What’s Going to be Your Social Media Legacy?

Image courtesy of Flickr user Douglas Staas

Image courtesy of Flickr user Douglas Staas

As I sat down the other night to write another blog posting for my company’s internal social media platform, I thought to myself what would happen if I were to stop.  Stop blogging.  Stop Tweeting.  Stop evangelizing.  Stop everything related to social media.  What would happen if I took a job in another industry where social media wasn’t a key component of the job? What would happen to all of the blog posts that I’ve done?  What would happen to all of the people on my social media team at Booz Allen?  What would happen to the social media practice there?

What’s my legacy if I were to leave my company?  Specifically, what’s my social media legacy?  People tend to think that their value to their organization is directly proportional to the amount of destruction that would occur in their absence.  Not only is this not true, it’s the exact opposite of what you should want your legacy to be.  Indulge me with the following analogy – when Bill Cowher retired from the Pittsburgh Steelers after an 8-8 season in 2007, he was widely considered one of the best coaches in the league.  In Pittsburgh, his retirement was met with loads of “the sky is falling” criticism.  Cowher was one of the best coaches in the league – what would the Steelers do without him?  When Mike Tomlin took over as the new Steelers coach, he retained a majority of the coaching staff.  Without Cowher, the team didn’t fall apart, the team didn’t collapse.  In fact, the team got better – they went 10-6 in Tomlin’s first year.  Compare this to Lloyd Carr and who retired from the University of Michigan after going 9-4 in 2007.  Rich Rodriguez took over and in his first season, is 3-7 and on his way to leading the Wolverines to one of the worst records in their history.  Who would you say was the more valuable coach – the one who created an organization that could be successful even without him or the one who created an organization that fell apart without him?  Do you look at Bill Cowher as any less of a coach because the team didn’t implode without him?

This concept doesn’t just apply to sports teams though.  Applied to the government, this is akin to those leaders who create new initiatives in their last year of office because they want to leave a legacy.  How many of these efforts continue after they’re gone?  Have they created something that’s going to continue to benefit the organization even after they’re gone, or something that’s going to have a short-term benefit, but will ultimately fail without someone driving it?  Take a look at something like Intellipedia which was founded by Don Burke and Sean Dennehy more than two years ago.  They’ve fostered a environment in which dozens of collaboration leaders from across the Intelligence Community have emerged to not only sustain the Intellipedia vision, but also to build upon it.  What started out as just a wiki now includes social bookmarking, social networking, blogs, and most importantly, a culture of collaboration that will continue even if one or two pieces is taken away.

I am openly challenging myself as well as every other social media evangelist who is reading this post to be like Bill Cowher.  Have you helped develop other leaders who are capable of taking the reins if you’re gone?  Have you shared your skills and knowledge with others throughout your organization who will help ensure the success of your efforts after you leave?  Have you helped create a successful organization full of others like you?  What’s going to be your social media legacy?

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About sradick

I'm Vice President, Director of Public Relations at Brunner in Pittsburgh. Find out more about me here (http://steveradick.com/about/).

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  • Adam R.

    This is an element that is key to the social software movement, but exists in all reputable leadership programs. Any organization or movement that depends on a single leader is doomed should something happen to that leader. Hence why such organizations (including large churches with big mortgages) take out “key man insurance” to guard against demise in the event the “key man” dies.

    Oh, and just to provide gentle clarification (before another, more critical, commenter does so)…Intellipedia was the brainchild of the DNI’s Intelligence Community Enterprise Services group. Sean Dennehy convinced the Office of Iraq Analysis to be the DNI’s pilot “customer” for the service. He and Don Burke joined forces shortly afterward to launch the Sabbatical program. While they remain two of the IC’s most vocal proponents of social software, Intellipedia and rest of the tools on Intelink are all DNI tools.

  • Adam R.

    This is an element that is key to the social software movement, but exists in all reputable leadership programs. Any organization or movement that depends on a single leader is doomed should something happen to that leader. Hence why such organizations (including large churches with big mortgages) take out “key man insurance” to guard against demise in the event the “key man” dies.

    Oh, and just to provide gentle clarification (before another, more critical, commenter does so)…Intellipedia was the brainchild of the DNI’s Intelligence Community Enterprise Services group. Sean Dennehy convinced the Office of Iraq Analysis to be the DNI’s pilot “customer” for the service. He and Don Burke joined forces shortly afterward to launch the Sabbatical program. While they remain two of the IC’s most vocal proponents of social software, Intellipedia and rest of the tools on Intelink are all DNI tools.

