here are some values to be shared through those media:

  1. Tweeting facilities about emergent crises
  2. Using Twitter for staffing needs
  3. Using FriendFeed to keep a stream of blog posts and other information about your facility for the whole world to see (also: if Google purchases FriendFeed, wouldn’t you want to be listed on their prime SERPs?)
  4. Using Twitter or FriendFeed as an educational tool for nursing and medical students (let them follow the best in the business)

Conclusion: Value Multiplied by Infectious Interaction Equals Gross Blog ROI

If all of this is new and bewildering to you, perhaps you aught to focus your investing efforts on a blog. For one, blogging develops the kinds of skills needed for effective social media marketing. Also, it offers a simple interface with your citizens.

Being passionate about your hospital and the services it provides is important. But: that passion must always be subordinated to something even more important. Be passionate about infusing your citizens with the infectious vectors of value that they can spread through the community.

A blog is one component of the passion-pump. Additional social media tools offer more options, which I will talk about soon (Twitter & FriendFeed). For now, you can follow me on Twitter or subscribe to my feed and we can continue the discussion. And feel free to (respectfully) obliterate my arguments here. Quality of life is at hand here.

Whatever your background, a blog is a good start to a healthier hospital. Then again, you could just let someone else do all the talking for you while you keep handing cash over to lawyers and PR wizards instead of your nurses and doctors and capital equipment. Who knows, with all of the ultra-portable devices around these days, you could just let your organization become a featured superstar on Youtube. Just what are you waiting for?


For remarkable resources on blogging and social media, follow these links:

Darren Rowse Problogger (No Nonsense Mate from Down Under)

Chris Brogan (Knows his stuff and knows how to communicate it!)

Guy Kawasaki’s Alltop Blogging (A Great Collection for Beginners & Pros)

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