Tag Archives: scary

Social Media is Scary – How to Address Middle Managers

March 2, 2009

15 Comments

Part 3 in a series of posts responding to my original post, “Social Media is Scary

So, what can you do to address the myriad reasons for social media being scary?  This is the third (the first one addressed the junior employee, and the second addressed senior leadership) of four blog posts tackling each of the demographics that I brought up in the original posts, one by one and illustrate how I handle the “social media is scary” line.  The third group is the middle manager and project manager –

For managers – “So, how much time is my staff going to be spending blogging/reading blogs rather than doing actual work?  If my staff have questions about their project, their career, or their work environment, I want them coming to me, not blogging about it for the whole world to see.  I’ve got an MBA and have been with the organization for five years – why would I put my work out there for people to change and mess up?”

Ah, yes, time for the middle managers and project managers.  In my experience, this is the stakeholder group that is most skeptical, opposed, and confused about social media.  They seemingly have the most to lose – social media allows senior leadership to interact directly with their workforce (why go to my manager if I can talk directly to the big guy?) and they’re directly responsible for ensuring that the “work gets done” so while time spent reading blogs might be beneficial over the long term, it doesn’t directly benefit the project at hand.   The typical project manager is interested first in achieving the goals of the project, and the typical middle manager is interested in balancing the needs of his or her staff, plus doing what senior leadership asks, plus building their own career.  For this group, social media is at best, another activity competing for their time, and at worst, a severe inhibitor to achieving the mission.

To get the middle manager or project manager on board with social media, you have to show them two things:

  1. Social media will save them time
  2. Social media help them build their business and/or grow their team

While one might be tempted to launch into presentations about how social media can help them communicate with their staff or to collaborate more efficiently, they aren’t going to care unless you can demonstrate to them how these tools will help them do one of the above.

When talking with a middle manager or project manager, I’ll typically start by focusing on the tools themselves, rather than on the overarching strategies, like I would do with senior leadership.  Show them how the tools can help them save time.  Show them how they can use del.icio.us so that they can use their bookmarks no matter where they’re at, and despite the number of “blue screens of death” they see.  Social bookmarking to save time is of much more importance to them than being able to share their bookmarks with others.  Show them an example where a wiki has been used to eliminate 43 MS Word versions of a white paper or some other document.  Show them how an internal blog can be used to keep team members up to date on their project instead of having weekly in-person team meetings.

Once they have that foundation in how the tools work, and how they can be used to save time and to build their business/team, THEN they’ll start getting interested in the broader view of social media.  “Hey Steve – first, thanks so much for getting me set up on del.icio.us.  It really saved me when my laptop died the other day!  But what I really wanted to talk to talk to you about is the sharing aspect of it.  Since my bookmarks are just available online, couldn’t I just tag things and then my team would be able to see what I’ve tagged?”

Middle managers and project managers deal much more in the practical than in the theoretical.  An understanding of this very fundamental perspective is critical to showing middle managers and project managers that social media isn’t scary – it’s a critical time-saver that can be used in myriad different ways.

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Social Media is Scary – How to Address Senior Executives

February 2, 2009

13 Comments

Part 2 in a series of posts responding to my original post, “Social Media is Scary

Image courtesy of Flickr user chelmsfordpubliclibrary

Image courtesy of Flickr user chelmsfordpubliclibrary

So, what can you do to address the myriad reasons for social media being scary?  This is the second (the first one addressed the junior employee) of four blog posts tackling each of the demographics that I brought up in the original posts one by one and illustrate how I handle the “social media is scary” line.  The second group is the Senior Executive –

For Senior Executives– “What happens when people start using these platforms to just complain about everything?  Why would I want to give everyone a place to whine about every little thing that’s bothering them?  I can’t possibly keep up with every comment, question, and suggestion that goes up – I don’t have the time to do that!”

I’ve already talked about how to justify social media to the big-wigs.  This post expands on that. Here are the three key messages I find myself telling my senior executive clients regardless of what tools I’m showing them.

  1. Social media isn’t about the tools – it’s about what the tools enable.
  2. Social media cannot exist in a vacuum.  Social media has to be integrated into your organization’s overall communications strategy.
  3. The tools that you want to use are dependent on what you want to accomplish.

While it’s good to show an executive a tool that can be used to improve their processes, it’s often more important for them to understand the bigger picture.  That it’s not just about the benefits of the tool, that it’s about the open, transparent, authentic communications and collaboration that these tools allow.  They have to justify the time, money, and resources required to move a particular tool’s use from the micro to the macro level.  To do this, they have to understand that a blog isn’t just a way for them to communicate better with their employees.  They have to understand that a blog is about creating a culture of open and honest dialogue within their organization.  They have to understand the bigger picture.

