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Interested in Being at the Tip of the Spear? Be Prepared for…

 

Image courtesy of Flickr user Percita

Over the last three years, I’ve met a lot of people who are their organization’s social media evangelist, lead, POC, pioneer, ninja, guru, etc., and I’ve met many others who are aspiring to take on that role.  Hell, I even wrote my last post to help those people get started.  While it’s easy to get caught up in all the hype that often follows the people in these roles – the promotions, the raises, the invitations to participate in selective working groups, the personal branding, the ability to make your living using Facebook and Twitter – I’d like to take this opportunity to help balance out the expectations.  The following statements aren’t necessarily good or bad, but they do paint a more realistic picture.

So, if you’re itching to become “the guy” at your organization when it comes to social media, be prepared:

  • To be expected to know EVERYTHING about social media, not only about Twitter, Facebook, and wikis, but also all of the policies, trends, statistics, and laws too
  • To know who else in your organization is also involved with social media and if you don’t, why not
  • To encounter people who assume that because you’re on Facebook or Twitter while at work, that you’re never actually busy with anything
  • To justify the return on investment (ROI) of  all the time you spend using social media
  • To get dozens of emails from people every time a there’s a negative, controversial media article discussing the risks of social media (you should have seen how many people pointed to the Wired article came out showing how terrorists could use Twitter and told me, “see, that’s why we shouldn’t use social media)
  • To be always on, all the time. No matter what meeting you go into, there’s always a chance that you may have to give an impromptu presentation
  • To have people constantly asking you for your thoughts on the latest social media-related email/blog/memo/article/news/interview that came out
  • To justify your existence to your managers when there are organizations who outsource their social media for a few cents per tweet
  • To get inundated with requests like this – “I just read [insert social media link here]. Do you have like 30 minutes to meet with me so that I can ask you some basic questions?”
  • To see your work (even within your own organization) turn up in other people’s work without any attribution
  • To be told that “all this collaboration is great, but what real work have you accomplished?”
  • To change teams and/or organizational alignment at least once

I’ve encountered all of these situations to varying degrees over the last three years, and at times, I’ve felt frustrated, excited, nervous, entrepreneurial, scared, sometimes all simultaneously, but through it all, I’ve always felt proud to be on the cutting edge of changes that need to be made. I’ve never wondered if it was worth it, and I can definitely say that I’ve always felt challenged and stimulated through it all.

If you’re considering being at the tip of the social media spear within your organization, make sure that you’re prepared…for everything.

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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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Who Owns Social Media? Everyone and No One

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been involved in a number of meetings both within Booz Allen and with my clients to discuss social media, and I’ve noticed that more and more organizations are moving beyond the social media experimentation stage. I’m finding that I’m no longer justifying the use of social media, but helping develop the processes, policies, and personnel that will move the use of social media from interesting experiment to a long-term way of doing business.

While your organization’s initial foray into social media may have started with a junior public affairs professional, some webmaster in the IT department, more and more organizations are now trying to figure out how to integrate these social media “pilots” into their long-term strategies and plans.

In one case, I met with a room full of information security professionals. In another, it was a public affairs office. In another, I met with the recruiting office of an agency. In still another, it was a mish-mash of people including public affairs officers, project managers, internal communications, privacy specialists, records management professionals, and senior leadership. Everyone viewed “ownership” of social media differently. Some thought their team should control social media for the entire organization while others felt a more decentralized approach would be more effective. Others wanted to create an integrated process team with representatives from across the organization. The only thing that everyone had in common is the view that their perspective and concerns weren’t getting the attention they thought they deserved.

Internally, we’re going through a similar evolution – in a firm with 20,000+ employees spread across the world and dozens of different business lines and market areas, there’s no shortage of people now looking for ways that social media can help them and their clients. In talking with one of our Vice Presidents the other day, he asked me, “in your opinion, who should own social media here?”  Who was going to be THE person he could reach to with questions? The first answer that came to mind was “well, no one should own it, but there are a lot of people who need to be involved in owning it.”

Then yesterday, I came across this post by Rick Alcantara, “Who Should Control Social Media Within a Company?,” and I couldn’t help thinking that we’re asking the wrong question. If the use of social media is so transformative and paradigm-shifting, and we agree that there needs to be new processes and policies in place to deal with it, then shouldn’t we also be looking at new governance models as well? Why do we assume that social media should (or can) fit into our existing buckets?

The Problem

Organizations traditionally consist of distinct lines of business, teams, branches, divisions, service offerings, etc. This model works great when these teams don’t have to work with one another – IT is responsible for protecting the network, public affairs is responsible for communicating with the public. Great.  But what happens when these teams need to work with one another, need to collaborate with each other?

In some cases, these teams work well together, not because of some formal charter or governance process, but because of the personal relationships that have been made. My team and Walton’s (my counterpart on our IT team) team work well together not because we were told to, but because he and I have a relationship built on trust and mutual respect for each other’s strengths and weaknesses. In other cases, one team works on something and then sends it on to the other team for a formal “chop.” That’s not collaboration – that’s an approval chain. Sometimes, an Integrated Process Team (IPT) is formed to facilitate this collaboration, but those too often devolve into screaming matches or passive aggressive maneuvering, and most IPTs don’t get any real power beyond “making recommendations” anyway.

Just as social media has fundamentally changed the way organizations communicate and collaborate internally, it is also forcing us to rethink the way we govern its use. Maybe social media shouldn’t be “owned” by anyone? Maybe it should be governed in a similarly transformative way?

