Tag Archives: blog

Recovering from a Social Media Mistake

July 24, 2012

6 Comments

Everyone has posted something they wish they hadn't. Don't worry so much about the past and get back up on the horse. That's what will define you, not one post.

On Friday, the NextGen Journal published an article titled "Why Every Social Media Manager Should be Under 25" by Cathryn Sloane. This article predictably generated a TON of traffic (More than 6K Facebook likes, 1K Tweets, and about a billion times more traffic than any other article on the site) not to mention a ton of online vitriol from the social media community. Let's put aside the content of the actual article – there have been plenty of posts made already by really smart people that do good job of offering alternative viewpoints. Let's put aside the discussion around what Cathryn did (she wrote a blog post that pissed off a bunch of a people – join the club) or didn't do (she hasn't responded to the people carrying pitchforks outside her window – I don't know that I would have done any differently at that age either). Instead of discussing what Cathryn said or should have done, let's discuss how we can help her and others like her and move forward from here.

Cathryn could have easily been one of my team members or mentees. Lord knows I've pushed and prodded the junior members of my teams often enough over the years to do more writing, sharing, and commenting online. If you were going to be advising a client or colleague how to use social media, you damn well better be using it yourself too, right? That's why I've spent an inordinate amount of my time on internal mentoring, giving presentations at colleges, sitting on the SMCEDU Board of Advisers, and holding social media training for internal teams. To say that I've been passionate about helping this next generation use social media more effectively, both personally and professionally, would be an understatement.

That's why I want to use this opportunity to do what my friend Mark Story recommended in his rebuttal post and offer Cathryn some career counsel.

Dear Cathryn,

First of all, I want to tell you congratulations. You took a step many aren't willing to take and you played the game. It's a hell of a lot easier to sit back and say that you don't have the time to start a blog or that you're just a kid so who cares what you think and never actually use social media in a professional manner. You got up on that stage and took a chance, which is more than most will ever do.  You've written posts for NextGen Journal and USA Today. You've already taken the most difficult step – going from doing nothing to doing something. You've already done more in this space than most people you've graduated with and for that, you should be congratulated. It shows me that you have initiative and that you can take risks and that's something to be proud of.

Right now, you're getting a first-hand education about social media that you wouldn't learn in any class or from any book. Last Friday, you published a very controversial post that angered a lot of people (and understandably so). I'm sure you've already read through all of the rebuttal posts and comments people have posted and have been completely overwhelmed by it all. I've read through many of these as well and was a little taken aback myself. As you read through them, remind yourself that most of these comments were written by people over the age of 30 who feel as though you were attacking them and their livelihood. Please put yourself in their shoes and empathize with them before dismissing them as trolls. You have to understand that there's a history of ageism within this community – for the longest time, employers automatically assumed social media could only be understood by the young kids and so they were the ones given these new positions instead of more experienced individuals. Only recently have employers and the C-suite begun to realize how important social media is and how important it's become to identify the right people for these positions. So when they read your post, I think many people saw it as an opportunity to again demonstrate their value, to show potential clients why they should hire them instead of someone under 25.

That said, a lot of those comments were made by people who should know better. People who should realize the difference between disagreeing with someone's opinion and vengefully attacking the person behind the post. People who should realize that their comments, whether they're made online or off – "good luck getting a job in this industry, you idiot!" – reflect on them too. I hope they know that just as they bully you and try to destroy your reputation, they're doing the same to themselves from a managerial perspective – I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to work with someone with a history of treating people like that, be it online or off.

Once you've gone through the thousands of comments, posts, and Tweets and weeded out the hateful ones, spend some time absorbing the feedback. Do you have a better understanding of why people were so upset? Do you feel any empathy toward their position? Do you still agree with the basic premise of your article or have you changed your mind (there's no right answer to that one, but either way, make sure you have some thoughts/facts to back up your assertion)? What were some of the most beneficial pieces of feedback you heard? Once you've collected this feedback and filtered out the garbage, start drafting a follow-up post. One of the reasons this situation spiraled out of control so quickly was because your voice was MIA the entire weekend. As Tony Heyward or any of the dozens of CEOs who have paid the price of silence can tell you, it's important that you communicate early and often.  Now, I'm making the assumption that you haven't spoken up because you were utterly overwhelmed by what was happening and had no idea what to do. That's totally understandable, especially given the tone and amount of the feedback as well as your experience level in handling stuff like this.