I also tell them that social media doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  The executive has to realize that to effectively use social media, you can’t designate somebody or some group as “the Web 2.0 guys.”  There’s nothing worse than your public affairs officers receiving a call from reporter asking a question about one of your blog postings and they have no idea what they’re talking about because “the Web 2.0 guys” handle that.  When I meet with a senior executive, I try to make sure that there are at least four groups represented – people who “get” social media, representatives from the communications or public affairs group who can speak to the organization’s communications strategy, people from the IT department who understand the technical architecture, rules and policies of the organization, and someone who really understands the organization’s mission – the person who is deeply involved with the organization’s overall strategies.  One person could take on one or more of these roles, but every part should be represented.

The last point seems to be the most obvious.  There’s no social media tool continuum that lays out all social media tools from least beneficial to most beneficial.  No chart that says blogs are the best tool to use when you’re first starting out with social media.  The tools that you use (and how you use them) are entirely dependent on what you want to accomplish.  I can’t tell you what tool you should get started with until we determine what your goal is.

However, the absolute most important (and most effective) approach can be summed up in two words – BE PASSIONATE.  I can’t tell you the number of times where I briefed a senior executive about social media and the biggest takeaway that he/she had was, “well, I’ll tell you what – you obviously believe in this and are extremely passionate about its potential so let’s give it a try.”  When a senior executive sees someone, especially if it’s one of their own employees taking the initiative to spend hours of their own time developing a briefing or writing a white paper developing something they truly believe in, they can see that.

Above all else, be passionate about what you’re talking about, whether that’s social media or something else.  Believe in your ideas.  Believe in their potential.  And believe in yourself.

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Social Media is Scary – How to Address Junior Employees

January 27, 2009

11 Comments

On one of my recent posts, Social Media is Scary, Rick posed some pretty valid questions that essentially boiled down to “yeah, social media is scary, but now what?  What can I do to address these concerns?”  I thought this was a great follow-up question that I promised to answer in a future post.

So, what can you do to address the myriad reasons for social media being scary?  In my next four blog posts, I’ll tackle each of the demographics that I brought up in the original posts one by one and illustrate how I handle the “social media is scary” line.  Our first group is the Junior Employee –

For junior employees – “Yeah, that’s great that I can start a blog that everyone in the organization can read, but what will I say?  What if my grammar is wrong or I spell something wrong – will people think I can’t write?  What if I disagree with something that my manager says?  What if I write too much and my boss wonders why I wasn’t working?  I don’t know – I’ll have to really think about it.”

For junior employees, it’s all about tapping into their entrepreneurial spirit.  Show them how they can use their organization’s internal blogs, wiki, bookmarks, etc. to identify their niche and to promote it.  Show them how this voice that they now have can be used to advance their own career.

Image Courtesy of Flickr user GroovyGuru

Image Courtesy of Flickr user GroovyGuru

Junior employees lost in a mass of thousands – they’re often anonymous pluggers who are told that they have to “put in their time.”  With the proliferation of social media both inside and outside the organization, this phrase is now more of an excuse than a reason.  If you’re a junior employee who is sick and tired of being the gopher, of being tasked with doing nothing but web research, of not being invited to strategy meetings, DO something about it.  Do your job well and stop whining about the lack of opportunities and create your own.  You now have a voice.  You now have a platform with which you can demonstrate your skills and expertise and create your own opportunities.

I’ve used my own experience as a case study here.  When I first started pushing the words “social media” around my traditionally conservative firm, I started small.  I pulled together some basic briefings and white papers, but never really got traction beyond my core team.  Once we deployed internal blogs, a wiki, and forums, that’s when my work internally with social media really took off.  I blogged every chance I got.  I went in and created dozens of wiki pages on every social media tool I found.  I commented on everyone’s blogs.  I took every opportunity I could to get my name out there associated with social media, Web 2.0, New Media and anything else that was related to those terms.  As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, when I first started down this path, I was working 9-5 AND 5-9.  I had to continue doing my actual job and then come home and work my tail off on this.  Remember that no one is going to care what you have to say if you’re getting negative performance reviews because you’re neglecting your actual job in favor of something else.

Now, anytime anyone in my company searches the terms “social media” or “Web 2.0” or “blog” on our Intranet, my name pops up.  What made me one of Booz Allen’s social media leads wasn’t some new title or promotion or org chart change – it was simply a matter of my putting my name out there along with my thoughts, opinions, and ideas and letting everyone judge me based on that.  That first blog entry WAS terrifying, but you know what – I decided that I’d have to take that first step at some point, why not do it on something that I feel very confident about?

So, when a junior employee tells me that social media is scary, all I have to show them the benefits of social media, of how you can use these tools to position yourself how you want to be seen and where you want your career to go.  I tell all of my mentees to find something, find anything, that they really enjoy and that they can somehow tie into the business of our organization.  You’re in grad school studying Global Communication with a specialization in Middle Eastern Studies?  Perfect!  Go start a blog on that.  Go create wiki pages that examine the impact of the Internet in Iran.  Start a community of all others who are interested in learning more about that topic.  Just identify your niche, and get out there already!  If you’re a junior employee reading this and you’re STILL looking for motivation, then watch this spectacular video from last year’s Web 2.0 Expo in New York.  Listen to Gary’s speech and then try to tell me that you’re not ready to go kill it!

