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Reviewing the Year in Social Media Strategery

Social Media Strategery has been around for more than two years now – much much longer than I ever thought I would be able to keep this blogging thing up. As one of my colleagues mentioned to me the other day, two years is an eternity in Internet time, and I’m grateful that I’m still somehow able to come up with posts that people enjoy and/or find useful in their everyday lives.  I’m even more grateful for all of you out there.  This year, you’ve continued to support me in my writing – subscribing, commenting, and sharing my experiences and thoughts with your communities and for that, I can’t thank you enough.

So for everyone who reads this blog regularly – whether you’re a subscriber, reader, commenter, critic, colleague, or friend – thank you, thank you, thank you.  Here are your top five most popular posts on Social Media Strategery from the past year:

  1. Identify the Right People to Manage Your Social Media Initiatives – this has been one of my most popular posts ever, receiving more than 3,500 page views, 26 comments, 400 retweets, and 71 Facebook shares, but more than that, it became a rallying cry for those of us who have grown tired of seeing the wrong people in our organizations get tasked with social media initiatives because of their position, regardless of their skills, experience, or personality.  Hopefully, this post also resulted in at least one or two leaders rethinking their staffing decisions.
  2. Six Villains of Gov 2.0 – One of the most light-hearted posts that I’ve done – this one generated a lot of interest not just because it was fun, but because I think many of us recognized and dealt with these villains before.
  3. I Started a Blog But No One Cared – A post from the very beginning of the year that has remained fairly popular throughout 2010. This post represented another example of people applying old rules to new media. Just because you’ve got a fancy title doesn’t mean anyone cares about what you have to say. Before, we just deleted your emails and you were none the wiser. In the world of social media though, content beats titles any day of the week.
  4. The “Getting Started with Gov 2.0” Guide – this post was borne entirely out of frustration. I grew tired of sending the same email out over and over again, so I created this post to serve as a resource to direct people to for the fundamentals on Gov 2.0. I can’t tell you how much time this post has saved me (and hopefully some of you) over the last year. Unfortunately, it’s now horribly out of date – looks like I need to create a “Getting Started with Gov 2.0” Guide – Redux post soon!
  5. Twenty Theses for Gov 2.0, Cluetrain Style – Amazingly, this post is now almost two years old (originally published in February 2009), yet it still gets fairly regular traffic. Enough traffic that it comes in as the fifth most popular post of 2010.  My favorite part of this post is that it yielded many of the key messages that guide my team’s work to this day – from “Social media is not about the technology but what the technology enables” to “Social media is not driven by the position, the title, or the department, it’s driven by the person.”

This blog was a lot of fun for me this year – I was able to write about some pretty important stuff, meet a lot of new people, and most importantly, help make some positive change in the world of social media and our government.  I’m looking forward to writing more, commenting more, and connecting more in 2011 – I hope you’ll all continue to be a part of that for at least 365 more days :).

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The “New Media Director” Position is Just a Means to an End

We've got a long way to go...

In 2010, the position of “New Media Director” within the government has become almost commonplace. From governors to senators to Departments and Agencies, now you can attend a GovUp and leave with more than a dozen business cards, all containing the title of New Media Director. Some may herald this as a sign that yes, the government finally “gets it!”  Some may even look at a role like this as the pinnacle for a social media professional in the DC area.

The role sure sounds enticing to anyone working in the social media community (the below represents a composite job description that you might see):

Job Title: New Media Director
Department:
Department of Take Your Pick
Grade:
GS-14 or GS-15
Salary Range:
$100,000+
Job Summary:
Oversee the development and implementation of a new media strategy;  respond to public information inquires via new media outlets; serve as an agency liaison for new media relations; electronically manage the marketing of agency press releases; responds to various important agency and departmental priorities and events; coordinate video and audio production of content and upload to Agency web sites; develop and implement a process for creating and posting content to multiple Agency websites.

