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The Social Media Resolutions I Want You to Make

Ugh – the phrase 2011 social media resolutions returns more than 12 million search results on Google and I find most of them totally insufferable. Let me guess – in 2011, you resolve to “blog more often,” “double the number of Twitter followers you have,” “stop spending so much time on Facebook,” and “engage more with your customers/readers?”  Two years ago, I even did one of these posts myself.

So why do I have such an aversion to these posts now? To start,  most of them are cliche (blog more often!), totally ambiguous (engage more!), or common sense (listen to other people!).  For most people, the social media resolutions post has become blog filler that doesn’t really offer any value, to the author or to the reader. Now, if you really want to make some social media resolutions, here are the ones that I wish I’d see more of among those 12 million.

  1. I will stop using the terms “guru,” “ninja,” “evangelist,” “rockstar,” and “czar” to refer to people who know how to use social media.
  2. I will blog less.  I will stop filling the Interwebs with my self-important crap and instead blog only when I have something valuable to share, not so that I can maintain some search engine ranking or social media web ranking.
  3. I will do at least a cursory Google search before I write a new post to see what other people are saying about the topic about which I’m going to write.
  4. I will not copy and paste other people’s entire blog posts onto my blog with two lines of “analysis” and claim it’s a post that I wrote.
  5. I will write about someone other than myself or my company at least once in a while.
  6. I will read every blog comment I write at least once to myself before clicking submit to make sure I don’t sound like an idiot.
  7. I will check the facts of the content that I post before I upload it.
  8. When I make a mistake, I will apologize and correct it as soon as possible.
  9. I will attribute all content to the original author if it’s not my own.
  10. I will stop getting frustrated with people who don’t understand social media and instead will empathize with them.
  11. I will finally come to the realization that for all the hype I help spread about Twitter, it’s still only used by less than 10% of the U.S. population.
  12. I will stop telling my clients that they have to have a Facebook page, Twitter account, Second Life presence, or blog. I will instead help them integrate these tools into their strategies where it makes sense.

What about you – what social media new year’s resolutions would you like to see more of?

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Activating Your Social Media Second Team

Who gives that big social media presentation if you can’t make it? If you get pulled into another big project and can’t take on that client meeting, who do you send in your place? If you’re on vacation, who picks up where you left off? Who do you rely on to help you implement your initiatives?

These are questions that every executive should already have answers to as most organizations are already set up this way. You rise up through the ranks, you gradually accumulate more and more staff, funding, and authority, and are given management training. However, most of my readers aren’t in these sorts of positions – they’re more than likely serving in a different role where they’re given a similarly broad set of responsibilities, albeit limited funding, no staff, and even less authority. Welcome to the world of Community Managers, New Media Directors, Chief Community Officers, and Chief Social Media Strategists.

And for these people, answers to these questions are a little less clear, but even more important. That’s because the people who have ascended into these sorts of roles are often the people who have started the social media efforts. They’re the ones who have put their butts on the line to even justify the creation of a position like this. However, while they may have finally broken through and are now able to focus 100% of their time on their organization’s social media efforts, they generally haven’t been given the same level of support (in $$ or staff) as people with similar leadership positions.  That’s why these people MUST learn how to identify, develop, and empower their second team.

What’s a “second team” you ask? I was surprised that I didn’t find many references to it online – it seems that it’s a term that was use primarily here at Booz Allen. So I’ll just give you my definition based on how we use it here.

Second Teama group of individuals, formally or informally organized, who are mentored and coached by a leader and who work together to further a shared vision and goals.

Others may define it differently, but what it boils down to is this – who are the people whom you trust and depend on to do the work that you do and do it just as well, if not better, than you do?  When someone asks for your help and you can’t help, for whatever reason, who’s the person you feel 100% confident recommending instead?  These people, regardless of where they fall on the org chart, are your second team.

I rely on my second team to handle everything from developing and delivering briefings to ensuring quality client delivery across our entire social media portfolio, and I can honestly say that without them, my company’s social media efforts never would have scaled beyond what one person could do during a fraction of their day. It’s because of this second team that our social media efforts have scaled across the organization while still allowing me to take time off, have a baby, and do a better job of balancing my work and personal lives. And this second team wasn’t created on an org chart or via an email from the boss – it was created through good old-fashioned respect, cooperation, shared goals, and passion.