The Solution

I like what Jocelyn Canfield, owner of Communication Results, has to say at the end of Rick’s post:

“Organizations are best served by collaboration, not control. PR, Marketing, HR, IR, Corp Communications all have a vested interest in effective social media activities, while IT and graphic design can be an important allies in seamless execution. If everyone feels ownership, everyone benefits.”

Emphasis above was added by me – I think everyone has to feel ownership, but they shouldn’t necessarily have ownership. Organizational use of social media impacts everyone across the organization in different ways, from IT security to HR to legal to marketing and ceding “control” to just one of these groups seems to be both short-sighted and unrealistic. What happens when you say that Public Affairs has control of social media, but then IT decides to block all access, citing security concerns? Who resolves that issue? Do the Directors of IT and Public Affairs arm-wrestle? Steel cage death match? Frank and thoughtful discussion?

The answer to who should control social media is everyone and no one. Here at Booz Allen, we’re bringing together both social media leaders and select representatives from across our various teams to form a committee, primarily to ensure that open, cross-team collaboration becomes the norm, not the exception. One of the primary roles for this committee will be to ensure that everyone feels ownership, but that no one is actually given ownership.

How’s this different from an IPT? Well, for starters, I’m proposing that all committee meetings be livestreamed internally where anyone from any team may watch/submit questions. We’ll be blogging internally about what we talk about. Meeting agendas and minutes will be posted to our internal wiki. Everything will be done in the open, encouraging participation, contribution, and truthfulness and discouraging passive-aggressive behavior, back channel discussions, and hidden agendas. The committee’s goal isn’t to determine who owns what; rather, it’s to ensure that everyone understands that no one owns anything.

Organizations should look at social media governance as a way to re-think traditional ownership roles in their organization. When this type of governance is based on open discussion and mutual respect instead of turf-protecting and power grabs, who owns what becomes less important and who KNOWS what becomes more important.

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Try Looking Outside to Solve the Problems Inside

Quick – who recently said this in reference to his organization’s social media efforts?

“…if our consumers are younger, and they love video games, and they have shorter attention spans, and they love interactivity, and they love social media, and everyone blogs, and everyone’s on Facebook, why wouldn’t we put ourselves right in the middle of that?”

What social media or Government 2.0 champion could have said this? Could it have been Federal CIO Vivek Kundra? Maybe Director, New Media and Citizen Engagement at GSA, Bev Godwin? Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Price Floyd?

Nope. Try Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Capitals. In this week’s Washington Post, Leonsis discusses why the team is aggressively using social media to engage with their fans and the potential impact that social media can have on his team and on the sport. Sound familiar? Sound anything like what us in the Gov 2.0 and social media communities have been telling our bosses and clients for years now?

Leonsis goes on to say that, “what’s unique and different about us is that most organizations are managed [with the thinking], ‘We’re bricks and mortar, we’re buildings, and we have this Web operation beside us,'” Leonsis said. “We’re kind of different. We look at the Web as being our basic power plant, kind of like electricity, so the Web and communicating in this fashion is second nature to us now. It’s not like we go brochure, television, mail. It’s Web, and then everything else. It’s social media first, and everything else.”

Hmmmm…sounds like his perspective, experience, and business acumen would be a valuable addition to the Gov 2.0 conversation, don’t you think?

I recently read a fascinating article in the latest edition of Fast Company – “A Problem Solver’s Guide to Copycatting.” This article argues that instead of solving our toughest problems through brainstorming or consulting with experts, we should start looking for analogues outside our industry because someone (or some thing) has probably already solved our problem. For example (from the Fast Company article),

“In 1989, the pilots of the Exxon Valdez ran it into Bligh Reef, spilling enough oil to cover 11,000 square miles of ocean. To finish this cleanup job, you’d have to clear an area the size of Walt Disney World Resort every week for about five years. One major obstacle was that the oil and water tended to freeze together, making the oil harder to skim off. This problem defied engineers for years until a man named John Davis, who had no experience in the oil industry, solved it. In 2007, he proposed using a construction tool that vibrates cement to keep it in liquid form as it pours. Presto!”

This methodology, this thinking, that someone who has absolutely no experience with or knowledge of your organization might be able to solve a problem that your top domain experts haven’t been able to crack is a totally foreign concept to most organizations, especially those within the government. What if instead of talking with the Gov 2.0 “experts,” we started getting more people from outside of Government involved in Gov 2.0? Think about the value that Craig Newmark has brought to the Gov 2.0 discussion. Or Tim O’Reilly.

The social media community seems to have realized the value these outsider perspectives can bring – just last year I attended conferences featuring Jermaine Dupri, Brooke Burke, and Jalen Rose. This year, Gov 2.0 events like Gov 2.0 LA reached out to Hollywood to get that perspective and author/entrepreneur/professional keynoter Gary Vaynerchuk will be speaking at this year’s Gov 2.0 Expo. Getting these influencers involved as speakers is a great start, but we need to achieve more consistent engagement beyond just singular events.

What if the next Director of New Media and Web Communications for DHS was someone like Mike DiLorenzo, Director of Corporate Communications for the NHL? What if we talked with some behavior modification psychologists about the best way to change people’s behavior from one of “need to know” to “need to share?” What if we studied Native American tribes to learn more about how they build and maintain a unique culture even in the face of extreme changes?

While government may be unique, the problems we’re facing aren’t. The challenge shouldn’t be in solving them, but rather, in finding out who or what has solved them already.

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