Author Archives | sradick

About sradick

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

Insulate Open Government Efforts From Budget Cuts

April 24, 2011

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Numbers And Finance

To be successful over the long-term, Open Government efforts can't be a separate line item on the balance sheet

With the recent news that several major Open Government efforts including USASpending.gov, Data.gov, and FedSpace may be shut down due to budget cuts and that the Pentagon has disbanded their social media office, many people in the #gov20 community started wondering if their social media, Gov 2.0 and Open Government programs might be next. People rushed to their dashboards to develop PowerPoint slides that illustrated the impact that their social media and open government efforts.

  • “We have 5,000 Facebook fans – an increase of 143% over last year!!”
  • “Our retweet % has increased by 45% since last month!”
  • “Half of our web traffic results from click-throughs on our Twitter posts!”
  • “Our Open Government site is one of the Top 5 most popular open government sites!”
  • “Our datasets have been downloaded more than 1,000 times this month!”

Here’s the thing – if you’re only using metrics like these, you’re probably next on the chopping block. While they may be impressive to you and to others in the #gov20 community, this approach only marginalizes the impact of open government, making it something that’s a nice-to-have instead of a must-have. Guess which one gets the money when budgets are tight? Social media and open government will only be successful over the long-term if and when it becomes integrated with larger organizational efforts.

The problem is that most open government initiatives have been stood up and led by separate teams – the social media office, the New Media Director, the Open Government Team – rather than by existing functions within the enterprise. This makes open government and/or social media a separate line item in the budget – something that can literally be crossed off on the balance sheet when budgets are tight.

Instead of bragging about having the best blog, open dataset, Facebook page, or Twitter account, try pointing to the impact you’ve had on other people’s ability to do their job. Five thousand Twitter followers don’t mean a whole lot to senior leadership, especially when they don’t even know what Twitter is. However, if the customer service department can point to a 20% increase in customer satisfaction because they’ve integrated Twitter into their processes, simply cutting “social media” becomes less of an option. Instead of pointing to how many times your open datasets have been downloaded, try showing how the number of FOIA requests your organization has received has declined because the data are now freely available.

If you want to ensure the long-term viability of your open government and social media efforts, you have to demonstrate the impact you’ve had on other areas of the organization and how you’ve saved them money and/or improved their performance. Cutting an “Open Government Team” is pretty easy if that’s the only reason for its existence. However, what if:

  • the FOIA team stepped up and said that if the the Open Government Team were cut, their budget would have to increase to handle the corresponding increase in FOIA requests;
  • the customer service team says that customer satisfaction has increased because they’re using the social media channels established by the Open Government Team;
  • the public affairs department can point to a 20% decrease in negative press because they’re using Twitter to engage proactively with the media;
  • that recruiting says that the number of recruits has increased by 22% since they started using Facebook;

To insulate your Open Government efforts, stop talking about Open Government and start talking about how your efforts have positively impacted other areas of your organization. Integrate your open government efforts into other parts of your organization instead of building your open government empire. It’s a lot easier to cut something that’s contained within one team than something that’s pervasive throughout the organization.

*Image courtesy of Flickr User KenTeegardin

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Seven Things About Social Media That You’re Not Going to Learn in College

April 5, 2011

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I talk a lot about the need to do a better job of integrating social media into the world of higher education. That’s why when my my alma mater asked me to speak at their annual Communication Week this year, I jumped at the opportunity (well, that and I was able to take my daughter to see her grandparents for the weekend). Because these students are already learning the basics of social media in their core communication classes, I didn’t want to do yet another Social Media 101 type presentation. Instead, I wanted to help them understand that even though they may learn what Twitter is, how to use it, and some case studies, there’s nothing like doing it in the real world. That’s why I gave a presentation last Friday titled “The 7 Things About Social Media That You’re Not Going to Learn in College.”

Here’s the presentation I gave, with the key takeaways below:

1. I am not an audience, a public, a viewer, a demographic or a user – I am an actual PERSON with a VOICE
Throw out what you learned in Mass Communications 101 and instead focus on what you learned in Human Communications or Interpersonal Communications. You’re better off knowing and understanding the fundamental principles behind communicating with someone face-to-face than trying to replicate the influence that the War of the Worlds broadcast had on the American public. The megaphone approach doesn’t work when everyone has a megaphone. Learn to interact with actual human beings instead of nameless audiences and users.