Unfortunately, as many of the people with this title have discovered this year, there are some not so minor details that aren’t talked about as often. Let’s read between the lines of the job description –

Job Summary: Oversee the development and implementation of a new media strategy (by yourself, with no staff or budget);  respond to public information inquires via new media outlets (but make sure every tweet gets approved by public affairs first); serve as an agency liaison for new media efforts across the Agency (create Facebook pages and Twitter accounts for people); electronically manage the marketing of agency press releases (make our stuff go viral!); respond to various important agency and departmental priorities and events (get media coverage for our events); coordinate video and audio production of content and upload to Agency web sites (get us on YouTube and create viral videos, but make sure they’re approved by General Counsel and Public Affairs); develop and implement a policy and a process for creating and posting content to multiple Agency websites (but without any actual authority- just get buy-in from all of the public affairs officers – I’m sure they’ll be happy to adhere to your new policy).

Sounds a little less glamorous now, right?

Here’s the problem.  As Gov 2.0 and Open Government became buzzwords within government, more and more senior leaders decided that they needed to have someone in charge of that “stuff.”  Thus, the “New Media Director” was born.  Despite their best intentions, this role has too often become a position that not many people understand, with no budget, no authority, and no real support beyond the front office.  Unfortunately, by creating this separate “New Media Director” position, these agencies have undermined their own public affairs, IT security, privacy, and human resources efforts. The “New Media Director” position has allowed social media to become this separate, compartmentalized thing. Rather than public affairs officers learning about how to use social media because they it’s just part of what they do, they can say, “well, that’s not in my lane.”  Instead of HR learning how to handle employee use of social media, they can say, “well, the New Media Director is handling that Tweeter stuff.”  The law of unintended consequences has struck again.

As these New Media Directors have found out, social media doesn’t exist in a vacuum – there isn’t one person or team that can own it. The position of New Media Director then is just a means to an end. It’s just a phase. No, the end state shouldn’t be when every Agency has a New Media Director, but when every Agency has Communications Directors, Directors of Human Resources, Chief Information Officers, Office of General Counsel who are all knowledgeable about social media and its impact on their specific area of expertise. Teaching a New Media Director how to get the UnderSecretary’s buy-in for some social media effort is just a stepping stone. The real change will come when that New Media Director IS the UnderSecretary.

We should stop aspiring to become New Media Directors where we have to fight for leadership buy-in, and instead aspire to become the leaders ourselves. Otherwise, we risk marginalizing the very movement we’re trying to create.

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Identify the Right People to Manage Your Social Media Initiatives

Who leads your organization’s social media initiatives? Is it someone who rose up and took the role or is is someone who was assigned that role?

Social media isn’t something that can just be assigned to someone any more than you can just assign someone to be the homecoming king. Adding “social media” to that junior public affairs officer’s job description isn’t suddenly going to turn your organization into the next Zappo’s. While you’re at it, you might as well add “organizational budgeting” and “legal review” to his job description too – those are two other things that he/she might be able to do well, but would you really entrust those duties to them?

This is why so many social media initiatives fail – not because of technology or policy, but because of people.  We talk often about what department should lead social media, how to get leadership buy-in for social media, or what technology should be used, and while those are important discussions to have, you should be focused on identifying WHO should be leading the social media initiatives.  Not whether that’s the Chief Marketing Officer or the Director of Public Affairs or the Community Relations Lead, but actual names of people.  Remember, social media is driven by the person, not the position.

The best person right now might be Joe over in Marketing, but what if Joe leaves the organization?  Who leads the social media initiatives then?  The answer isn’t necessarily Joe’s replacement.  It might be Kim over in HR. It might be that new guy over in community relations, or maybe it’s your webmaster.  The point is that social media doesn’t fit nicely into just one job description.  There’s a very real human element to it, and identifying the wrong person, even if it is the right position is often the biggest determination in the success or failure of your social media initiatives.

To find the right person to handle social media for your organization, look for people who:

  • LOVE your organization and really understand its mission – first and foremost, find the people who love their jobs and believe in your mission. This isn’t a job for the person interested in just the paycheck.
  • Believe in the transformative power of social media – it’s not about applying the same old processes to new tools. It’s about fundamentally transforming the way your organization interacts with the public, your customers and with each other.
  • You enjoy being around – If a person is a real butthead in real-life, he’s going to be that way online too, and you can’t afford to have someone like that representing you or your organization
  • Have little fear of failure – Early in my career, a client pulled me aside after they shot down 3 straight ideas I had and told me, “I want to make sure that you understand we WANT you to continue bringing those off-the-wall ideas because it forces us to think of things we never thought of and even if we don’t take your suggestions now, they all become building blocks for future ideas.”
  • Enjoy working in teams – Social media is “social” – you have to enjoy working with a diverse group of people
  • Are responsive – There is no 24 hour news cycle any more. It’s real-time baby. You need people who you KNOW will reply to emails, tweets, texts, etc. quickly and thoroughly. Interestingly, these are also often the people who are the most ambitious and passionate about your organization too.  (*note – these are also the people who may take longer lunches or come in a little late because they don’t just “shut off” at 5:00 PM)
  • Can speak like a human being – Corporate marketing speak, statistics, facts, and figures are good, but when was the last time you got inspired by a pie chart? Find people who can connect with their colleagues/customers/clients on a personal level
  • Are very aware of their strengths and weaknesses and are open about them – One of the first things I tell new employees is to find out what you’re good at and find out what you’re not good at, and then find people who are good at those things and make friends with them. In social media, you’re going to come across issues regarding privacy, IT, legal, communications, and HR, not to mention specific functional areas of your organization. You can’t know it all – know what you don’t know, and know who to contact for help.
  • Are humble -People mess up in social media. A lot.  It’s ok.  Admit you’re wrong, fix what you messed up and move on. Not everyone can do this, and very few can do it well.

Now that I think about it,these are many of the same qualities that exist in any leader, right?  So, what other qualities would you look for when trying to identify someone to head up a social media initiative?

This post was inspired by Andrew Wilson’s “Innovation Lab | Who Should Be At The Table” post and Lovisa Williams’ “The Intersection” post. Fantastic stuff (as usual) by the both of them.

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The “Getting Started with Government 2.0” Guide

In the last few months, I’ve received an increasing number of “hey Steve, how would you recommend someone get started in social media or Government 2.0?” emails, and I’ve gotten tired of sending out the same emails time and time again. I’ve been meaning to write a post like this for a while, but even I was little overwhelmed at the resources available! So, here’s my attempt at creating a post (with comments) that will hopefully become a helpful resource for those interested in learning more about social media and the Government.

*I realize that there will be GREAT resources out there that I miss in this post – PLEASE add them below as a comment so that others may benefit!!!

The Fundamentals

  1. Government 2.0 is about more than just social media. I define it as “the strategic use of technology to transform our government into a platform that is participatory, collaborative, and transparent” but that’s just one definition – there are a LOT more.  However, to make this post manageable for you guys, I’ll be focusing primarily on the social media and communications side of Government 2.0 here.
  2. Read the Twenty Theses for Government 2.0 – if you’re interested in this world, read these basic tenets of how social media and the government works
  3. You’re not going to learn this stuff via books and blogs alone – you’re going to have to get your hands dirty and actually use these tools to interact with the people you’re trying to reach.
  4. Don’t apply mass media (press releases, TV, radio, etc.) rules and processes to this. Good fundamentals in interpersonal communication will serve you well.  There are no audiences or eyeballs any more – you’re going to be dealing with real people here.

    Gov 2.0 milestones from 2009

  5. Getting “good” at this is going to take time. I can’t give you a checklist of things to do and magically, you’re going to be good at it when you’re done. While I wish it were that easy, just keeping up with all of the changes that are taking place in the government is hard enough. The environment has changed so much even in the last year. That’s why all these steps will get only get you started – it will be up to you to keep the progress up!

The Starter Videos

Baby Steps

  • Do a Google search on your name. Find out what’s available online about you already – this is your first impression to most people.  Do you have a popular name and the results are flooded with data that’s not about you? Doesn’t matter – I don’t know that that’s not you.  You NEED to be aware of what’s out there about you and what can be associated with you.
  • Set up a Google Alert for your name/organization so that you’re notified whenever someone writes a blog post, news article, etc. about you or your organization.
  • Read Chris Brogan’s “If I Started Today” and his “Social Media Starter Pack” posts
  • Do some internal research.  Search your organization’s Intranet to see who in your organization is already doing something with social media or Government 2.0.  Find out who the experts are within and introduce yourself to them.  Have a meeting with them and find out what they recommend/where you might be able to help. I know this is all new to you, but chances are, someone has already started doing something with social media internally.
  • Do some external research.  Google your organization’s name and “social media” or “Government 2.0” or “open government.”  Find out what, if anything, is being said externally.  Maybe you’ll find out additional names of people you can reach out to or maybe you’ll find nothing – either way, it’s better to have done your research first.
  • Find your organization’s social media policy/guidelines and memorize them. Print them out and stick them to your wall.  If your organization doesn’t have any social media guidelines, find your external communications policy and see if it’s covered in there. If not, then go and talk with your public affairs/external communications team and have a conversation about this.