Boil the feedback you received down to 3-5 key points and then address each one. Admit where you were wrong, but also don't be afraid to disagree with them.  Don't give in to the mob collective just to get them off your back if it's not something you believe in. Did people misinterpret what you were trying to say? If so, tell us why. Were you just not aware of some of the points made in the comments/posts/Tweets? If so, tell us which ones and why they've changed your mind. Tell us what you would have done differently. By the same token, tell us what you would have done the same. Explain what you've learned and how you'll apply that in the future.

In your follow-up post, I would inject a healthy dose of humility but I would also tell you to balance that by telling you to stick with what you believe in too. No one wants to see a "I'm sorry if I offended anyone" post where you essentially back off everything you wrote. Turn the whole thing around on everyone and tell us what people of any age can do to show employers that they know what they're doing when it comes to social media. No one, at any age, likes to hear that they're disqualified from doing something simply because of their age. Talk to Dara Torres or Missy Franklin about being told they can't do something because of their age. Give some advice to your generation about the things they can do to bridge the gap in years of experience. The opportunity is there for all of you – YOU are already taking advantage of it. You can write blog posts, engage with professionals on LinkedIn, participate in industry Twitter chats. You can bypass recruiters and job postings entirely and talk directly with VPs and other hiring managers. If they're impressed with your writing and approach they're not going to care that you only have four years of experience instead o five.

Once you write the article, send it to a mentor to review before hitting publish, someone who is knowledgeable and whom you can trust. Whenever I write a post, at a minimum, I always have my wife review it first to tell me if I'm coming off too arrogant, if it flows nicely, if she can understand it, if she's having the reaction I aimed for, etc. Hell, send it to me and I'll take a look at it for you. I'd recommend having at least two people familiar with the whole situation read through it before publishing and then publish it – the sooner the better.

The other thing that I'd recommend to you and I can't say this strongly enough – don't let this incident get you down. When I was building the social media practice at my old firm, one of the first things I told our SVPs was that yes, social media will do a lot of great things for us, but there WILL be mistakes made. We can't stop them but we can mitigate the negative impacts by planning for them. That's what I'd recommend you do as well – don't stop writing. Don't disappear. Continue writing, but develop a plan to back you up in the future. Have someone you trust review every post before publishing. Never post anything before you go offline in case a firestorm erupts. Never publish something without sleeping on it at least once. Develop a mentoring relationship with someone in the industry with a lot of experience and run your ideas by him/her. Before publishing, spend 30 minutes thinking through the potential negative and positive reactions the post may elicit and be prepared with a response.

But most of all, just get back on the horse. This post isn't your legacy. How you react and move on from it will be. Everyone makes mistakes out here. Everyone has posted something they wish they hadn't. It's the cost of playing this game. Write your follow-up post, put in some processes to help guard against similar issues in the future and continue writing. As Mack Collier says in his post, "another thing about social media and such firestorms is that we all tend to move on quickly.  In another day or so most of us will have moved onto something else and your time in the spotlight will be over." I can't imagine not hiring someone over a single silly post, but I can easily see interviewing someone who wrote a post that caused a firestorm and then recovered from it. Because we're all going to make mistakes – that's a given. I'm more interested in how someone recovers from those mistakes. 

After all, you've already taken the first step and done something. You've also already gone through your first challenge. Now, you just have to react and move on. You'll be fine. In fact, if you do get up, dust yourself off, and continue writing, give me a call – I could use people who have this type of real world experience.

To the people who continue to personally attack Cathryn for this post, use this as an opportunity to empower those in Cathryn's generation to use social media more professionally. We need more people like Cathryn out there using social media now so that they're better equipped when we need to hire them. We can't afford to drive this young talent away by publicly crucifying them for not being experts.