So how can you identify, develop, and empower your second team? Here are five helpful tactics that I’ve used:

  1. Diversify your people – your second team doesn’t have to be people under you on the org chart. They just have to be the people whom you trust and who believe in what you’re trying to do. They should also fill in your weaknesses with their strengths. That’s why I love working with Jacque Myers – she’s never afraid to tell me that I’m wrong.
  2. Stick your neck out for them – I want to create a culture of innovation among the people I work with, and for that to work, we need to not be afraid of taking risks. I often tell people to use their best judgment, but don’t worry about asking for approval for everything. If you get into a sticky situation, just direct it to me and I’ll take care of it. People can’t take risks if they fear for their jobs. Remove that fear as much as you can.
  3. Give them enough rope to succeed (or hang themselves) – Give them big picture initiatives and let them figure out the details on their own. Allow them the freedom to make it their own – after all, you don’t really have any sort of hammer to “make” them do it, so you have to rely on stirring their sense of ambition and initiative.
  4. Give them the credit – While I may ultimately end up being the one to actually give the presentation or submit the final product, I also realize that I had to rely on other people to get it to that point. Make sure others realize the role that they played and that without them, you wouldn’t have been able to deliver what you did.
  5. Put them out front – As the primary social media “evangelist” at my organization, I get lots of opportunities to brief very senior members of the firm, to give firm-wide presentations or to work on some very exciting new initiatives. As much fun as these opportunities may be, give some of them away. That presentation next week? See if you can tell the organizers that you can’t make it, but that you’ll be sending one of the top members of your team in your place. Then coach up that person and give them the tools/training/confidence they need to knock it out of the park.

These are just five of the tactics that I’ve used – regardless of which ones you use, remember that the best second teams are created out of leadership, respect, and inspiration, not by org charts and memos.

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But I Don’t WANNA Change!

How many of us have thought (or said) those words? Whether we like it or not, social media has changed the way we communicate and interact with other people. For some that change has been exciting for others it has been exhausting, but for anyone engaged in social media, they have already accomplished one thing – they have changed their behavior.

Clay Shirky has an excellent quote in this short video, where he says, “A revolution doesn’t happen when a society adopts new tools, it happens when a society adopts new behaviors.” This has become a sort of mantra for me – it’s about changing behaviors, it is not about getting people to use a wiki/blog/social networking site, etc.

I recently gave a presentation to a regional International Association of Business Communicators’ (IABC) conference in Philadelphia. The subject was using change management methods to encourage social media adoption within organizations. I was excited to share my ideas about something that I felt way too many social media enthusiasts overlook – the fact that if you expect people to adopt new tools, what you are asking them to do is to fundamentally change their behavior. To do that effectively within an organization you need to use change management.

Dr. John Kotter wrote a revolutionary book in the 1990s called Leading Change. The principles of that book can be found on his website, and what I like about them is that they are universal truths. This isn’t some convoluted graphic model that shows 47 change management processes running in parallel. (Can you tell I hate those?) These are basic principles about human and organizational behavior. It doesn’t matter if you sell shoes, computers, or services, these truths can help your organization transform.

For the IABC presentation, I took Kotter’s principles and applied them to encouraging social media adoption within organizations. During my presentation there were two key questions that really brought home the specific challenges people are facing.

“How do I get my boss to understand that we can use these tools to find new customers?”

Like any good consultant I answered the question with a question. I asked, ‘do you know what social media tools your potential customers are using?’ The answer was no. My advice to this person was – do some research. Don’t just tell your boss, hey, there are people out there using social media and we can sell products to them. Do your research and prove it.

Before you can complain that your company won’t engage in social media, you have to clarify to your boss that there is something tangible to be gained by doing it. Remember, engaging customers is good, but increasing customer loyalty, selling more products, improving customer service – these are ideas any company can get behind.

“My company launched a wiki, but no one uses it. How can I help get people to understand the value of it?”

This is a sad, true statistic – 68% of IT implementations fail. I asked a few follow-up questions, but the gist of the issue was this – IT built it, the communications team wrote an internal memo about it, and that was it. They expected people to just start using this new tool. Of course there were some early adopters (there always are) so the initial results were encouraging, but after a few months usage was way down and no one could understand why.

The answer was simple – you asked people to change the way they behave without giving them a reason to. You didn’t you answer the question “What’s in it for me?” but you also didn’t use change management. Expecting people to change their behavior without understanding the reason for the change or the tangible benefits to them is not realistic.

Here are some key principles to change management, derived from Kotter’s eight common mistakes:

Develop a shared understanding of the problem you’re trying to solve – remember urgency lives where problems exist

  • For social media the key is making sure you are addressing a fundamental business need. Is the goal to train employees, improve morale, or communicate more effectively to a global workforce? Determine the business need and get everyone to agree on it and then you can start talking about solutions.

Gather senior executives, middle management, and junior staff to be the guiding coalition

  • This cannot be a ‘top down’ approach. Gather support from each of the tiers within your organization by helping them understand how this solution will help them. Talk to them about the things that matter to each of them – don’t think one message will work for three different audiences!

Get the naysayers to participate in building the strategy

  • Be sure to engage the traditional naysayers (IT, Legal, etc.) and the late adopters in your organization early and often to address their concerns. You may just make them believers, but at the least you will understand their concerns and reduce their negative influence

Develop a concise and clear change vision – 5 minutes or less!

  • Employees at all levels have to understand what the change is, why it’s happening, and what the goal is. If your boss can’t communicate all of that in 5 minutes, how can he or she expect the employees to talk to each other about it?

Communicate the change vision over and over and over…

  • Consistency is everything – this is no different than any communications strategy. Analyze your audience, develop your messages, and deliver them in multiple ways consistently to build awareness.