  • We’re struggling through a redesign of our Web site just because a “higher up” wants to “leave a legacy” before the current administration ends. Though we all agree that it is time for a redesign and have some exciting ideas and are really improving the site, I wish legacy leavers would provide us with a goal/communications strategy/something other than…”Hey you guys, leave a legacy for me so I look good, kay? Thanks!”

    So, yes, legacy leavers, please build up your team and get them to have your back. Preferably, the “right” (read: strategic) way. 🙂

  • We’re struggling through a redesign of our Web site just because a “higher up” wants to “leave a legacy” before the current administration ends. Though we all agree that it is time for a redesign and have some exciting ideas and are really improving the site, I wish legacy leavers would provide us with a goal/communications strategy/something other than…”Hey you guys, leave a legacy for me so I look good, kay? Thanks!”

    So, yes, legacy leavers, please build up your team and get them to have your back. Preferably, the “right” (read: strategic) way. 🙂

  • Sorry, I will never be like Bill Cowher. I am still suffering from the loss to the Steelers last week. I will be horny for zorny.

    And when it comes to Social Media legacy, I think mine is working just as well as Don and Sean’s. If not more so, in a different way. While Sean was the Pilot customer, I have been working in Social Media tools longer than the term was around. And that is what I think my legacy will be, a community engagement evangelist. The application methodology from tool to tool has evolved with each new tool that is developed, but the basic principles of why these tools work to get more engaged is still there.

  • Sorry, I will never be like Bill Cowher. I am still suffering from the loss to the Steelers last week. I will be horny for zorny.

    And when it comes to Social Media legacy, I think mine is working just as well as Don and Sean’s. If not more so, in a different way. While Sean was the Pilot customer, I have been working in Social Media tools longer than the term was around. And that is what I think my legacy will be, a community engagement evangelist. The application methodology from tool to tool has evolved with each new tool that is developed, but the basic principles of why these tools work to get more engaged is still there.

  • @Adam – absolutely – I didn’t mean to slight DNI/ICES at all, and I’m truly appreciative of all the great work that they’re doing. It’s just that Sean and Don were the “faces” of Intellipedia – out there briefing it, talking about it, etc. To Andrea’s point in her comment, it’s not just Sean, and Don and you and Andrea – it’s the whole community that the DNI/ICES technology has enabled. That’s the beauty of it!

  • @Adam – absolutely – I didn’t mean to slight DNI/ICES at all, and I’m truly appreciative of all the great work that they’re doing. It’s just that Sean and Don were the “faces” of Intellipedia – out there briefing it, talking about it, etc. To Andrea’s point in her comment, it’s not just Sean, and Don and you and Andrea – it’s the whole community that the DNI/ICES technology has enabled. That’s the beauty of it!

  • spoc

    I think the challenge in leaving a legacy is having the replacement pick up where you left off. The examples above are all of leadership wanting make/keep a legacy. Social software is different in that it’s self directed. After the initial wave of adoption, the pressure is on to keep the fire burning, to ensure a critical mass of contributors, because if continuity is lost at the low level, then decay sets in. To draw on the Steelers analogy, maintaining the level of quality and involvement on the field despite player turnover, was as vital to the better schedule as retaining the staff. If the attrition of the pioneers and early adopters isn’t made up by equally committed (as in using the tool, not necessarily evangelizing them), the inner workings will grow stale.

  • spoc

    I think the challenge in leaving a legacy is having the replacement pick up where you left off. The examples above are all of leadership wanting make/keep a legacy. Social software is different in that it’s self directed. After the initial wave of adoption, the pressure is on to keep the fire burning, to ensure a critical mass of contributors, because if continuity is lost at the low level, then decay sets in. To draw on the Steelers analogy, maintaining the level of quality and involvement on the field despite player turnover, was as vital to the better schedule as retaining the staff. If the attrition of the pioneers and early adopters isn’t made up by equally committed (as in using the tool, not necessarily evangelizing them), the inner workings will grow stale.

  • Good stuff, Steve, although it’s hard for some in leadership positions to understand that part of their duty is to set up other people to take on more responsibility and eventually become leaders.

    In the Army, one of the criteria for judging officers, I’m told, is how well they prepare others to take their place. This is particularly important since soldiers accept new assignments every two or three years, if not earlier.

  • Good stuff, Steve, although it’s hard for some in leadership positions to understand that part of their duty is to set up other people to take on more responsibility and eventually become leaders.

    In the Army, one of the criteria for judging officers, I’m told, is how well they prepare others to take their place. This is particularly important since soldiers accept new assignments every two or three years, if not earlier.