Continue reading...

If You Want a Culture of Collaboration, You Need to Accept the LOLCats Too

January 5, 2012

8 Comments

"Even with the sacred printing press, we got erotic novels 150 years before we got scientific journals."

– Clay Shirky at TED Cannes in June 2010

This is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite people in the business, Clay Shirky. I particularly like it because it illustrates the period many organizations find themselves in when trying to integrate social media internally.  Before wikis were used by the Intelligence Community to develop reports on IEDs, people were creating user badges to show off their favorite NFL teams. Before my own company's Intranet won any awards, we had people talking about how they enjoy skinny dipping on their profile. Before our VPs starting using Yammer to communicate with the workforce, we had groups of Android geeks and fitness gurus.I'm telling you this because if you're implementing any type of social media behind your organizational firewall, you should prepare yourself, your colleagues, your bosses, your senior leadership for this one inexorable truth.

If you will freak out when you see this on your Intranet, you're probably not ready for a social intranetIf you want to create a vibrant culture of collaboration, you need to be OK with pictures of LOLCats, posts about the NFL playoffs, arguments about Apple and Android, and criticism of company policies.

Accept and embrace this fact now and your communities have a much better chance at succeeding. Or, continue thinking that things like this are a waste of a time and are unprofessional, and get ready to pay a lot of money for a system that ultimately no one uses unless they absolutely have to.

Unfortunately, "social" seems to have become almost a dirty word in the workplace, conjuring up images of employees whittling away their time on Facebook, talking to their boyfriend on the phone, or taking a three hour lunch break.  Let's all agree now to stop trying to take the social out of social media. "Social" interactions not only needs to be OK, they need to be encouraged and rewarded. Shirky explains why at the 5:33 mark of the below TED video:


Shirky says:

The gap is between doing anything and doing nothing. And someone who makes a LOLcat has already crossed over that gap. Now it’s tempting to want to get the Ushahidis without the LOLcats, right, to get the serious stuff without the throwaway stuff. But media abundance never works that way. Freedom to experiment means freedom to experiment with anything.

The same principle holds true when talking about social media and the business world. There's this tendency on the part of senior leadership to want to skip the blogs about company policy workarounds and the wiki pages detailing where to get the best burritos near the office and move right to co-creating methodologies with cross-functional teams and crowdsourcing initiatives that save millions of dollars. It doesn't work like that. Collaborative communities don't just start innovating because you build a website and send a memo. Just like we had to experience erotic novels before scientific journals and LOLCats before sites like Ushahidi, we will also have to accept the fact that your employees will be talking about fantasy football and what they're doing over the holidays before they're going to be ready to use those tools to conduct "real" work. 

This makes intuitive sense though, doesn't it? Isn't posting about fantasy football or your favorite lunch spot a lot easier (and less frightening) than uploading that report you've been working on for three weeks? If someone doesn't like your favorite restaurant, who cares? If, however, someone criticizes the report you've spent weeks writing, that's a little more intimidating.  Once you've taken that step – that step from doing nothing to doing something – it's a lot easier to take the next step and the step after that. After engaging in that conversation about your favorite burrito, it's suddenly easier to join the conversation about the new IT policy. Then, maybe you upload a portion of the report you're struggling with to see if anyone can help. Viewed from this perspective, even the stupidest posts and most worthless conversations have value, because they provide a safe, low risk means for people to dip their toe in the water and take that first step. It takes time for employees to feel comfortable using these social tools at work. If you give them the ability to grow and learn together at their own pace, your community will become much more scalable and sustainable.

So embrace the LOLCats, the fantasy football threads, the lunch discussions, and the custom avatars – at least your employees will be creating and sharing something with someone else. Because what will follow is that these stupid, silly, foolish discussions will lead to relationships, questions, answers, and finally, very cool innovations, products, and solutions that will save you money, win you awards, and really and truly create a social business.

Continue reading...

Reviewing the Year in Social Media Strategery

December 21, 2010

2 Comments

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 :).

Continue reading...

At the Gov 2.0 Expo – Who’s Making You Successful?