2. I don’t care how many friends, followers, likes, or blog comments you have
I really don’t, not when anyone can go and game the system by buying thousands of Twitter followers or Facebook fans. Whether you have 100 or 10,000 followers is irrelevant to me. I want to know that you’ve at least tried to use Twitter/Facebook/blogs/Foursquare for a purpose other than getting more people at your Edward Forty-hands parties. Having demonstrated social media experience on your resume is great, but not because I care about the numbers, but because it shows me that you’re willing and able to try something new. It shows me you’re willing to take a risk and follow through. So don’t tell me that you have 10,000 Facebook likes, tell me how you used Facebook to increase the donations to a local animal shelter. Using social media in a professional context is hard, especially if you’re not learning it in class. I understand that – that’s why I care more about the effort than the numbers.

3. “Social Media” is not a career option
The New Media Director is just a means to an end.  Sure, there’s lots of demand now, but what happens when social media is no longer the new hot thing? You can’t JUST be a social media specialist. That’s a short-term role, much like the “email consultants” that sprouted up 15 years ago. I always tell people that I’m not a social media consultant – I’m a communications consultant who knows how to use social media.

4. Some people just aren’t cut out for the job
Not everyone has the personality or interpersonal communications skills to take full advantage of the full potential of social media. Are you comfortable introducing yourself to new people? Telling someone you really liked their work? Building a relationship with someone without having an ulterior motive? Disagreeing with someone in a very public way without offending them? Knowing how to apologize? Comfortable with having every aspect of your professional life available for public criticism?  It takes a special kind of self-confidence and self-awareness to be really good at using social media to effect some sort of impact. I can teach someone how to tweet, but it’s much more difficult to teach someone how to really enjoy getting to know other people.

5. Your innovative, awesome, ground-breaking, and cutting edge ideas aren’t as innovative, awesome, ground-breaking, and cutting edge  as you think
Most of corporate America has VERY little knowledge of social media for business purposes, so by simply proposing that you use Twitter as part of your marketing plan during your internship, you may end up becoming THE social media subject matter expert. Here’s a news flash – you’re not.  Senior leadership, your boss, your peers – they may very well start referring to you as a guru, ninja, SME, etc. but just because you know the basics doesn’t mean you’re an expert. In his book Outliers, Malcom Gladwell defines an “Expert” as someone with ten years or 10,000 hours of experience. Twitter just turned five years old. You do the math. You MUST continue to learn, to network, to read, to listen because that’s the only way you’re going to keep up.

6. You’re always on and everything is public
Your day will not end just because it’s 5:00 PM. That picture of you doing bodyshots off that waitress? Your boss, your clients, your peers – assume they’ll all see it. It doesn’t matter that it’s up there on your “personal” account or because it happened while you were on vacation. Your online life is your online life, both professional and personal. Your name and face will be freely available to everyone online – are you comfortable with a client recognizing you at the bar on Saturday night?

7. You’re going to come across a lot of jerks – don’t be one of them
Ever meet someone and the first thing they do is tell you all about how they graduated magna cum laude from Harvard or Yale? Or, they throw around their job title? Or, how much money they have? Or how they’ve got this great idea you have to invest in? Maybe you have a friend who never has money and needs you to spot him when you guys go out?  How about that guy who always seems to have an ulterior motive – he always needs a favor, some money, a ride, a recommendation? Do you LIKE being around them? Do you WANT to do them any favors? You can’t hide anymore – you can’t lie, you can’t be a jerk. People talk….about you, about your work, about how you talk about them.  Everyone is connected – that guy whose blog post you stole last week?  He’s probably in a Facebook group with your client, and guess who’s going to see him complaining about you?

Ultimately though, none of this matters because you’re not going to have a choice. While the tools that we talk about will change over time, the kinds of communication that social media enables isn’t going away. As communications students, you can either start learning about social media now and be a forward-thinker or be forced to learn it later on the job where you’re expected to know it already.

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Just Because You Run the Same Plays Doesn’t Mean You’ll Get the Same Results

March 23, 2011

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The Packers dominated teams using the Lombardi Sweep, but few teams had the talent to run it as effectively

“That’s easy – even I could do that!”

