The social network needs a good role model

Published: October 7th, 2010

Jim Estill has been a successful entrepreneur, a corporate leader and a seasoned triathlete, but few might have expected him to become a live-tweeter.

And yet, as executives poured into Radio City Music Hall in New York City earlier this month for the World Business Forum, there was the founder of EMJ Data Systems, posting updates to his Twitter account (@JimEstill) as the big names took the stage. In one series of Tweets he quoted former GE chairman Jack Welch: “Giving people self-confidence is by far the most important thing that I can do. Because then they will act.” Somehow in the thick of things, he also posted a thoughtful reaction to “Good to Great” author and keynote speaker Jim Collins. By the end of the two-day event, he will no doubt have picked up a slew of new LinkedIn requests.

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So-called social media experts will try and tell you a lot about how to make the most of these various platforms, but perhaps the best approach is to find a good role model.

Although I’ve never worked for him and haven’t spoken to him personally since he became a partner in CanRock Ventures, it’s clear even from a distance that this is what Estill is trying, with surprising earnest, to be. It began several years ago when he launched his “Time Leadership” blog, while he was still steering the ship at Synnex Canada. He talked about his insane schedule, his frequent endurance sport activities, and his wife’s refusal to let him experiment with sleep-deprivation techniques. If you were a Synnex employee, you could read this stuff one of two ways. It was either really inspiring, or the kind of thing that would make even the most productive staffer feel guiltily lazy.

Until quite recently – despite also describing himself in his bio as a social media expert (and a time management “guru”) – his Twitter activity was mostly limited to quoting famous people. “Ability without ambition is like kindling wood without the spark,” was one anonymous quote. “We all have ability. The difference is how we use it,” from Stevie Wonder, was another. These little once-a-day bromides were occasionally uplifting but mostly irritating – I could get the same kind of value by following Barlett’s on Twitter – but there was also a sense that Estill was personally curating each tweet for maximum impact. The message, quite consistently, is: I’m here, there’s the potential to be the best, come join me. Pretty impressive for a guy who made his name as a technology distributor.

Resellers can obviously use social media to provide customers updates on prices, new products being carried and even links to CDN‘s Web site (which we encourage, by the way). But they can also dare to put a bit of their soul into the way they communicate through Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, too. Not everyone has to write about leadership. Customer service, the business value of technology and teamwork are all worthwhile themes. By doing so through social media, as you attend conferences and connect with vendors, you demonstrate you are walking the walk where so many other VARs merely talk the talk. Many will say they don’t have the time. I defy those people to prove they are busier than Jim Estill.

Follow Shane Schick on Twitter: @ShaneSchick.

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