Tag Archives: social media

The Two Things You Need to be Successful When Using Social Media

People ask me how all the time, “what’s the best way to use social media successfully?” I’m going to tell them (and you) a little secret – you need to have two things, and they won’t cost you a thing.

No, I’m not going to tell you that you have to create a Facebook fan page or that you just totally have to use WordPress for your blog. I’m not saying that you need to get celebrities and other “influentials” to retweet you or to hire some social media gurus to get you thousands of fans. No, the two things you need to be successful in using social media are inexpensive and available to everyone, yet are very difficult to attain: loads of self-confidence and extreme self-awareness.

big finish

Are you confident in your abilities? Are are acutely aware of your strengths and weaknesses? You better be!

Seems pretty simple right? Be confident. Know your strengths and weaknesses. OK, that’s do-able. No expensive training to take, no conferences to attend, no certifications to go and get, no books to read – what’s so difficult about this again?

Well, here’s the thing – a lot of people SAY they have self-confidence and that they’re pretty self-aware, but you’re probably not one of them. Oh, you might be totally sure of yourself when you’re talking to the people in your office but what about when your audience isn’t your Luddite boss, but a conference room full of other social media “experts?” Hearing negative feedback from your boss is one thing, hearing “you suck!” from another blogger is another.

Self-confidence and self-awareness can’t be achieved just by reading, attending conferences, or subscribing to blogs – it actually takes some honest introspection and humility. For example, are you confident and self-aware enough to handle these situations?

  • You might be used to seeing your boss mark up that report you’ve been working on, but what are you going to do when hundreds of people pick apart your blog post? Can you listen to that feedback, internalize it, and adapt?
  • At the same time, are you confident enough in your writing and opinions to stand up for what you believe and defend it?
  • Are you comfortable having an argument with someone in front of thousands of people? Can you remain calm, cool, and collected in the face of immaturity and uninformed opinions?
  • What are you going to do when your first 2, 6, 8, or 10 blog posts get a total of 30 visits? Keep plugging away? Adapt your writing style? Quit?
  • It’s easy to be confident when you’re the expert in the room, but what happens when you’re in a room full of other social media experts? Are you confident enough in what you know and aware of what you don’t know to have actual conversations with the authors of the books and blogs you’ve been reading?
  • Remember that the brand on your business card may give you some instant credibility when you first start out, but are you ready to deal with both the good and the bad? What are you going to do when people start attacking you on your blog, Facebook, and Twitter because they have an issue not with you personally, but with your company?
  • I know your officemates loved that blog post you wrote on your intranet a few weeks ago, but you and I both know you just paraphrased a chapter out of Chris Brogan’s latest book and called it a blog post. Are you comfortable enough in your own skin to attribute that or would you let your colleagues think you’re the “thought leader” behind it?
  • Are you comfortable asking for help or do you view it as a sign of weakness?
  • You’ll meet people much much smarter than you, people with more experience than you. Are you humble enough to admit that and learn from them?
  • You’ll be wrong…a lot…and everyone will know it. How do you feel about that?
  • Do you have visions of being the next social media A-lister? If you do, tell me what you absolutely suck at. Is it video blogging? Is it recording podcasts? Is it editing your own posts? Managing your time? Regularly commenting on other people’s blogs? What areas of social media do you struggle with and why? If you can’t easily answer this question, go back to the top and start over. You’re not awesome at everything, trust me.

The answers to these questions can’t be found in a book or blog post. Even the so-called experts’ advice for how to deal with these situations will be all over the map.  The answers will be different for everyone, depending on their own strengths and weaknesses, and that’s kind of the point. Are you confident in what you know? Are you willing to admit what you don’t? Until you’re able to develop that self-confidence and self-awareness, you’ll always find yourself struggling with how to best use social media.

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Everyone’s on Facebook, Why Aren’t They on the Intranet Too?

Thanks to all who came to my presentation at the ACMP 2011 conference – as promised you can find my entire presentation here!

In the fall I wrote a guest post entitled, “But I Don’t WANNA Change” about using change management techniques to encourage the adoption of social media within organizations. Over the past six months, I have seen how many people are interested in this topic, and I will be discussing it again at the Association for Change Management Professional’s conference May 1-4. One thing I have learned, however, is that even though social media is sweeping the world, that doesn’t mean your internal platform will engage your employees.

