Tag Archives: social media

Addressing the Digital Divide WITHIN Your Organization

October 21, 2010

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Try teaching social media to someone who still looks at this day after day

If it wasn’t for my brother and I, my mother would still have a VCR that blinks 12:00 because she couldn’t figure out to change the time on it and never saw any desire too.  Despite fixing it every time I was there, she never saw a problem with it. About five years ago, I finally bought her a DVD player and upon opening the box, I was greeted not with a “thanks!” but a “why do I need this? Our VCR works fine.” Merry Christmas Mom!

Five years and hundreds of presentations later, I’ve realized that my mom, while frustratingly not interested in technology, wasn’t the anomaly – I was. I work at one of the largest technology consulting firms in the world and a vast majority of my clients work for the U.S. Federal Government, yet every day, I’m reminded of the fact that while I may think of them as Luddites, they think of me as a huge nerd.  While using Twitter may seem almost passe to me and the other social media “evangelists” out there, it’s important to remember that the not only does the vast majority of America not use Twitter – the vast majority of your colleagues don’t either.  And like my mom, they probably don’t care or see why they should.

Everyone talks about the digital divide that exists in America between those with access to information technology and those who don’t, but the digital divide that gets talked about far less is the one that exists right in your office. Look around you – there are many people in your office who:

  • Have no idea what a browser is
  • Print out their emails and schedule each day
  • Carry pounds of binders and notebooks with them every day
  • Think you know everything when, in reality, you just know how to use Google
  • Still use a flip phone
  • Ask you what a URL is

Realizing this fact (that I’m a nerd) and accepting that most people don’t share my passion for technology (because I’m a nerd) has helped me as I create presentations, write proposals, talk with my clients, and mentor my colleagues. You see, I used to get frustrated when I’d give presentations, and upon telling people to open their browsers, I’d hear, “what’s a browser?” Because, as my frustration would mount – “how can people still not have a basic understanding of the Internet???!!” – their frustration would escalate as well – “I can’t stand when people tell me I should be using some new tool when my way of doing things works just fine!” Instead of an opportunity to learn about technology that can help them, our mutual frustration led to an almost adversarial relationship. Not good. Now, I’m focused on empathizing rather than converting and explaining rather than criticizing. This means that people are focused on the information I have to give, not on defending their position. And, I’m able to actually listen to their concerns and frustrations without feeling the need to defend my position.

When you read this and go back to your office today, consider empathizing instead of criticizing.

When You Hear

Don’t Say This

Say This

“What’s a Browser?”

“Seriously?”

“The browser is your window into the Internet – there are many different browers, including Safari, Internet Explorer, Opera, Firefox. Let’s see which one you have.”

“What’s a Tweeter?”

“Haven’t you watched ANY news in the last two years?”

“The site is called Twitter and it’s an Internet site where people can share 140 character messages, links, status updates, and locations with other people”

“Why would I bother with sending you a text when I can just call you?”

“Because if you call me, I’m not going to answer”

“Texting is great way to communicate with someone in short bursts, often when talking on the phone is not feasible.”

“I don’t know how you have time to tell people what you ate or where you are at all hours of the day!”

“I wouldn’t be talking about time management when you’re the one who prints out every single one of your emails”

“I don’t.  That’s why I only use Facebook (or Twitter) to share interesting links, talk with my family/friends, and/or ask questions of my network.”

“When was Company X founded?”

Send them a link for Let Me Google That For You

“This is a great example of where we can use Google to find the answer really quickly – let me show you.”

Use these opportunities to teach more and more importantly, to learn more. Rather than writing these people off as lost causes, we should be doing our best to bridge this digital divide and understand that we too can learn from their experiences. Ask them why they still cling to their old practices to understand how you can better frame technology in terms that make sense to them, not to you. Use them as sounding boards for your next great social media or tech idea – after all, even if you have the greatest tool, it’s not going to mean anything if the nerds like you and me are the only ones using it.

