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November 5, 2012 / Mervyn Dinnen

If You’re Not on The List…

I’ve written before of my love of lists, mainly from the perspective of my own life and experience – favourite albums, movies, books, goals, holidays etc. I am also an avid reader of end of year media lists in magazines, papers and online that chart the best moments and cultural artefacts of the previous 12 months. I’m often dubious as to how they rank them but always glad of the chance to check out something that I may have missed.

My journey on Twitter was kick started by a list. It was one from Louise Triance in March 2009 entitled something like ‘Recruiters who Tweet’. Up until that point I was a bit of a lurker, looking for conversations around politics, football and music, but this list helped me see that there was a work angle to what social networking could offer.

I didn’t know if these were the best recruitment tweeters, or the most insightful, but I followed them all and started following who they spoke to and began to build the network that I have today.

So, where’s this going?

Well, earlier this week the re-launched People Management magazine published their list of the Top 20 ‘HR Power Tweeters’ – in their words the ‘HR Twitteratti who are must-follows if you want to stay at the forefront of HR news and views on the microblogging site’.

There are many such lists published all the time and I usually treat them as a bit of fun. Journals and blogs are always highlighting the people they think their readers should follow. Twitter positively encourages anyone with an account to create lists and share them – apparently I appear in 309 Twitter lists, Lord knows who and why but I do. The People Management list seems to have caused offence though. There was much angst on my timeline last week.

I don’t think it was just thrown together as they have taken the trouble to offer their readers a description of each person’s engagement style. But once you commit to producing a list such as this, and rank it, then critique becomes more about who isn’t included then about who is.

As part of the day job I sometimes have to produce similar content – in this case bringing to the attention of digital newbies some of the people that they should follow – and a bit like the list I first followed nearly 4 years ago the focus should always be to highlight a spread of opinions and tweeting styles, enough to raise the curiosity of a new tweeter and encourage them to investigate further.

This, after all, is what we really want. Right?

To get more people using social networking platforms for business – linking, following, engaging, sharing, commenting and generally participating in the conversation that never sleeps.

In my view there were some notable exceptions on this PM list – but then there will be on any list. My ConnectingHR tweeters list runs to well over 100 and it would be difficult to recommend just 20 from it. But the PM piece does include the line…

“Is there anyone we have left out who you think deserves a place in PM’s top tweeters power list, then let us know who and why on Twitter @peoplemgt”

…so whilst it may be a bit of a disclaimer they also give you the opportunity to interact with them over it.

Here are my thoughts on the niggles that this particular article seems to have created…

Should HR sharer par excellence Michael Carty (also the ‘nicest person on Twitter’ I should add) have been on the list?

Yes, of course he should be on any list of top HR sharers but then let’s get real and accept that he works for a business that has a rival online publication to the one that drew up the list. Anyone who follows the people on PM’s list will inevitably also be following Michael within a few hours…he is pivotal to the daily engagement of almost everyone else on the list.

The list contains mainly people who have been invited to the CIPD12 to tweet and blog.

Of course it does! It would have been madness not to include them as surely one of the reasons for encouraging readers to embrace social media before your biggest event of the year is to get them to participate in the event – and if they can’t be there then they need to be interacting online.

Lists are just subjective.

Yes they are; they will be the opinion of the person who puts them together unless that person has run a poll or taken votes in some way. Everyone who produces content for wider consumption has to do this. Michael Carty himself produces a roundup of the month’s best HR blogs…I’m sure he’ll be the first to admit that it’s not easy to choose 10, 12 or 20…there will always be people who feel that their favourite should have been included. We get used to seeing lists like this one from The Guardian all the time. It’s just one way we consume content now.

And here are three more observations that I would make:

No-one decides who is most influential or the go-to person for content. We all choose those who do it best for us. There is no perfect measurement for this kind of thing.

There is a big difference between HR practitioners who tweet and people who tweet about HR. The former do not always do the latter.

Of course there is one big question that does need to be answered. I asked if the numbering was random or if it was a ranking. They said it was ranked in order. I then asked if it was decided by a scoring system or internal vote. As yet I haven’t seen an answer….

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13 Comments

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  1. Doug Shaw / Nov 5 2012 9:02 AM

    Hi Merv

    First reaction: I was pleased to see I got a mention in the list (vanity, oh how I love your painful seductive sting)
    Second reaction: I started to spot omissions (like you say these things are subjective right?)
    Third reaction: I spotted your ask for how the list was ranked and began to keep an eye out for a reply (hey I’m a bit cynical at times – who ain’t huh?)
    Fourth reaction: It’s Monday – I need coffee. See you in Manchester where I hope you get the answer to your question.

  2. Graham Salisbury / Nov 5 2012 9:33 AM

    Ever the social media sceptic, I have to admit reading The List with a wry smile. And the question that comes to my mind is this: when I read the (sadly often oh so mundane) tweets from many on that list (and at times it seems to me as if there is actually a small clique of about 20 HR social media fanatics anyway – each one blathering away for the other 19) do I feel a sense of sadness that I am not regarded as part of that inner circle? That is, I am sure you will realise, a rhetorical question. Interestingly, I’m thinking of doing some low level analysis during CIPD 2012 this week to see what “Power Tweeting” actually means. The HR Profession has a chance to show the potential benefit of social medial this week. I hope it doesn’t blow it

  3. Matt Alder / Nov 5 2012 9:54 AM

    I can’t understand why people are wasting their time and emotion over this list. A publisher created a list, it missed some people off and invented some kind of subjective ranking system in the process. Seriously who cares it really isn’t important. Personally I think it’s great that the “mainstream” media are drawing their readers attention to some of the great content on Twitter. Sitting in our little Twitter bubble we can sometimes think are whole industry using it, they aren’t and we should be celebrating any attempt to raise awareness rather than behaving like divas. To me the comment string on the article represents a great opportunity to draw attention to even more HR tweeters, why not celebrate that rather than try and destroy it. Move on people!