Social Media is Fast

Collage of social media icons

Photo Credit: Flickr, myretailmedia

Over the past five or six years we have seen a societal transformation take shape. Social Media has forever changed the way the world communicates. At the root of that change is behavior change; the idea that people had to learn to start doing something in a new way. There are always those early adopters (think Twitter users in 2007, Facebook users in 2004), but generally large-scale adoption of new communications tools takes years, often decades (think radio and television) – until now. Social media has raced across the globe in just a few years, with billions now taking part.

Social media has even had time to have what I call ‘nano-changes’ (nano as in rapid changes within a larger change). In the last several years we’ve seen a remarkable shift from blogs and discussion forums to instant update platforms like Twitter and Foursquare. There has also been a substantial move to mobile technology.

Behavior Change is Slow

A turtle slowly plods along

Photo Credit: Flickr, jhoward413

So how does understanding this information help you build a successful internal social media platform? Because to unleash the power of social media you have to understand human behavior. We are social creatures, but businesses that assume our social tendencies will ensure the success of a new collaboration platform are gravely mistaken. Why? Because they underestimate one crucial human behavior, we are social creatures AND creatures of habit. Change is hard, change is work, and getting people to change behavior requires significant effort.

These platforms often fail because:

1. They are poorly implemented and explained
2. Users don’t have a clear understanding of why using the site will help them
3. Leadership doesn’t lead by example and engage users via the platform
4. The tools don’t provide meaningful, updated information
5. They weren’t designed with the end-user in mind, so the user interface is complicated or confusing
6. They don’t continue to evolve

Here’s my take on each of these issues.

1. Solve a specific problem: A poorly implemented and explained IT implementation will always fail. (And make no mistake building an internal collaboration platform is an IT implementation.) My previous post has some detail around this particular issue, but one point reigns supreme: build the platform to meet a business need. Define the goal clearly and help employees understand how this new platform will achieve that goal. Is your goal to train employees, improve morale, or communicate more effectively to a global workforce? Define the goal, then design the platform to achieve it, and then communicate the hell out of it!

2. Clear vision: If users don’t understand what it is or why they should use it, it’s because the vision for the project was not clearly articulated. Take this example:

We are designing a web portal that through a user authentication process will enable simultaneous global interactions in a safe, behind-the-firewall employee collaboration platform.
OR
We’re creating a secure website where our employees can collaborate, share ideas, and inspire one another.

Articulating the vision is leadership’s responsibility, and the first step is to make certain people understand the critical elements. The second message clearly explains what it is, who it’s for, and what the benefits are, without using jargon.

3. Lead by example: If your CEO is still sending mass emails to everyone instead of launching the latest firm initiative via the new platform, then employees are receiving conflicting messages. Not only that, but if leadership is noticeably absent from the blogs, discussion forums, or communities created in the new platform then they are not reinforcing the use of the tool by modeling the behavior they expect to see – the employee thinks, ‘well the boss doesn’t use it, why should I bother to learn how?’

4. Content drives adoption: If people find the content engaging, informative, and useful they will return, if they don’t they are history. There are two parts to this: first, the content must be provided in an interesting manner. Don’t just post the company’s newsletter on the platform – make it interactive, use the discussion forum to determine the content for the next newsletter, etc. Second, the content needs to be consistently updated, which means you have to allocate enough resources to make sure the platform stays relevant and organized.

5. User first! It is always surprising to me how often the simplest (and arguably most important) issue is lost in the myriad of technical details – if the user experience is poor, they won’t use the site. Very few people will take the time and money to do a full, extensive usability review, but there are other options. First, there is ‘do-it-yourself’ usability that can be quite helpful. Steve Krug has a great book on this topic that has practical tips that really can improve any website. Another solution is to launch your new platform in beta, tell everyone it’s in beta, ask for their honest, candid feedback, and then (here’s the trick) listen to them! People are MUCH more forgiving of a new platform if they can see the site improving and evolving, which brings me to my last point…

6. Evolve, evolve, evolve: A platform that doesn’t grow with the needs of its users, no matter how well promoted it is, will ultimately stagnate and die. You don’t have to have a complete overhaul every six months, but you do have to continue to provide your users with more value. The other key here – don’t just add stuff, go back to your business drivers and add the stuff that reinforces those business objectives. Ask users what features or functionality they would like, and if it’s technically feasible give it to them.