Setting the Stage

The government – federal, state, and local – isn’t some late adopter in social media. In many cases, they’re leading the way. Before you start thinking that just because you work in an office that still only has Internet Explorer 6, and any social media knowledge is just going to blow everyone away, take a look through some of these influential  documents on what the government is doing in this area.

Books

If you’re a book reader, go out and get the following:

Daily Reading

Become Part of the Online Community

  • Get on LinkedIn. Here’s a good primer on how to get started there. LinkedIn is the most popular business-oriented social networking site there is. It’s low risk, and it will give you a starting point for your online activities.
  • Join GovLoop, the “Facebook for Government” with more than 25,000 members, and read through their Getting Started Guide. Try to visit at least once a day.

    Join GovLoop if you haven't already

  • Join Twitter (watch Twitter in Plain English). No, it’s not just a site where you’re going to hear what people ate for lunch. This is where you’re going to get a chance to meet and interact with some of the top social media and Gov 2.0 minds in real-time.  Once you create your account, start by following these people/lists:

Protecting Your Privacy

  • As you’re signing up for these social networking services, and you start “getting out there,” don’t forget that there are privacy implications to everything you post online. While the following resources will help educate you on the privacy policies and best practices of social media, I always tell people not to post anything online that you wouldn’t want your boss/mom seeing. I don’t care what check boxes you select or what privacy setting you use – if it’s online, consider it public.  Facebook doesn’t have a setting to prevent “right click, save as” or from hitting the PrintScreen button and grabbing a screenshot. 

Newsletters

  • Subscribe to the Daily Scoop from FedScoop
  • Subscribe to the SmartBrief on Social Media – fantastic daily email newsletter on the top social media stories of the day (disclosure: I’m on their Advisory Board)
  • Subscribe to KD Paine’s Measurement Standard newsletter for the latest news, tips, and strategies for measuring and evaluating social media
  • If you’re a member of GovLoop, you’ll also receive the GovLoop Weekly, a newsletter highlighting the best of GovLoop each week

Bookmark These Government 2.0 Resources

Social Media is About Connecting Offline Too

Becoming comfortable and effective with social media doesn’t mean just mean sitting in front of your computer either.

GovLoop profiles a new member every week, and GovFresh has highlighted several members of the Gov 2.0 community as Gov 2.0 heroes. If you get a chance, introduce yourself to these people as I can virtually guarantee you that someone has already experienced whatever challenge you’re facing and can probably help you overcome it.

Congratulations if you made it this far!  At this point, you will be pretty overwhelmed – that’s ok!  Back when I got started with social media at my company, it took me around six months to go from “hmmm, this is interesting” to “let’s actually do something with this as an organization!” Spend some time reading, learning, playing, meeting, and talking with people until you are comfortable with the concepts and tools of social media and the government.

The Sunlight Foundation's interpretation of a logo for open government

Taking a Strategic View

Once you’re comfortable with the principles and tools of social media, now you can start applying them to your organization. Start by reviewing this handy social media strategy worksheet from AIDS.gov, as well as this super list of social media case studies from organizations around the world. From the public sector, check out all of the case studies that were highlighted at last year’s Gov 2.0 Expo Showcase and this year’s Gov 2.0 Expo.

Your next step will likely be step 3 in my “Bringing Social Media to Your Organization Playbook.”  By this point, you should be pretty saturated in the world of social media, (and have hopefully dropped me a tweet or two), so I’ll end this massive post here as you should be well on your way to adding yourself to my lists of resources above.  Just keep in mind that you may soon find yourself following the evolution of the social media evangelist – be aware of the stages that you may very well find yourself in, and start identifying ways to mitigate the challenges that they may present.

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