May 26, 2010

29 Comments

Last week, I participated in Tim O’Reilly’s Gov 2.0 Expo held here in Washington, DC and I was honored to be a member of the Program Committee for this event as well as last year’s Expo Showcase and Summit.  With each and every one of these events, I always looking forward to meeting and learning from the Gov 2.0 rockstars – Linda Cureton, Chris Rasmussen, Steve Ressler, Clay Johnson, Macon Phillips, Mary Davie, and so many others – people who have helped pave the way for conferences like this. Take a look at this speaker list and take a guess at where this movement would be without them. I think I get smarter just through osmosis when I’m talking with these folks! Kudos to Tim, Laurel, Mark, Suzanne, Jessica, Alex, and the rest of the O’Reilly team for pulling together another great event.

I'm pretty sure this image is going to be on everyone's Gov 2.0 Expo posts

As I did last year following the Summit, instead of doing a summary post of all that was Gov 2.0 Expo 2010 (I couldn’t possibly do any better than Alex’s fantastic wrap-up post here anyway), I’ll take a more focused view and discuss one issue that really struck me.

Last year, I said I wanted to hear more about the processes behind the success stories.  To learn more about the failures in Gov 2.0.  I think we started to accomplish that this year – the many panel presentations and workshops seemed more conversational and attendees seemed more willing to ask questions.  I heard a lot more discussion about how the speakers handled difficult situations, how they worked with legal, and how they got senior leadership buy-in. While there’s still a need to hear more about the failures of Gov 2.0, I think those discussions are probably more likely to occur in the hallways than on the stage.

What really got my attention as I sat listening to visionary leaders like Todd Park, Linda Cureton, and Jeffrey Sorenson was this post by Robert Shedd – just who makes these people successful?  That’s the question that I started to get more and more curious about as the Expo continued. Who are the people behind these leaders?  Who are the people back at the office making sure the social networks are growing?  Who are the people responsible for implementing these grand programs?  Who are the people telling these leaders they’re wrong?  Who are the people coming up with all of these ideas?  That’s why I loved when Alex Ross told the story of Katie Dowd, Katie Stanton, and Caitlin Klevorick at the State Department (fast forward to the 2:00 minute mark of this clip) who came up with the idea for the Haiti Red Cross text messaging campaign. While Alec was the one speaking and getting the credit, he realized that it wasn’t about him or his ideas – it was about the people actually making these things happen.

As Shedd mentions in his post,

“In much the same way as you need to train yourself to recognize the market ‘pains’ that product opportunities create, you need to train yourself to note who you work best with, what personalities are most compatible.”

For me, any and all success that I or my firm has had can be traced back to the work of my team.  Sure, I may be the one on the stage, but I’m generally not the one on the ground day after day working with the client.  I’m writing blogs – they’re trying to explain Twitter to a three-star general.  I’m speaking at events – they’re trying to do more work while still staying under budget.  That’s why I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to some of the other Booz Allen folks you may have met at the Expo, but whom you might not know well…yet.

  • Thank you Jacque Brown for never being afraid to tell me when I’m wrong or when I’m being a real dumbass.
  • Thank you Matt Bado for always stepping up to handle things when I’m out of the office
  • Thank you Michael Dumlao for being the right side of my brain – everything you create always looks fantastic
  • Thank you Tim Lisko for being the social media conservative who also understands the benefits
  • Thank you Grant McLaughlin for always believing in me and providing me the top cover that I need to make things happen, even when it sometimes puts you in a tough spot
  • Thank you Walton Smith for always being open and collaborative, regardless of any internal politics that may exist
  • Thank you Tracy Johnson for being able to take some of my crazy abstract ideas and figuring out ways to make them work
  • Thank you to the many many others back at my company who have helped turn an idea into a true program

Please take this opportunity to go back to your blog and write a post on who makes you successful.  Highlight the work of someone who works with you, someone who has helped get you to where you are today.  Give them the attention and recognition that they deserve and leave a comment here with a link to your post.  Who has helped you turn an idea into a successful program?

*Photo courtesy of James Duncan

Continue reading...