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Top NZ CIOs ahead of public in using LinkedIn and Twitter

ICT leaders reveal why being active in social media is imperative.

CIOs and senior IT executives are down with the latest social networking services, with the number of CIOs on LinkedIn and Twitter well ahead of the national trend.

Of the IT executives from the top 50 organisations in the MIS100 last year, 31 percent have a Facebook account, 10 percent are on Twitter, and a whopping 92 percent use the social employment website LinkedIn.

These figures were found by searching for the senior IT execs in the top 50 of MIS100 – the annual report on the top ICT using organisations in New Zealand - using the social search engines Pipl, and YoName, as well as the search functions on the individual social networks.

The CIOs are ahead of the general public in using LinkedIn (11.3 percent of New Zealanders), and Twitter (1.6 percent of New Zealanders), but are behind the almost 50 percent of New Zealanders on Facebook. (See chart below).

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Note: Accounts that are under aliases may not have been counted. Since the last MIS 100 in June of 2011, CIOs may have moved on to different roles. The results of the 2012 MIS 100 will be released in June.

Social Media Users (NZ Public):

LinkedIn: 500,000

Facebook: 2,160,000

Twitter: ~70,000

In a recent paper on strengthening social media capabilities, the top advice given by Gartner analysts John Mahoney and John P Roberts was basic – be a direct user of social media. “Ensure that you are personally visible and present on the systems to understand how they work, lead others to participate and build personal credibility. Make it a point every week to explore ideas with those most active in social media,” they wrote.

CIO New Zealand talked to some of the CIOs active in the social media space – to find out how or why they incorporate these platforms into their full on work schedule.

Personal and professional updates

Jeremy Burrows, IT manager at the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU), says he uses social networks both at home and work to keep up to date with personal and professional information.

Burrows uses LinkedIn to keep in contact with vendors and follow new developments in technology and professional sport. While he is comfortable connecting and talking to vendors on LinkedIn, he takes a very dim view of vendors trying to contact him through Facebook.

“I make a real effort of keeping my private Facebook separate from my professional LinkedIn. If a vendor or PR person tried to contact me Facebook, I wouldn’t be very impressed,” says Burrows.

Burrows says he does not use Twitter significantly, and when he does it is mainly to follow live scoring of rugby games he is otherwise unable to watch.

Asked how he felt about his employees using social media on the job, Burrows says it is a matter of trust that they will not abuse the privilege.

“I trust the people under me to use social media for personal use on the job, as long as it doesn’t affect their work,” says Burrows.

“As their manager I should know when they’re not meeting their goals, and be able to confront them on that if it is to do with frittering away time on social networks.”

Murray Wills is managing director of Maxsys where he serves as CIO for several organisations. Like Burrows, he finds social media as a great ‘filtering’ tool for his work and personal life.

“I use it to promote what I am doing and promote things that I think are of interest to CIOs. I also subscribe to certain key people or organisations that I think provide good insights and information in key areas of interest,” says Wills. He follows other CIOs, technology and project management accounts, CIO Dashboard and CIO New Zealand.

“Over time you develop a relationship with key people - some CIO related, and other professional contacts,” he says. “It is a good way of networking.”

Read related story on the CIO role in the social enterprise: The Facebook Effect.

Here are some New Zealand CIOs and IT directors on Twitter:

Did we miss anyone? Contact Sim Ahmed on Twitter @simantics and Divina Paredes @divinap and @cio_nz.Timesavers

Aaron Overington, IT manager for Spectrum Care Trust Board, which provides services to people with disabilities, signed up for Twitter in March 2009. He finds Twitter a time saver and a great way to stay up to date with business technology trends and conferences.

He explains he has two screens on his desk, the second is used to check Twitter feeds. “I have a separate screen [so] I can just sort of see any new updates that come in and just quickly check it as I do other things.”

“I find it useful to keep on top of news and current events,” says Overington, who follows a lot of organisations and technology websites, including those of major suppliers. “I find it a quick and easy way to see what product and updates are coming out and other industry news, instead of constantly going back and checking websites and signing up, and things like that. So I unsubscribed from email updates from all those companies.

Since the Twitter feeds are limited to 140 characters, he can see quickly what feeds interest him. “The one headache I have is a lot of the sites or organisations I follow are based overseas so between 10 pm and 8 am, I spend a good half hour or so scrawling back through and reading forward again.”

Twitter, he says, is also useful if he wants to keep abreast of what is happening in conferences and seminars that he can not attend due to work and other commitments.

“I get the key items from it based on the unique hashtag,” says Overington, who is completing a university degree in information sciences. One of his assignments is writing a paper on “Social Media Networks for Business”.

At Spectrum Care, Overington is also working on a strategy paper on social media – which includes Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. He explains his Twitter feeds are personal, as Spectrum does not have a corporate Twitter account. He sends tweets relating to the sector, but not the organisation.

One thing he does support is the idea of ‘reverse mentoring’, getting someone adept in new technologies to teach the other staff. “For a lot of organisations, that is the smart way to go,” he says. “There would be value in getting somebody younger – and by younger, I don’t necessarily mean age, but attitudinally - to help them mentor up [on new technologies].”

But there is a caveat. “You have to find a balance between mentoring up and letting them actually have total control,” he says. “You would not put a 20-year-old straight out of university in charge of a $10 million advertising campaign. You have to put somebody senior.

“It is the same with social media,” he says. “It is a way of engaging your client base so you have to be careful.”

Read related article: Social media at Big Blue is more than just a marketing weapon - it is a business survival tool, says IBM CIO Jeanette Horran.

Share your passion

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Like Overington, John Holley has been on Twitter for more than three years now. “For me, at the time, it was about learning about what this ‘Twitter thing’ was and how it could apply to local government,” says Holley, who was then with the Auckland Regional Council (ARC) and is now general manager operations, Visible Results.

“I realised pretty quickly it was a great way for myself, as the CIO of the ARC, to share what we were doing. I also learned that if you operate your own Twitter account, rather than an organisation one, you really need to give it your personal flavour otherwise it can be quite bland.”

He says his followers know that he is passionate about a range of things from work to personal and these include open government, open source, education, mobility technology, Apple technology, social equity, Formula 1 and the NZ Defence Force, where he is a reserve officer.

“It is a bit of a two-edged sword as you need to remember that you can't control who reads what you write, and how far your tweets might go,” he advises. “This means, when I was at the ARC, I had to be careful around election times, and I always have to be careful around anything I tweet about the NZDF.”

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