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My Social Media Resolutions for 2009

The Internet is filled with end of year reviews, highlight articles, and wrap-ups. Predictions for what will and won’t happen in 2009 are also a popular topic for bloggers this time of year. There’s plenty of nostalgia and speculation out there already – I don’t know how much I would add that hasn’t already been said. Instead, I’ll focus this post on something that I can control – my social media resolutions for 2009.

The parameters of these resolutions are simple – I have to be in total control of whether they happen or do not happen, they are realistic, and they’re somehow related to the work I do with social media.

  1. Blog more often – I know, I know, this is always on everyone’s social media “to-do” list. However, I actually mean it (and yes, I know everyone says that too).  When I started this blog back in October, I had one goal – to give me an external “home base” from which I could become a part of the social media and government conversation.  My goal for 2009 is to build on this humble base and collaborate with all of you in bringing social media to our government.
  2. Focus attention on things other than social media – As Andrea Baker and I have discussed before, I suffer from the fear of missing out.  There are SO many things I want to read, so many blogs I want to comment on, so many initiatives that I want to take on – I have to realize that I can’t (and shouldn’t) try to do it all.  I need to do a better job at doing what I can when I can, while still taking some time to go spend time with my family, go to the gym, and do things outside of work.
  3. Re-read the ClueTrain Manifesto – Whenever I feel overwhelmed or discouraged, I find myself going back to the 95 theses at the start of this book to get new inspiration for what it is that we do.  Business and government are changing before our very eyes – despite the social media world that I find myself caught up in, I realize that I’m still an early adopter.  I’m riding the wave of something entirely new that is fundamentally changing the way our government operates.
  4. Spend at least one hour each day reading about social media – I’m not sure when it happened, but reading, whether it’s blogs, books, newspapers, etc., became the first thing that got dropped when we all got too busy.  In 2009, I’m going to move reading back up my priority list and start dedicating time each day to my Google Reader, my stack of unread books, magazines, and Twitter stream.
  5. Turn more of my virtual connections into real-life ones – Om Malik had it right – Twitter followers aren’t really friends.  Following someone on Twitter or commenting on their blog doesn’t make you friends with someone.  I think we lose sight of that sometimes and forget that actually meeting people in person really helps develop and maintain that relationship.  In 2008, I’ve worked to develop “virtual” relationships with plenty of people from both the social media and government worlds, but in 2009, I hope to turn these connections from simple @’s, retweets, and comments to lunches, meetings, and phone calls.
  6. Use email less (internally) – One thing I’ve realized is that if I keep answering people’s emails, people will continue to send them to me, even if I explicitly tell them that they’re more likely to get a hold of me by posting their question/comment to my internal blog, contact me on Yammer, use my internal wiki page, etc.  I want to be the leader within my organization in getting folks to use email less and our internal collaboration platforms more.
  7. Proactively reach out to more senior leaders in my organization to teach them about social media – One of the biggest challenges that I’ve had in gaining buy-in for our internal social media efforts is that senior leaders often don’t understand how a blog will help them in their day to day life.  In 2009, I want to do more to illustrate the “What’s in it for me” to our everyone at my company, especially our managers.

I’m curious to hear what your social media resolutions are. Remember that you have to be in control of making them happen, they’re realistic, and that they’re related to the work you do with social media. Good luck!

*Image courtesy of Flickr user xmascarol

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Social Media Isn’t Always the Answer

As one of Booz Allen’s social media leads, I’m thrilled to see more and more of my government clients starting to ask questions about social media and if/how it might help them.  I love logging into Twitter and seeing so many different conversations centered around Government 2.0.  I love thinking about the potential that social media has in fundamentally changing the way our government operates.  I also love telling my clients that they’re not ready for social media.

Let me explain.

I’ve seen Intellipedia, TSA’s Evolution of Security blog, DoDLive, the DoD’s Blogger’s Roundtable, FEMA’s YouTube channel, GovLoop, and many other examples of “Government 2.0.”  I’ve also seen plenty of failed blogs, dormant wikis, and other failed attempts at using social media.  The reasons for failed social media range from the obvious (ghostwriting a blog and not allowing comments) to the not so obvious (middle managers not allowing wiki contributions without first getting them approved).  However, these are simply symptoms of a larger issue at work.