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SMCEDU: Changing Higher Education Through Social Media

October 10, 2010

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As most of you know, the topic of using social media and education is one that I’m very interested in – whether that means using social media in the classroom or teaching social media, I believe that there is a lot of opportunity to use technology to improve the ways the next generation learns.  As I detailed in this post, this is one reason that I got involved with the SMCEDU project at the very beginning. Founded in July 2009, SMCEDU has established more than ten chapters at colleges and universities across the country, it was officially granted a 501(c)(6) non-profit designation, and it’s forming its Advisory Board now. There are a lot of exciting things happening now with SMCEDU and that’s why I was excited to talk with Yong Lee, a graduate of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and current director of the SMCEDU project.

I got the opportunity to ask Yong seven questions about SMCEDU – what it is, what’s going on now, and what’s in store for the future. The full interview is below:

Finish this sentence – the Social Media Club Education Connection (SMCEDU) is the:
SMCEDU, a division of Social Media Club, is a formal attempt to gather the lessons and experiences of educators, students, and professionals across the country to address the need for social media education, including what social media are and how to use it for different purposes. You can follow the conversation surrounding social media and higher education under the #SMCEDU hashtag.

What’s the mission of SMCEDU?
The mission has three parts:

  1. Bringing about awareness of social media and its impact on both personal, professional, and civic engagement to educational communities
  2. Studying how this impact is affecting social dynamics, especially as it relates to higher education.
  3. Connecting students to professionals with the intent of creating internship and mentorship opportunities.

SMCEDU seems to really be growing – I’m hearing more and more about the need to integrate social media into higher education, from Twitter to New York Times to blogs across the world.  What are some of the new and exciting things that SMCEDU is doing now and where do you see it going from here?
One of the most exciting things to me is the growth we’re experiencing right now. The project kicked off in July 2009, and this semester alone we’re seeing new chapters forming at American University, Kansas University, Kansas State University, the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Penn State University, and the University of Texas.

Since awareness and connection are the first steps, what I would like to see in the future is students that are actively engaged with SMCEDU making connections with the professionals in their fields of study, and documenting how they’re using social media to make classroom learning experiential and engaging rather than insulated and theoretical.

There’s much discussion around education reform right now, and I see social media being an aspect of that. I don’t know how “tomorrow’s classroom,” or whatever you want to call it, will shape up in the coming years, but I know that the social component is becoming increasingly influential in our daily consumption of information. How can we let something that important go by unstudied? There might be research underway, but from speaking with several educators I don’t know of any peer-reviewed journal or accredited source of information regarding social media use or impact.

Social media has traditionally been the realm of either communications or IT professionals. But what about those college students studying things like biology, chemistry, math, political science, etc.?  Is there a role for them in SMCEDU too?
So this question interests me because I’ve had a different experience when it comes to finding IT/techies on social media. I often wonder why I don’t find more programmers on Twitter. I follow the #coding and #code hashtags, but I don’t see Twitter being leveraged the way I think it could, as a personal learning network that can answer questions in real-time. I can think of many nights working on a project and reaching a point where I couldn’t find an answer on my own, I needed to ask someone. But who’s available at 3am to answer a question like that? The traditional means of communication for this situation, forums, are responsive within a day or two and are comprised of great communities. But they don’t respond right now, and are limited to just the people participating in those forums rather than a broader audience. Granted, in programming, you don’t need answers from everybody, just the experts that know the answer…but why limit the question to just that handful? Why not give questions greater exposure, and give the people that credibly answer them the same?

Communication happens in every field. Universities were traditionally just places where scholars could get together and discuss/argue about the problems they were thinking about (which is why I don’t think physical classrooms will ever go away). But a classroom shouldn’t be defined by campus boundaries. Generations that were/are raised on the Internet expect greater (in terms of number) conversations, conversations that can introduce new people and new thinking…this applies to ALL fields. I think because at its core, social media is about communication, PR/marketing/communications pros have seized it as their own. But in reality, everyone communicates, and it’s about time we devoted academic study to this particular form of communication.