Really?  Could you?  How many times have you been watching a game and said that about that highlight catch that you saw on Sportscenter?  How many times have you watched Tiger Woods swing a golf club and then try to recreate that yourself? How many times have you yelled at your favorite team to just run that one play because you just know it’ll work?

Guess what – you wouldn’t have made that catch, you can’t golf like Tiger, and your play calling leaves a lot to be desired.

This same thinking unfortunately, also carries over to the business world. Over the course of eight years in the consulting industry, I’ve noticed an increasing number of colleagues, peers, and clients thinking that just because they read/downloaded/heard a white paper, strategy, or presentation, (a play, a swing, or a catch) they too can go out and be a communications or social media expert too. Or, they ask for the detailed step-by-step guide for “using Twitter/Facebook/blogs successfully.” Like the weekend golfer who tries to be Tiger Woods or the YMCA rec league player trying to dunk, the results are similarly predictable. You downloaded that community management strategy that I did for a client two years ago and you’re now using it with your team in a totally different environment with a totally different culture? How’s that working out for you?

In the 1960s, the Green Bay Packers repeatedly ran the “Lombardi Sweep” with great success. With Vince Lombardi coaching and Hall of Famers Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor, and Jerry Kramer running the play, it became virtually unstoppable. Seeing this success, other teams started to incorporate the play into their playbooks although none were able to duplicate the success the Packers had with it. Running the Lombardi Sweep with four Hall-of-Famers had predictably different results than when you’re running it with a bunch of guys off the street! The actual play wasn’t some proprietary, secret play – it’s actually a pretty simple play to run that many teams already had in their playbook. Despite the widespread availability of the play and game tapes of the play being run to perfection, no one was ever able to consistently duplicate the results that those Packer teams had. Because they had one thing the other teams didn’t – Hall of Fame talent running the play.

The current world of social media isn’t all that different. All it takes is a simple Google search and you’ll easily find millions of blog posts, white papers, presentations, and case studies on social media best practices. You too can use the same tactics used by Zappo’s! You can create an Enterprise Social Computing Strategy just like Intel!  Unfortunately, just like your repeated attempts to dunk like Blake Griffin, your ability to emulate the successes by these companies will likely leave you frustrated and in pain. Do you have the talent to implement something like that? Do you have the right people on staff to help you?

Remember this the next time you read a white paper or listen to a presentation about social media or community management and think to yourself, “hey, I could do that!” There’s a reason people recruit, hire, and pay experienced community managers and social media specialists to do these things – because these things are hard to do. Stop looking for the quick fix, magic bullet strategy/play/framework/model/methodology/secret sauce to social media – it doesn’t exist. Instead of trying to copy another team’s success, focus on recruiting, hiring, and developing your own talent and matching up your strategies to fit. After all, you may never dunk like Blake Griffin, but you might be able to shoot the three better than him.

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The Many Roles of an Internal Community Manager

March 9, 2011

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When someone in the communications industry refers to a “community manager,” they are usually referring to someone that can manage the online relationships for a particular brand, using tools like Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. However, over the last few years, a new Community Manager role has emerged – the internal Community Manager, responsible for increasing and maintaining user adoption for social media tools behind the organizational firewall. With the growing ubiquity of Enterprise 2.0 software, vendors and clients alike have come to realize that these communities don’t just magically appear. Along with this realization has come greater demand for people to handle things like user adoption, marketing, and community management – we’re witnessing the rise of the internal community manager.

It's a living

The Internal Community Manager wears many hats

While these positions may sound like the perfect job for the social media evangelist in your organization – moderate forums, write blog posts, garden the wiki, give briefings about social media, develop user adoption strategies, answer user questions, monitor and analyze user activity – the internal community manager actually wears many other hats, some of which aren’t nearly as fun and exciting, and many of which aren’t going to be high on the wish list of potential candidates. Let’s take a look at the many hats of the internal community manager:

