Turning a Geek into a Butterfly…a Social Butterfly, That Is!

Social Media is part of the Third Platform* (Cloud, Mobile and Big Data being the other parts). Like the other confluences of change rushing toward the CIO, Social Media has the potential to disrupt the life of the unsuspecting. Faced with the complexities of Social Media, many CIOs choose to play ostrich and block access to Twitter, Facebook, and others from their networks. Those that do hide their head in the sand will relinquish leadership of these platforms to others in their organizations.


My metamorphosis into a social butterfly started in a very unusual way. In 2008, my son came to me and asked me to help him with his music career. He had been performing in the Indianapolis hip-hop music scene for a year or so, but wanted to take it to the next level. We formed a record label (yes, I was a hip-hop record mogul) and the fun began.  He had always been active on MySpace, Facebook and Twitter. Me? I had a LinkedIn account and that was about it. Soon, however, I was using Facebook to create a virtual fan club and to promote events, using Twitter to promote events, CD releases and Tweet live from shows, YouTube to post live recordings and music videos, and later we added Instagram to post pictures.

I was still a skeptic though, that was the entertainment industry, I still didn’t see how it would work with a “real business”. In 2009, I started a green building consulting business. To help position myself as a thought leader in this area, I created a blog and began to write.  I remember being excited when someone other than my wife read one of my posts! catepillar.jpg

My next lesson in Social Media came late in 2009, when I decided I need to find a “real job” and get back into IT. I mentioned that I had been using LinkedIn for several years. What I was about to learn was that I was only scratching the surface. My wife introduced me to Patti Quiring a local IT recruiter. While we both agreed it was not the right fit for her to help place me, she did agree to help teach me some things about LinkedIn. We spent about 30 minutes together and she helped me create a powerful profile, show me how to use the Company section to find openings, promotions, and connections, and the use of Groups to further connections. When I landed an interview with Goodwill, I used LinkedIn to find other non-profit CIOs, connect with them, and start a dialogue about a day in the life of a CIO at a non-profit. I used Tweetdeck to set up Twitter feeds for Goodwill, non-profit IT and other subjects. I was starting to come out of the cocoon!

My final stage would come a couple years later. Rachel Nelson was Goodwill’s Online Marketing Manager. I really wanted to understand more about how businesses can leverage social media technologies, how I could help lead our use of them to further our mission, and how I could use them to establish my own personal brand. So...I took Rachel to lunch. She encouraged me to brush off my blog (I hadn’t written a post in a couple of years), become more active on Twitter, and explore other Social Media platforms and tools.

Butterfly - Edited.jpgToday, I still haven’t quite cracked into Vala Afshar’s 100 Most Social CIO’s (@ValaAfshar are you listening?), but I do use Twitter to participate in the latest technology, leadership, and marketing news. I have LinkedIn, Hootsuite (Twitter feeds), and Facebook always open on my desktop.

At Goodwill, we use social media tools (thanks to Rachel) to engage with our shoppers, donors, students and employees. Predominantly, we are using these tools to foster external communication and collaboration. However, as we move into the second half of the year and on into next, we are investigating the use of a social media feed aggregator to help our employees become advocates for our mission by facilitating sharing of news, events and happenings within the Goodwill family and beyond. We are also looking into tools that can be used to foster more communication and collaboration within the organization.

This brings me back to those of you still playing ostrich. I encourage you to pull your heads out of the sand, open up access to these tools (employees are using them on their cell phones anyway) and start using them yourselves (if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em). You will be able to lead your organization to a level of collaboration never before possible!

*The Third Platform is the next generation platform. Mainframes represent the First Platform and Client-Server the Second.

This is a continuation of a series of posts that are looking at the confluence of changes impacting the CIO and IT leadership. Next up “There’s an app for that...the Appification of IT”.

Jeffrey Ton is the SVP of Corporate Connectivity and Chief Information Officer for Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana, providing vision and leadership in the continued development and implementation of the enterprise-wide information technology and marketing portfolios, including applications, information & data management, infrastructure, security and telecommunications.

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Jeff Ton

About Jeff Ton

Throughout his career in business, Jeffrey Ton has developed and fine tuned his leadership skills to become a business focused leader who drives results. Extending the role of the CIO to encompass a strategic view of the business, he identifies innovative approaches to achieve the business objectives by leveraging technology where and when appropriate. Adept at building and leading teams, both in-line and cross-organizational, he has been a catalyst for change across the businesses he has served. Ton has industry expertise in information technology, non-profits, commercial real estate development, manufacturing, warehousing and distribution, supply chain, green/clean technologies, finance, insurance and consulting. Expertise: • Strategic Planning – Business & Technology • Organization & Management Reengineering • Merger & Acquisition Integration • Divestiture Decoupling • Business & IT Alignment • Enterprise Architecture Strategy • C-level Relationships • International Staff Management & Acquisition • Global Enterprise Implementations • Fiscal Management • Governance & Risk Management • Business Process Optimization • Vendor Relationship Management • Outsourcing(Offshore/Near-shore) & In-sourcing • Technology Portfolio Management • Regulatory and Compliance Management • P&L Management Specialties: Architecture, infrastructure, applications, application development, telecom, e-Business strategy, web development, knowledge management, integration, EDI, SAP, business intelligence, outsourcing, insourcing, contract negotiation, commercial real estate development, manufacturing, warehousing and distribution, supply chain, green/clean technologies, finance, insurance and consulting, keynote speaker on leadership, green and other topics, LEED AP BD+C. Read his blog on RiversofThought.net, Intel's IT Peer Network and LinkedIn.