  • steven mandzik

    This is no challenge, none whatsoever…should one practice what they preach in social media and social software. The tools are all transparent and searchable. They have legacy built into them.

    Ive seen @fantomplanet do this. All of his stuff was widely available when he went to grad school and was gone for a year. His only possible challenge was pulling it all together to make it easy for other peeps to find (he did it on his wiki user page).

    Ive also done so. When I switched jobs about a year ago I watched carefully to see if there was a drop in anything when I left. The only problem I ever saw was that they couldnt find some personal information on our old students. I quickly showed them the wiki page with the info on it and everything was done.

    Tho, to Steve’s point I do have challenge myself every once in a while to do something on an open platform that I would not normally do. Like recently my team has hired a lot of new people with questions. I would force myself to not answer the question on the spot but answer it on a new wiki page I created (called it “New Employee Handbook”) and then send them the link. Its now growing with info, helping newer employees, and even saving me question/answer time.

  • steven mandzik

    This is no challenge, none whatsoever…should one practice what they preach in social media and social software. The tools are all transparent and searchable. They have legacy built into them.

    Ive seen @fantomplanet do this. All of his stuff was widely available when he went to grad school and was gone for a year. His only possible challenge was pulling it all together to make it easy for other peeps to find (he did it on his wiki user page).

    Ive also done so. When I switched jobs about a year ago I watched carefully to see if there was a drop in anything when I left. The only problem I ever saw was that they couldnt find some personal information on our old students. I quickly showed them the wiki page with the info on it and everything was done.

    Tho, to Steve’s point I do have challenge myself every once in a while to do something on an open platform that I would not normally do. Like recently my team has hired a lot of new people with questions. I would force myself to not answer the question on the spot but answer it on a new wiki page I created (called it “New Employee Handbook”) and then send them the link. Its now growing with info, helping newer employees, and even saving me question/answer time.

  • @spoc – Social media is all about the people. Rather than having a replacement trying to pick up where I left off, I’d rather have what you’re talking about – a critical mass of contributors/leaders pick things up where I left off. The challenge isn’t in finding one person like me, it’s identifying and growing dozens of them!

    @Bill – I WISH this was part of our assessments. All managers should be judged at least partially on how they develop (or not develop) their staff.

    @Steve – I agree with you that technically, this shouldn’t be a challenge, but culturally, it still is. True, all of my presentations are available on the wiki; all of my strategy/approach materials are available on my blog, etc. However, the challenging part is getting people to not only understand that this material is there and available, but also what to do with it. Replacing the passion is what’s difficult, not the knowledge.

  • @spoc – Social media is all about the people. Rather than having a replacement trying to pick up where I left off, I’d rather have what you’re talking about – a critical mass of contributors/leaders pick things up where I left off. The challenge isn’t in finding one person like me, it’s identifying and growing dozens of them!

    @Bill – I WISH this was part of our assessments. All managers should be judged at least partially on how they develop (or not develop) their staff.

    @Steve – I agree with you that technically, this shouldn’t be a challenge, but culturally, it still is. True, all of my presentations are available on the wiki; all of my strategy/approach materials are available on my blog, etc. However, the challenging part is getting people to not only understand that this material is there and available, but also what to do with it. Replacing the passion is what’s difficult, not the knowledge.

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  • Good post congratulations

  • Good post congratulations

  • It feels really happy to see that some one thinks what would happen if he suddenly ceases to network socially through media. Very few people are so very much concerned about this. Many people don’t really bother and think this to be trivial.I appreciate that you differ.Good post.

  • It feels really happy to see that some one thinks what would happen if he suddenly ceases to network socially through media. Very few people are so very much concerned about this. Many people don’t really bother and think this to be trivial.I appreciate that you differ.Good post.

  • This “one to many” and “many to many” strategy will create a wide scale social influence on the customers and communities they serve.Social Media marketing is a necessary element for all corporations today. Companies are also inventing innovative ways in leveraging social media.

  • This “one to many” and “many to many” strategy will create a wide scale social influence on the customers and communities they serve.Social Media marketing is a necessary element for all corporations today. Companies are also inventing innovative ways in leveraging social media.

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  • Hi Today there are many options for social media connections and to compromise with quality depends on the company. I think the most successful social media efforts are those that are driven by passionate people who love people and who truly want to change the way their organization operates, not by people …

  • Hi Today there are many options for social media connections and to compromise with quality depends on the company. I think the most successful social media efforts are those that are driven by passionate people who love people and who truly want to change the way their organization operates, not by people …

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