Here’s the thing – unless your organization is ready for transparency and authenticity, and has instilled a culture of sharing, you’re going to have a lot of trouble successfully spreading social media.  This is where I often tell my clients to take a step back from the tools of social media and focus more on the processes of social media.  I compare this type of thinking to a football team that goes out and drafts really talented receivers, but stick them into an offense that’s focused on running the ball.  The receivers (social media) end up failing not necessarily because they’re bad, they end up failing because they were placed into an offense (the organizational culture) that wasn’t optimized for them.

You see, social media isn’t about the technology – it’s about what the technology enables.  And even if your organization is ready for the tools, it may very well not be ready for what those tools will bring.  Before diving into the world of social media, take a step back and see if your organizational culture and internal processes will support what social media will enable.

  1. Are employees discouraged from contacting people outside of their chain of command?
  2. Are employees discouraged from challenging authority?
  3. Is risk-taking rewarded or punished?
  4. Are employees rewarded for collaborating with other colleagues or for authoring/producing original work?
  5. Do your employees have regular access to the Intranet?
  6. Does your leadership value the feedback of employees?
  7. Are employees prohibited from speaking externally without prior permission?
  8. Is the contribution and sharing of intellectual capital part of the employees’ regular routine?
  9. What’s more valued, entrepreneurship or following orders?
  10. Do employees derive more value from networking with colleagues or from using the Intranet?

Asking these (and there are many more – this is just a sampling) questions will help your organization (offense) be prepared for what social media (receivers) will enable.

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Stop the Posturing About Government 2.0 and Do It Already

Stand Out and Do Something!

Stand Out and Do Something!

It’s about time.  It’s time to stop talking about theories of Government 2.0.  Time to stop predicting how the Obama administration is going to use social media.  Time to stop whining about all of the challenges involved with bringing social media to the government.  Time to stop the boundless optimism about the potential that you’re seeing.   Time to stop patting ourselves on the back.  Time to step out of the echo chamber of the social media blogosphere.   It’s time to start doing.

I think most of my readers would agree with me that social media is here to stay.  The technology can and will change, but the authenticity and relationships that the technology enables isn’t going anywhere.  Our government has no choice but to start moving more and more toward social media.  We’re already seeing it with Intellipedia, with change.gov, with the TSA’s blog – within virtually every government organization, social media is at least being discussed.  My company has clients across the federal government, and I could get a meeting with pretty much any of them just by saying that I lead our social media practice and I’d like to discuss how their organization could take advantage of social media.  The point is that there’s demand for social media expertise in the public sector.  Everyone is curious, everyone wants to know what all the buzz is about, and everyone is looking for the right answers.

Our time is now.  It’s time to start doing.  If you work for the federal government or for a government contractor, there are opportunities galore for you.  If you’re sitting in your cubicle reading this, just counting the minutes till you can leave for the day, this is your chance.  Social media and the government is your opportunity to stand out and do something to effect real change in our government.

Don’t tell me it’s too hard or that your boss doesn’t know YouTube from an iPod.  Those are excuses, not reasons.  If YouTube is blocked where you work, get it unblocked.  Write a white paper justifying why it shouldn’t be blocked.  Meet with your boss about it.  Meet with your boss’s boss about it.  Start a blog where you talk about it.  Volunteer to give a brown bag presentation to your office.  Just DO something!  Take the initiative and work on changing how your organization works – don’t just sit there sulking, saying, “I wish we could do social media here, but we can’t even get on Facebook so there’s no use.”  Bringing social media to your organization isn’t something that happens from 9-5.  It happens from 5-9, after everyone else has gone home.

I know it’s not easy.  In fact, it’s going to be REALLY hard.  Hard, but definitely not impossible.  You’re going to face a lot of opposition.  You’re going to encounter a lot of nay-sayers.  You’re going to have to work a lot of hours.  You’re going to have to endure a lot of rejection.  Hell, you’ll probably get reprimanded or even fired.

More than likely though, you’ll become recognized.  You’ll be noticeable.  You’ll be in demand.  Most importantly, you’ll make a difference.

Social media and government started not with some policy or memo from the senior leadership, but from regular people sitting in a cubicle who saw an opportunity and decided to do something about it.  They didn’t see a policy prohibiting blogging and say, “oh well, I guess that ends that.”  No, they pulled together briefings on why blogging was needed.  They found examples of others who were doing it.  They told anyone who would listen about the power of blogging.  They got meetings with his bosses.  They eventually changed the policy.

It’s time for you to be that guy and to step up, take the initiative and not let red tape and bureaucracy stop you.   Don’t accept no as an answer and don’t let a couple unenlightened colleagues stop your drive to effect change.   Stand out from the crowd and actually do something about it.

