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Are you a fox or a porcupine in social media?

November 18, 2011

I am one of those who took some time to get used to social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn. I have never been one of the early adopters or superusers. To me it was a bit scary at first, thinking that what I wrote would be visible to so many. I was scared to make mistakes or to expose something that people did not like or find useful. However, I am a very social person and I have been working with people for over 10 years with coaching and personal development. So why was I afraid?

The fox and the porcupine of companies

In Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, he describes companies as either being a fox or a porcupine. The fox is used as a symbol of the type of company that “lurks around” and finds it hard to make decisions – trying out different complex strategies, wondering when exactly to attack and go for its goals. This type of company goes for too many goals simultaneously, uses up a lot of energy and is not consistent. Even after thorough planning they often fail or succeed randomly.

On the other hand, the porcupine has one great asset: its quills. It roams around effortlessly, aware of the dangers but aware that its strategy will work. If attacked, it will roll into a ball – and the attacker will get stung by his quills! When the threat is gone, the porcupine unrolls itself and continues to eat, sniff or rove around as if nothing had happened. A company as a porcupine knows its strengths takes the complex and makes it as simple as possible. It reaches its goals in a determined, effortless manner with great results. They seldom fail and always achieve long term success. (Good to Great by Jim Collins).

Are you a fox or a porcupine in social media?

We can apply the same metaphor to social media. If you are a fox, you will probably use a lot of energy thinking about what to write, how best to express it, and if it is really good enough. If you have formed a plan after spending a few hours, days or weeks thinking, you may find that when finally putting it to paper you don’t get the results you think you should after having spent so much time considering the content and form of the message. In the end you may give up, or it may take a long time before you repeat this effort.

A porcupine however will sit down and write what is on its mind – because it has a special talent which makes him succeed long term. This talent is the combination of three aspects. The first is passion. He knows what he is passionate about, and so writes enthusiastic messages, blogs and articles. He shares this passion with his community and network. Secondly, he focuses on what he is really good at – it could be finding the best apps, or giving good advice about marketing and finance, or perhaps talking about special interests. Thirdly, he knows what his community/network wants. He has followed them and listened to their needs, and he has their interests in mind – always. The clue is to combine these three parts into one, and voila! you are a social media porcupine.

Can anyone become a porcupine?

Maybe not in the animal world – but everything can be learned. Since human potential is unlimited, why not work on these three assets (passion / focus / empathy) and see what happens? I know one thing for sure – if you tiptoe into social media like the fox it will get you nowhere. You have to dive right into it. Why? Because the scary part is not being there!

By Jeanette Luytkis HR&Communications at Companybook

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