Set small, achievable goals to gather momentum

  • Don’t try and do everything at once. Launch one component, get feedback, make improvements, and add functionality. This will show employees that you are listening and building this platform to meet their needs.

Understand this is evolutionary, there is no touchdown dance, just achievement of milestones

  • As you begin to get good news about early adoption, it is easy to sit back and relax on messaging, on rolling out the next feature, etc. DON’T – that is a sure way for the effort to ultimately fail.

Make the change part of the fabric of the organization

  • A key to the success of these enterprise 2.0 solutions is to embed them in the culture. Use the discussion forum to launch initiatives, use profiles to staff projects, use document storage as the only place to find materials. Make the site indispensable to your employees to ultimately have long-term successful adoption.

Remember this key fact – changing behavior is hard. How many times have you tried to lose a few pounds, quit smoking, or stop working on the weekends? Change is difficult for people, so you have to help them understand why changing their behavior will be a good idea for them. Make it about the individual and the organization – do that and you have a chance to really make a difference!

Michael Murray is an Associate at Booz Allen Hamilton, where he has helped clients use social media to engage people around the world and in the office across the hall.


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Addressing the Digital Divide WITHIN Your Organization

Try teaching social media to someone who still looks at this day after day

If it wasn’t for my brother and I, my mother would still have a VCR that blinks 12:00 because she couldn’t figure out to change the time on it and never saw any desire too.  Despite fixing it every time I was there, she never saw a problem with it. About five years ago, I finally bought her a DVD player and upon opening the box, I was greeted not with a “thanks!” but a “why do I need this? Our VCR works fine.” Merry Christmas Mom!

Five years and hundreds of presentations later, I’ve realized that my mom, while frustratingly not interested in technology, wasn’t the anomaly – I was. I work at one of the largest technology consulting firms in the world and a vast majority of my clients work for the U.S. Federal Government, yet every day, I’m reminded of the fact that while I may think of them as Luddites, they think of me as a huge nerd.  While using Twitter may seem almost passe to me and the other social media “evangelists” out there, it’s important to remember that the not only does the vast majority of America not use Twitter – the vast majority of your colleagues don’t either.  And like my mom, they probably don’t care or see why they should.

Everyone talks about the digital divide that exists in America between those with access to information technology and those who don’t, but the digital divide that gets talked about far less is the one that exists right in your office. Look around you – there are many people in your office who:

  • Have no idea what a browser is
  • Print out their emails and schedule each day
  • Carry pounds of binders and notebooks with them every day
  • Think you know everything when, in reality, you just know how to use Google
  • Still use a flip phone
  • Ask you what a URL is

Realizing this fact (that I’m a nerd) and accepting that most people don’t share my passion for technology (because I’m a nerd) has helped me as I create presentations, write proposals, talk with my clients, and mentor my colleagues. You see, I used to get frustrated when I’d give presentations, and upon telling people to open their browsers, I’d hear, “what’s a browser?” Because, as my frustration would mount – “how can people still not have a basic understanding of the Internet???!!” – their frustration would escalate as well – “I can’t stand when people tell me I should be using some new tool when my way of doing things works just fine!” Instead of an opportunity to learn about technology that can help them, our mutual frustration led to an almost adversarial relationship. Not good. Now, I’m focused on empathizing rather than converting and explaining rather than criticizing. This means that people are focused on the information I have to give, not on defending their position. And, I’m able to actually listen to their concerns and frustrations without feeling the need to defend my position.

When you read this and go back to your office today, consider empathizing instead of criticizing.

When You Hear

Don’t Say This

Say This

“What’s a Browser?”

“Seriously?”

“The browser is your window into the Internet – there are many different browers, including Safari, Internet Explorer, Opera, Firefox. Let’s see which one you have.”

“What’s a Tweeter?”

“Haven’t you watched ANY news in the last two years?”

“The site is called Twitter and it’s an Internet site where people can share 140 character messages, links, status updates, and locations with other people”

“Why would I bother with sending you a text when I can just call you?”

“Because if you call me, I’m not going to answer”

“Texting is great way to communicate with someone in short bursts, often when talking on the phone is not feasible.”

“I don’t know how you have time to tell people what you ate or where you are at all hours of the day!”

“I wouldn’t be talking about time management when you’re the one who prints out every single one of your emails”

“I don’t.  That’s why I only use Facebook (or Twitter) to share interesting links, talk with my family/friends, and/or ask questions of my network.”

“When was Company X founded?”

Send them a link for Let Me Google That For You

“This is a great example of where we can use Google to find the answer really quickly – let me show you.”

Use these opportunities to teach more and more importantly, to learn more. Rather than writing these people off as lost causes, we should be doing our best to bridge this digital divide and understand that we too can learn from their experiences. Ask them why they still cling to their old practices to understand how you can better frame technology in terms that make sense to them, not to you. Use them as sounding boards for your next great social media or tech idea – after all, even if you have the greatest tool, it’s not going to mean anything if the nerds like you and me are the only ones using it.

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