*Image courtesy of Flickr user Paul Likes Pics

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Justifying Social Media to the Big Wigs

More and more, I’m being contacted by one of my colleagues who is looking to “sell their client on Web 2.0.”  These requests more often than not, come from people who don’t know a blog from a wiki and are worded roughly along the lines of “my client asked me to come up with some recommendations for getting into Web 2.0 – can you send me the slides that you use to get them on-board with it?”

Ugh.

First, realize that there are no “magic bullet” slides that I can give you – there are numerous resources available, from CommonCraft’s excellent “in plain English” series of videos to the numerous 101-style sites out there.  Depending on the client, any one of them might meet your needs.  However, no matter how fantastic your material is, you’re not going to get far with any senior leader unless you have an understanding of these tools yourself.  You might as well be explaining quantum physics to your client.

In addition to directing them to the above resources and offering to meet with their client directly, I’m also going to start pointing them to this post by Jason Falls.

I won’t stop preaching that social media isn’t about the tools. It is a method of communications, a channel not unlike or more or less important than public relations, customer relationship management, advertising, corporate communications and the like. But I am going to start people out on a slightly different path from now on. I’m going to show them how the tools can make a difference in their day.

Jason’s first point above is one that I’ve been harping on with my colleagues since I started our social media practice.  His second point got me me thinking about what I’m going to write about now – in what ways can the government use social media to make a difference in their day, TODAY?  What are those things that they can do with very little effort where they can start see the value in social media?

  • Use social bookmarking to overhaul your media clipping process.  I worked with one team who had been investing a considerable amount of time in scanning the media for coverage related to their client, copying and pasting those articles into an MS Word document, formatting them consistently, uploading that one file to a shared drive, and then emailing their team with the location of the latest media coverage.  I walked them through how to use both RSS feeds and del.icio.us, and showed them how they could use simply tag their relevant media coverage using whatever tags and descriptions made sense to them.  They could then create an RSS feed for those tags that is placed onto their internal Intranet site.  Whenever an article is tagged with say, “November Media,” the link along with the description of the article is now automatically fed to their site.  This simple change in process has made their media clipping process that much more efficient – no more manual scanning of hundreds of websites, no more copying and pasting, no more formatting, and no more manual uploading.
  • Use an open source microblogging service like Yammer or QikCom.  If your organization already uses Instant Messaging, microblogging offers the potential to turn those one-on-one conversations into group collaboration.  Think of it like an IM platform where every IM you send is open to everyone else in the network.  You may say that your IM application offers the ability to create a chatroom – the difference here is that messages are open to everyone, not just the people you choose.  By using a platform instead of a channel, you can take advantage of the knowledge that exists in your organization without needing to have that personal connection with everyone.
  • Add RSS feeds to your website.  Creating RSS feeds are simple, and they’re easily added to an Internet or Intranet site.  This is a cheap and relatively simple way to allow your users to choose how they wish to consume the content on your site.
  • Set up searches on Twitter and Friendfeed for your organization’s name.  As Robert Scoble says, the news is in the noise.  Doing this will allow you to identify, track, and hopefully respond to, potential issues before they become full-scale problems.
  • Use Skype or ooVoo for free video conferencing.  Skype is probably the most popular Internet telephone tool – it allows you to make and receive regular and video calls over your broadband connection.  All you need is a webcam and a microphone.  ooVoo is a little bit more than that – as Jason said, “it’s a video conferencing tool that allows you to call people over the Internet, but also see them, share files with them and even conference in up to five others to have a group chat session.”  Show your client one of these tools – you don’t think they’d be interested in something like this?
  • Add a “Comment here” function to your Intranet site.  Similar to RSS feeds, this should be a fairly simple add for your IT staff too.  You don’t have to change what content you put on your Intranet – just place a “Comment on this article” button at the bottom of your Intranet content.  This supplements, not replaces, the traditional “Contact the Director” email button.  Your users will now be able to send in their questions and comments via email, but they’ll also be able to post their thoughts directly to the article.  This is a great “learn to walk before run” tactic.

There are many more ways in which government leaders can use social media right now to make a difference in their day – these are just a few easy examples where I’ve seen it work successfully.  We’re not talking about enterprise-wide IT systems here, these are relatively simple changes that you can make today and start realizing the benefits of using open platforms as opposed to closed channels.

What other easy ways can government start using social media and realizing benefits today?

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