 

Yong is the current Director of the SMCEDU Project

One of the reasons that I like entry level candidates with social media skills and experience is not because I’m necessarily looking for “social media experts,” but because they generally also show the most initiative and ambition than other students. Do you agree, and if so, who are some of the students you’ve met who are demonstrating these traits?

I agree. Some reasons why:

  1. Social media is still seen as a new technology. I have reservations about calling it a technology or even “new” anymore, but the people that have social media savvy tend to be of the early adopter mindset which requires taking the initiative to try new things.
  2. “Social media experts” are social people. If you’re someone who enjoys talking to others, is outgoing, and asks questions, you’re going to learn something (assuming you listen as well as talk). I’m not saying quieter people are any less ambitious, but it seems that the people that are working hard to develop social media presence are the same ones that don’t mind having a conversation with strangers, which requires an openness and willingness to risk.
  3. The secret ingredient to success with social media is passion.

Two students that come to mind are Alex Priest, an undergrad at American University, and Andi Narvaez, a grad student at UMD. You know them both, they’re go-getters.

The majority of the readers of this blog are involved with the government, either as civil servants or contractors – why should they care about SMCEDU now?
Because social media has greater implications than we currently understand. Nobody was paying attention to Facebook five years ago, now it’s everywhere. The social aspect is mandatory in nearly every tech startup, which shows me that people are becoming used to and expectant of it. This means everyone has to have some baseline understanding of how to interact online.  All those stories you hear about how someone posted something on Facebook that got them fired or in trouble? It’s becoming unacceptable to not know the ramifications of your online behavior.

As I said earlier, social media impacts personal, professional, and civic engagement. You have to know what’s going on: the tools being used, the conventions/purposes for each, how to learn newer tools, how to separate BS from useful information. Social media, in my mind, encompasses all of that and will be a necessary bullet point in most any resume in the near-future. SMCEDU is trying to help form that education, that understanding, in lieu of academic study. Hopefully soon, schools will get on board.

Look ahead five years from now – what’s SMCEDU look like?
Great question. I work in higher education, so I see how long it could take for schools to adapt to newer things. I think social media — both its study and integration — will inevitably become an academic convention. For now, it’s not, and who knows how long it will take.

I’d like to see SMCEDU continue to be both an entry point for those interested in learning more about social media, and a thriving community that both accepts and provides contributions of knowledge. I’d love to see SMCEDU acquire some level of accreditation, some trust and authority beyond “social media gurus.” I’ve heard a few ideas of how we can accomplish this, but for now, we’ll keep trying to fill the role as both indicators for need, providers of information, and pathways to professionalism.

For more information about SMCEDU, make sure you check out:

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Make Sure Your Social Media Evangelists Feel the Love

September 30, 2010

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While writing my last post, I got to thinking about all of the conversations I’ve had with the talented, ambitious, entrepreneurial colleagues I’ve gotten to know over the last few years. Most of these individuals serve, in some fashion, as social media evangelists – they’re the ones leading the charge to get their organizations on Twitter, to start blogging, to start using new technology to really change how their organizations operate.

Image Courtesy of Flickr User AndYaDontStop

I quickly realized how valuable these people are to me, not to mention how valuable they are to their own organizations. They’re always willing to share best practices, war stories, and valuable content that I can use every day.  They inspire me as I see what they’ve been able to accomplish in similar bureaucratic environments.  They seem to make everyone around them happier through their enthusiasm for using social media to connect with people.  Their ambition and passion drives others to want to do more, to try new things, and to work together to solve problems.

When I talk with these people’s peers, I hear similar stories – about the innovation they’ve enabled, the initiatives they’ve championed, and the value they’ve provided others. These social media evangelists are clearly recognized by their peers (and often, by their competitors) for making a difference and being an invaluable part of their organizations.