  4. Steve Bridger (@stevebridger) / Nov 5 2012 10:10 AM

    “Lists are just subjective… they will be the opinion of the person who puts them together unless that person has run a poll or taken votes in some way.”

    You’re absolutely right, Merv… lists should be seen as a starting point for someone to build their own networks, not something that is set in stone. Those of us on lists like these should know that it is likely to be temporary. Someone else – someone new – will add more value tomorrow.

  5. matdavies / Nov 5 2012 11:43 AM

    I think it was Groucho Marx who said he wouldn’t join any club that would have him as a member but, honestly, I was surprised at the amount of hand wringing and sucking of teeth that crept onto my timeline about what was, for the most part, a fairly informed, if a bit UK centric list of some people in HR who also happen to tweet. I agree with Matt Alder- this is nothing to get worried or precious about. Most people I know in HR are not on Twitter. If this gets more people onto twitter to build a more buoyant and interactive community for HR then I’m all for it. Even if I didnt make the list *shakes fist in rage*

  6. Beth Pipe (@CumbrianRambler) / Nov 5 2012 12:09 PM

    Interesting comments on the subject of lists, but looking at this from a slightly different angle, isn’t one of the aims of online writing by publications such as PM to provoke some form of response/ debate/ publicity? Look at the column inches generated by XFactor/ Strictly when the opinion of the professionals differs from that of the public.

    That being the case I’d say the original list did the trick. Plus it’s provided me with a whole host of new people to connect with.

  7. Meg Peppin / Nov 5 2012 12:47 PM

    Isn’t a conversation better than silence? Isn’t that what twitter, blogs etc has the potential to open up – a wider debate?

    Matt – I don’t I agree that people commenting about a list whether they agree, disagree, like, dislike is a waste of anything. It’s led to this blog, created more discussion – it’s all good!

  8. David Goddin / Nov 5 2012 1:33 PM

    Is the list a big deal? I don’t particularly think so. Is it worthy of discussion? Absolutely. The reactions and actions it’s prompted shows that it’s worthy of some analysis and understanding.

    The more important question for me I think is what have people learnt from this? Related to this question of lists, there’s a great article on the value (or not) of lists here which I think is well worth a read:

    http://www.theawl.com/2012/02/why-we-are-fascinated-by-lists

    Also, I’ve written a piece connected to this and I think the comments it’s attracted are worth sharing here too as they add further perspectives:

    http://peopleperformancepotential.com/2012/11/02/troublist/#comments

    The only piece I think I’m at odds with you here Merv is that last one big question of yours…. the ranking of the list. I’m not sure anyone really cares about the ranking – I’ve taken it as just a list of 20. Though I’d be horrified to hear anyone say that they thought they merited a higher rank than someone else on the list… perhaps that’s the one big question… Who thinks a competition for top HR Power Tweeters is a good thing?!?

  9. Steve / Nov 5 2012 2:26 PM

    Merv, I think I gave up caring about lists when I realized that John Sumser woud never put me on one of his lists (of course, when we see each other IRL the first task is to get past our mutual bear hug greeting). For sure I’m on a few lists – I believe longevity has a bit to do with it (as well as my association with Bill Boorman) – but once on a list those of us who really know about “these things” actually downplay the rankings.

    The “algorithm” used to select someone for any SoMe list is probably not too different from an algorithm used to select one’s favorite flavor of ice cream.

    But what I’ve come to experience is that those who are swayed by my presence on lists know far, far less about social media in general – and I believe in the case of HR Power Tweeters – specifically about how SoMe and HR interact. Then there are those whose egos upshift into overdrive once they get on one of these sacred lists (wondering how quickly these people add “Expert”, “Guru”, “Ninja” or “Samurai” to their bios once they get on one of these things); at this point, being added to more lists becomes like a drug fix.

    So in the end we have an artificial sense of expertise at the corner of Social Media Street and Human Resources Highway with no form of traffic control and a rush hour is about to begin.

    Dialogue is good but *this* is a good thing?

    BTW Merv, congrats on being on the list… 😉

  10. Michael Carty / Nov 6 2012 7:46 AM

    Thank you for the extremely kind words, Mervyn – I really appreciate it.

    And you are spot on that it’s difficult making the choices that go into my HR blog round-ups each month. I usually aim to include 12 posts per month, but very often end up going beyond this number…this month’s has 14, for example!

    Here’s the link to those 14 posts, if anyone might be interested. And like I say in the post, please let me know if there’re any great examples I might’ve overlooked: http://www.xperthr.co.uk/blogs/employment-intelligence/2012/10/best-of-the-hr-blogs-october-2.html

  11. Julia Briggs / Nov 6 2012 12:18 PM

    What can I say? The Guardian list came up immediately – several of the books I read as a teenager and didn’t understand but thought I was very clever. The Personnel Management list? Still loading. As ever, proud to be a member of the CIPD.

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