  • Referee – When someone posts a link to a political article and the conversation is starts to devolve into partisan name-calling and vitriol, guess who gets to be the one to steer the conversation back toward professionalism and healthy debate? Oh yeah, and you can’t use your admin privileges (the nuclear option) to just “lock” or delete the conversation either because then you’re not community manager, you’re big brother.
  • Ombudsman – When the community starts complaining about the speed, reliability, or accessibility of the platform, you need to be the one to bring up those concerns with the developers and push to get these issues fixed. If a new feature is riddled with bugs, you can’t just toe the company line and say it’s great – you have to be able to offer your honest, unbiased opinion. After all, you’re the advocate for the community, not a mouthpiece for the development team.
  • Party Promoter – Know that guy passing out flyers outside the club you walked past earlier today? Yeah, that’s going to be you. You’ll be handing out flyers, sending emails, giving briefings – anything you can do to get people to come by and check out your community.
  • Comedian You can’t take the ‘social’ out of social media. There has to be someone there who can show the rest of the community how to have a little fun, and the community manager has to be comfortable using humor in a professional environment (no, those are not mutually exclusive).
  • Teacher – Ever try to teach someone to change their golf swing after they’ve been doing it the same way for 20 years? Get ready for a lot more of that feeling. It’s very much like trying to teach someone to use a wiki for collaboration instead of using email. Get used to people copying and pasting the content off the wiki and into a Word document, turning on track changes, and then sending you the marked-up Word document for you to “take a look at” before uploading to the wiki.
  • Inspirational Leader – You will not have enough hours in the day to do everything you want. You cannot possibly garden the wiki, write your blog posts, moderate all of the forums, stay active on Yammer, run your metrics reports and do everything else a community manager is asked to do by yourself. You’re going to need to identify others in the community to help you, and oh by the way, you’ll need to get them to buy into your approach and do the work but you won’t have any actual authority and they’ll all have other jobs too.  Good luck!
  • Help Desk – When the WYSIWYG editor on the blogs isn’t working right, guess who the users are going to call? The answer isn’t the help(less) desk. It’s you. You’re going to receive emails, Yams, phone calls, and IMs from everyone asking for your help because you’re the person they see most often and using the platform. Who are they going to trust to get them an answer – the person they see using the platform every day or some faceless/nameless guy behind a distro list email?
  • Psychiatrist – When that executive starts a blog and no one reads it or comments on it, you have to be ready to go into full out touchy-feely mode and help reassure him/her, manage their expectations, give them some tips and tricks, and build their self-esteem back up so that they will continue being active. For someone who was able to live off their title for so long, getting out there and having to prove oneself with their content again can be a tricky proposition.
  • Troublemaker – Work conversations can get pretty boring – a community filled with blog posts about your revisions to the TPS reports aren’t exactly going to elicit a lot of conversation. You will have to be the one who can start start and manage difficult conversations with the community. Guess who gets the write the blog post criticizing the new expense reporting policy?
  • Cheerleader – When community members use the platform in the right way and/or contributes something really valuable, you need to be the first one to share it as far and wide as possible. You need to be the person putting that community member’s face on the front page and tell everyone else what he did and how others can be like him. You need to be the one cheering people on to give them the positive reinforcement they need.
  • Project Manager – These communities don’t build themselves. You’re going to be responsible for creating and delivering all kinds of reports, briefings, fact sheets, and metrics and you’re going to need a plan for how to meet those deadlines and still engage with the community itself.
  • Writer – Every community platform has some sort of front page along with some static “About this community” type of content. You need to be able to write that content in a way that’s professional yet informal enough that people will still read it.
  • Janitor – When you open up your local shared drive, you’re likely to see 47 different version of the same document, hopefully, with one of those containing a big FINAL in the filename. The old version are good to keep around just in case, but all they’re really doing is cluttering up the folder and making it difficult to find anything. The same thing happens in an online community. People post things in the wrong forums, they accidentally publish half-written blog posts, they upload documents without tagging them, etc. You get to go in and clean up these messes!

Wow – when you spell all out like that, maybe being an internal community manager isn’t such a great position after all. Seems like it’s a lot more difficult than simply blogging, managing user accounts, and coordinating change requests! Before you grab that one guy on your team who has some extra time on his hands and volunteer him for your new community management role, you might want to think about these other hats he’s going to have to wear and really ask yourself if Johnny, your social media intern, is really the right man for the job or if you should hire an experienced community manager.

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