Performance Guru Advocates the Human Side of Social Business
Martin Packer describes himself as an “IBMer, Mainframe Performance Guy and zChampion, who gets to think about lots of other stuff.” And if you’d follow him on Twitter, friend him on Facebook or read his blog, you’d soon realize that characterization fits him to a T.
Martin’s involvement with social media began 25 years ago, when he first joined IBM and was introduced to its VM forums. Used by the technical community to talk internally about VM operating system issues, Martin quickly discovered two things. “Firstly, I could get discussions going on technical topics and, secondly and perhaps more importantly from a social perspective, I could find like-minded people in the company,” he says.
The forums provided Martin with a vehicle to grow professionally and gain stature as a mainframe performance specialist. They also gave him the impetus to establish his own voice within his community. “In 2005, I became aware of IBM’s internal blogging site called Blog Central. I guess I was a late adopter of blogging as a technique, but I took to this one quite readily and that really was where I got started with blogging and then with micro-blogging through Twitter and a lot of other social applications,” he says.
Today, Martin’s principal social applications are: IBM developerWorks, his Mainframe Performance Topics blog that’s open to IBM and non-IBM developers alike; he’s on Twitter @martinpacker, where he has close to 1,300 followers; LinkedIn where he continues to grow his professional network with those who share common a interest in mainframe performance topics and Facebook, where approximately 50 percent of his 300-plus friends are customers, IBM developers, consultants and other people in the field.
How does Martin make use of these different applications?
“Well, it’s horses for courses,” he explains. “I got heavily into Twitter because a lot of what I had to say was very brief. I didn’t want, for example, in a blog post to develop an argument over several column inches just to deliver a one-sentence payload. So, for me, Twitter works very well. It’s not as rich a medium as Facebook, so where the richness of medium is required, I think Facebook is better.
“But I’ve returned to blogging this year because I’ve realized there are some things I want to explain and discuss in much more detail and blogging is the right medium. … I think it’s a case of you use the tool depending on what you’re trying to do.”
On mixing personal and professional
Martin is not averse to mixing in non-technical discussions and comments. In fact, he sees it as a way of bringing his community closer together. “We get to find common ground,” he says. “For example, it might be taste in music or movies or books we’ve read, or maybe personal philosophy. So I have found that it’s really helped in getting to know customers and other IBMers and consultants in the industry much better and, hopefully, the same has worked the other way around.
“Other people have been able to get to know me better, to build common cause with me better, and that’s the way it seems to work.”
This eclectic approach of just being yourself is what Martin calls ‘authentic voice’ — “talk about stuff you want to talk about in ways you want to talk about it, using the media you want to talk about it in.” And it appears to have served him well in advancing his credibility and social eminence.
For example, when he speaks at conferences or visits with customers, “I’m seeing more and more people say to me I actually read your blog article on this very subject the other day,” he says.
Advice for beginners
Martin recommends that people find the medium that works best for them — “it’s probably several media” — and determine where the community they feel most at home with resides. Once people get started, he says, they’ll figure out how much time they want to devote. “I don’t really schedule time for social networking,” Martin says. “In fact, I regard it as interstitial. It’s stuff I do on and off throughout the day and maybe the night, as and when the mood takes me.”