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Why Social Media is Scary

January 11, 2009

68 Comments

As one of my company’s social media leads, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with a wide range of people about social media.  From our most senior VPs to senior executives within the government to our summer interns, every group has their own set of questions, concerns, and pre-conceived notions about social media and what it means for them.  Over time though, I’ve realized that they all one thing in common.  They could all agree on one thing.

Social media is scary.

Let me tell you why.  Businesses and our government are structured in a very hierarchical way – everyone is part of an org chart, everyone has a boss, and everyone is working to get to the next level.  Why?  Because inevitably, the next level brings more pay, more power, more respect, and more influence.  In the current organizational structure, everyone’s role is nicely identified on the org chart and with that, there is a structured way to act.  Raise your hand if you’ve ever said or have been told something like, “you can’t contact him directly – get in touch with your manager first,” or “draft an email for me to send to him,” or even better, “talk to “Public Affairs and Legal to get that approved before sending it out.”

The problem with this structure is that social media renders these traditional roles and responsibilities obsolete.  It introduces unpredictability and opportunity, unauthorized emails and tremendous insights, inappropriate language and humor.  Social media gives everyone a voice, whether they want it or not.

That’s a scary concept.

  • For junior employees – “Yeah, that’s great that I can start a blog that everyone in the organization can read, but what will I say?  What if my grammar is wrong or I spell something wrong – will people think I can’t write?  What if I disagree with something that my manager says?  What if I write too much and my boss wonders why I wasn’t working?  I don’t know – I’ll have to really think about it.”
  • For developers, programmers and other IT staff – “Ummm, I became an IT programmer because I hate people.  I don’t like speaking out, and really enjoy just coding and sticking to myself.  Now, you’re making me blog about my work?  I have to post my code to a wiki?  But, I can’t – it’s not ready for prime time yet.  I can’t just post draft content out there – let me get my manager to review this first.”
  • For managers – “So, how much time is my staff going to be spending blogging/reading blogs rather than doing actual work?  If my staff have questions about their project, their career, or their work environment, I want them coming to me, not blogging about it for the whole world to see.  I’ve got an MBA and have been with the organization for five years – why would I put my work out there for people to change and mess up?”
  • For senior leadership – “What happens when people start using these platforms to just complain about everything?  Why would I want to give everyone a place to whine about every little thing that’s bothering them?  I can’t possibly keep up with every comment, question, and suggestion that goes up – I don’t have the time to do that!”

At the heart of all these questions is an underlying fear of the unexpected. People now have a voice, a freedom to say what they want and talk to whomever they want.

In the traditional business culture of org charts, everyone is relegated to their role and everyone lives by that – it is very easy (and fits nicely onto a PowerPoint slide).  Before we had social media at my organization, if we got an email from someone we didn’t know, all we had to go on was their directory listing – “ohhh, I just got an email from one of our Principals – I’ll have to ask my manager if it’s ok to respond directly to them or not.”  Now, I can click on anyone’s name and see not only their entire bio and a picture, but also their entire history of contributed intellectual capital(IC).  I can see their blog postings, their wiki edits, their bookmarks, and their skillset.  I’ve gotten this a lot lately as people within my organization have tried to say that they’re social media “experts” yet I can click on their name and find out they haven’t blogged, they’ve made one wiki edit, and they’ve only logged into our social media platform once.  Really?  You’re a social media “expert?”  Thanks, but I’ll pass and contact the guy in San Diego who has been editing the wiki like a fiend, adding great IC on social media.

Social media allows people to easily subvert the traditional organizational hierarchy.  Whereas that title or degree that followed your name used to be all the authority you needed, you’re now being judged by what, if anything, you’ve contributed.  I’ve run into quite a few senior PhDs who turned out to be brilliant and just as many who left me asking how they got through undergrad – I now have more information at my disposal to make my own determination before I ever even meet them.  This transparency scares people because they’re now forced to show their skills and demonstrate their expertise.

Social media gives employees an unprecedented ability to use their voice to gain credibility, influence, and power within the organization – for better or for worse.  Junior employees can quickly become valued and respected or suspended and reprimanded members of the organization because they now have a voice.  Middle managers can lose their power and credibility if they don’t use their voice.  Senior leaders can lose total control of their organization if they don’t listen to these voices.

No matter what level you’re at, social media can be very scary.  On the other hand, it can be an incredible opportunity.  Will you face your fears and take advantage of the opportunity or hide from the fear it instills?

*Image Courtesy of Flickr user Ack Ook*

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