However, when I speak with these social media evangelists themselves, I often hear a very different story. It’s not that they aren’t appreciated – they are. It’s more that their managers haven’t figured out how to appreciate them. Rather than hearing all about the promotions, raises, or awards that I would expect to hear about from employees as valued as they are, I hear things like:

  • “Sure, I may be the “Director of Social Media,” but I don’t have any authority to make decisions and wasn’t given a budget or a team to actually scale this effectively.”
  • “My bosses say they love the work that I’m doing, but I haven’t been promoted yet, because they don’t have a progression model for someone who does social media.”
  • “I’m constantly getting recruiting calls from other organizations and headhunters because they recognize the value that I bring, but I don’t think my boss even understands what I do.”
  • “Why am I putting my butt on my line to bring about some real change in policies and culture, when I get the same raise as the guy who keeps his head down, does his job, and goes home at 5:00?”
  • I love working in social media – I feel like I’m getting an opportunity to make some real changes here, but damn, it’s exhausting constantly trying to get buy-in for my initiatives and justify my existence.”
  • “I’ve met and worked with people from across other teams throughout the organization, but because those teams fall outside of my boss’s area of responsibility, I don’t receive any credit for that work.”

If, by most accounts, these social media evangelists are highly valued for their contributions by their peers, colleagues, and competitors, why then, do they not feel like they’re valued members of their own organization?  Why aren’t they moving quickly up the corporate ladder?  Why do they feel exhausted and frustrated (but simultaneously excited and motivated)?  Why are these social media evangelists highly sought after by recruiters and competitors, yet often ignored or misunderstood by their own management chain?

If you’re the manager for one of these social media evangelists, here are five ways to ensure that they do indeed feel the love:

  • Do some research about social media and your organization. Go beyond just what you see on the status reports and performance reviews and find out exactly what impacts this person has had.  Reading “starting the organization’s Yammer network” doesn’t sound all that impressive until you actually join the network and see thousands of people from across the organization collaborating with each other in ways that were impossible using existing technology.
  • Talk to other people. What’s been the real impact of this person’s work? This impact doesn’t have to be measured in dollars and cents. Have they empowered others to become more innovative? Has their work resulted in changed policies and practices that have opened doors for other initiatives? Find out exactly how their peers look at this individual and why.
  • Realize that your traditional business models and performance reviews may need to be adjusted. You can’t tell someone they’re a high performer and you value what they bring to the organization, but fail to promote them or give them a raise because they may not fit nicely into your existing models. Work with them to identify ways to keep them moving up the corporate ladder without destroying their creativity and ambition.
  • Consider using non-traditional rewards. The social media evangelist loves getting promotions and raises (who doesn’t?), but they also highly value rewards that make their work easier and allows them to be more effective. Instead of the traditional “Great job!” certificate or Starbucks gift card, consider giving them an intern that can help them with their day-to-day work or a small yearly budget that they can use to purchase specialized software (Photoshop, etc.) or hardware (Flip cameras, additional RAM, etc.).
  • Support their initiatives. Check in regularly and ask if there’s anything you can help with – that may be something simple like sending an email to the team to show that you support what they’re proposing or setting up a meeting for them with a member of the organization’s leadership to discuss his/her plans and dreams.

Most importantly (and this is the easiest and most effective tactic), make sure that you actually care about the work that they’re doing. This may sound like common sense, but every time you giggle when this highly valued employee says the word “tweet,” know that a small part of him/her is dying. They take their jobs very seriously and have spent many many hours trying to help others understand the work that they do – the last thing they need is to have to explain what a wiki is to the person who’s supposed to be their biggest champion. Remember that while these people may present additional managerial challenges, they’re also some of your most entrepreneurial, ambitious, innovative, and passionate employees. Make sure that they’re feeling the love from you, because if they’re not, there are many other organizations searching high and low for people just this who are more than ready to show them the love.