Each of the issues above are core change management principles: creating a sense of urgency, articulating a clear vision, leading by example, and gathering feedback to continually evolve are all crucial steps to ensuring a successful internal collaboration implementation. It’s not build it and they will come, it’s more like build it, do all of this hard work, get them involved, and then they will come! But hey, better that than yet another wiki that no one uses, right?

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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Insulate Open Government Efforts From Budget Cuts

Numbers And Finance

To be successful over the long-term, Open Government efforts can't be a separate line item on the balance sheet

With the recent news that several major Open Government efforts including USASpending.gov, Data.gov, and FedSpace may be shut down due to budget cuts and that the Pentagon has disbanded their social media office, many people in the #gov20 community started wondering if their social media, Gov 2.0 and Open Government programs might be next. People rushed to their dashboards to develop PowerPoint slides that illustrated the impact that their social media and open government efforts.

  • “We have 5,000 Facebook fans – an increase of 143% over last year!!”
  • “Our retweet % has increased by 45% since last month!”
  • “Half of our web traffic results from click-throughs on our Twitter posts!”
  • “Our Open Government site is one of the Top 5 most popular open government sites!”
  • “Our datasets have been downloaded more than 1,000 times this month!”

Here’s the thing – if you’re only using metrics like these, you’re probably next on the chopping block. While they may be impressive to you and to others in the #gov20 community, this approach only marginalizes the impact of open government, making it something that’s a nice-to-have instead of a must-have. Guess which one gets the money when budgets are tight? Social media and open government will only be successful over the long-term if and when it becomes integrated with larger organizational efforts.

The problem is that most open government initiatives have been stood up and led by separate teams – the social media office, the New Media Director, the Open Government Team – rather than by existing functions within the enterprise. This makes open government and/or social media a separate line item in the budget – something that can literally be crossed off on the balance sheet when budgets are tight.

Instead of bragging about having the best blog, open dataset, Facebook page, or Twitter account, try pointing to the impact you’ve had on other people’s ability to do their job. Five thousand Twitter followers don’t mean a whole lot to senior leadership, especially when they don’t even know what Twitter is. However, if the customer service department can point to a 20% increase in customer satisfaction because they’ve integrated Twitter into their processes, simply cutting “social media” becomes less of an option. Instead of pointing to how many times your open datasets have been downloaded, try showing how the number of FOIA requests your organization has received has declined because the data are now freely available.

If you want to ensure the long-term viability of your open government and social media efforts, you have to demonstrate the impact you’ve had on other areas of the organization and how you’ve saved them money and/or improved their performance. Cutting an “Open Government Team” is pretty easy if that’s the only reason for its existence. However, what if:

  • the FOIA team stepped up and said that if the the Open Government Team were cut, their budget would have to increase to handle the corresponding increase in FOIA requests;
  • the customer service team says that customer satisfaction has increased because they’re using the social media channels established by the Open Government Team;
  • the public affairs department can point to a 20% decrease in negative press because they’re using Twitter to engage proactively with the media;
  • that recruiting says that the number of recruits has increased by 22% since they started using Facebook;

To insulate your Open Government efforts, stop talking about Open Government and start talking about how your efforts have positively impacted other areas of your organization. Integrate your open government efforts into other parts of your organization instead of building your open government empire. It’s a lot easier to cut something that’s contained within one team than something that’s pervasive throughout the organization.

*Image courtesy of Flickr User KenTeegardin

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Seven Things About Social Media That You’re Not Going to Learn in College

I talk a lot about the need to do a better job of integrating social media into the world of higher education. That’s why when my my alma mater asked me to speak at their annual Communication Week this year, I jumped at the opportunity (well, that and I was able to take my daughter to see her grandparents for the weekend). Because these students are already learning the basics of social media in their core communication classes, I didn’t want to do yet another Social Media 101 type presentation. Instead, I wanted to help them understand that even though they may learn what Twitter is, how to use it, and some case studies, there’s nothing like doing it in the real world. That’s why I gave a presentation last Friday titled “The 7 Things About Social Media That You’re Not Going to Learn in College.”