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Do You Have What it Takes to Change Government and Create Gov 2.0?

September 8, 2010

33 Comments

Image courtesy of O'Reilly Conferences on Flickr

As I’ve said many times before, Government 2.0 isn’t about technology, but what that technology enables. When the TSA rolls out an initiative like the IdeaFactory, developing and implementing the technology is the easy part (disclosure: my company has supported the IdeaFactory project).  When the GSA implements the Better Buy Project, getting UserVoice up and running was probably one of the easiest tasks on the whole project.  No, when a government agency decides to use technology to try to become more transparent, participatory, and/or collaborative, the technology isn’t what’s keeping the project leads up at night.  The hardest part of all of these initiatives is figuring how to change the way the government operates.

Managing change in the government is HARD, much harder than in the private sector. Leadership and, consequently, leadership priorities are constantly changing as administrations change. Because of this, employees suffer from change fatigue (if you don’t like how your department was reorganized, wait a year and it’ll change again), middle managers don’t invest in the change themselves, and leaders all too often push forward with their own agendas and goals, current organizational culture be damned. It’s no wonder we’re still talking about how the best way to create Government 2.0 – we’ve been way too focused on the easy part of this, the technology.

But if changing the government is so difficult, then why have some government leaders succeeded in bringing effective changes while so many others have failed?

To try to answer this question, Booz Allen Hamilton teamed with Harvard University Professor of Public Management, Steven Kelman to identify the common methods—the best “leadership practices”—used by successful government executives to transform their agencies and achieve mission goals. By studying 12 federal cabinet and sub-cabinet level agencies from the administrations of former President Bill Clinton and former President George W. Bush, the study determined which organizational strategies worked best for delivering effective, meaningful change in government—and which did not.  More than 250 interviews were conducted with federal agency leaders and their employees, career executives, congressional staff, unions, media, customers, and interest groups.

So, why are some government leaders able to innovate and reinvent themselves and others stagnate?  At this year’s Gov 2.0 Summit in Washington, DC, some of the findings from this study were discussed at the “Do You Have What It Takes to Change Government?” session. If you’re responsible for a Gov 2.0 initiative, here are some of the key findings that you should keep in mind as you attempt to change government.

  • Use a collaborative strategic planning process – This isn’t going to happen via a memo or directive alone.  If you believe that your employees will become more open or collaborative because the boss said so, think again. Involve your employees in the strategic planning process. Sure, it takes a little longer, but you’ll be surprised at what you’ll learn and your employees will have some ownership in the change instead of feeling like they’re being told what to do.
  • Develop performance measures – what does success look like?  Can you explain how becoming more open and collaborative will help your agency/team/department/group/division better achieve its mission?  Ten thousand Facebook fans isn’t a goal – your goals should be tied to your organization’s goals and objectives, and your employees should be judged on their ability to achieve those goals.
  • Be proactive in building relationships with external groups – Your agency doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  Identify other groups who may be impacted, positively and negatively, and proactively go and meet with them.  Talk with them, listen to them, and involve them wherever and whenever you can.
  • Re-organize if you need to – Assess the current organization and determine if you can achieve your goals within the current structure. Are there impenetrable stovepipes? Are there too many layers of middle management? Are there personality conflicts and “turf-guarding?”  Don’t be afraid to shake things up and move people around.
  • Focus on 2-3 goals – The majority of successful leaders in the study had 2 or 3 goals that were action-oriented and quantifiable. Unsuccessful leaders typically had jargon-filled, tactical, action-based goals that described the effort, rather than the outcome. Gov 2.0 goals should be focused on an outcome – improving customer satisfaction levels or decreasing FOIA requests by making more data available online, etc.  Unsuccessful leaders typically use goals focused on an action – “implement a new knowledge management system” or “use social media more effectively.”

Here’s the full presentation as it was given at the Summit:

 

http://www.whitehouse.gov/open/innovations/IdeaFactory
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