Here’s the presentation I gave, with the key takeaways below:

1. I am not an audience, a public, a viewer, a demographic or a user – I am an actual PERSON with a VOICE
Throw out what you learned in Mass Communications 101 and instead focus on what you learned in Human Communications or Interpersonal Communications. You’re better off knowing and understanding the fundamental principles behind communicating with someone face-to-face than trying to replicate the influence that the War of the Worlds broadcast had on the American public. The megaphone approach doesn’t work when everyone has a megaphone. Learn to interact with actual human beings instead of nameless audiences and users.

2. I don’t care how many friends, followers, likes, or blog comments you have
I really don’t, not when anyone can go and game the system by buying thousands of Twitter followers or Facebook fans. Whether you have 100 or 10,000 followers is irrelevant to me. I want to know that you’ve at least tried to use Twitter/Facebook/blogs/Foursquare for a purpose other than getting more people at your Edward Forty-hands parties. Having demonstrated social media experience on your resume is great, but not because I care about the numbers, but because it shows me that you’re willing and able to try something new. It shows me you’re willing to take a risk and follow through. So don’t tell me that you have 10,000 Facebook likes, tell me how you used Facebook to increase the donations to a local animal shelter. Using social media in a professional context is hard, especially if you’re not learning it in class. I understand that – that’s why I care more about the effort than the numbers.

3. “Social Media” is not a career option
The New Media Director is just a means to an end.  Sure, there’s lots of demand now, but what happens when social media is no longer the new hot thing? You can’t JUST be a social media specialist. That’s a short-term role, much like the “email consultants” that sprouted up 15 years ago. I always tell people that I’m not a social media consultant – I’m a communications consultant who knows how to use social media.

4. Some people just aren’t cut out for the job
Not everyone has the personality or interpersonal communications skills to take full advantage of the full potential of social media. Are you comfortable introducing yourself to new people? Telling someone you really liked their work? Building a relationship with someone without having an ulterior motive? Disagreeing with someone in a very public way without offending them? Knowing how to apologize? Comfortable with having every aspect of your professional life available for public criticism?  It takes a special kind of self-confidence and self-awareness to be really good at using social media to effect some sort of impact. I can teach someone how to tweet, but it’s much more difficult to teach someone how to really enjoy getting to know other people.

5. Your innovative, awesome, ground-breaking, and cutting edge ideas aren’t as innovative, awesome, ground-breaking, and cutting edge  as you think
Most of corporate America has VERY little knowledge of social media for business purposes, so by simply proposing that you use Twitter as part of your marketing plan during your internship, you may end up becoming THE social media subject matter expert. Here’s a news flash – you’re not.  Senior leadership, your boss, your peers – they may very well start referring to you as a guru, ninja, SME, etc. but just because you know the basics doesn’t mean you’re an expert. In his book Outliers, Malcom Gladwell defines an “Expert” as someone with ten years or 10,000 hours of experience. Twitter just turned five years old. You do the math. You MUST continue to learn, to network, to read, to listen because that’s the only way you’re going to keep up.

6. You’re always on and everything is public
Your day will not end just because it’s 5:00 PM. That picture of you doing bodyshots off that waitress? Your boss, your clients, your peers – assume they’ll all see it. It doesn’t matter that it’s up there on your “personal” account or because it happened while you were on vacation. Your online life is your online life, both professional and personal. Your name and face will be freely available to everyone online – are you comfortable with a client recognizing you at the bar on Saturday night?

7. You’re going to come across a lot of jerks – don’t be one of them
Ever meet someone and the first thing they do is tell you all about how they graduated magna cum laude from Harvard or Yale? Or, they throw around their job title? Or, how much money they have? Or how they’ve got this great idea you have to invest in? Maybe you have a friend who never has money and needs you to spot him when you guys go out?  How about that guy who always seems to have an ulterior motive – he always needs a favor, some money, a ride, a recommendation? Do you LIKE being around them? Do you WANT to do them any favors? You can’t hide anymore – you can’t lie, you can’t be a jerk. People talk….about you, about your work, about how you talk about them.  Everyone is connected – that guy whose blog post you stole last week?  He’s probably in a Facebook group with your client, and guess who’s going to see him complaining about you?

Ultimately though, none of this matters because you’re not going to have a choice. While the tools that we talk about will change over time, the kinds of communication that social media enables isn’t going away. As communications students, you can either start learning about social media now and be a forward-thinker or be forced to learn it later on the job where you’re expected to know it already.

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