Why You Shouldn’t Rely on a Social Media Ringer

Let’s hire a ringer!

Or so goes the quick answer at many a business when they’re trying to figure out how to get their arms around social media. The temptation is to go out and scoop up someone with name recognition, with a prominent presence on the latest social networks, and put them in the driver’s seat for your social media strategy. That takes care of everything, right?

Not quite.

It’s awesome to hire talented, accomplished people. It’s even better to hire talented people that have skill sets and expertise that might not be prevalent in your company. But it’s very, very important to look at the long term play. Make sure your ringer is part of the picture, even an important one, but not the basket in which you’re plunking all of your eggs.

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My Single Most Powerful Productivity Trick

You could circle the world at least dozen times just by stringing together all the words that have been written about productivity.

In particular, managing information overload in a social and new media era is a topic that never ceases to draw the masses. There isn’t a day that passes that I don’t see at least a post from someone lamenting how they simply can’t keep up anymore, or keep track of what they have to do, or how they’re getting buried in information but not finding anything valuable out there. It happens to the best of us.

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The New Normal of Work Includes Social Media

Read enough about productivity on the internet – especially in social media circles – and you’ll undoubtedly find counsel to cut down on “distractions” like Facebook and Twitter, or to stem content creation in favor of doing the “real work”.

The Real Work Thing

Ostensibly, this Real Work of which we speak (and I’m sure I’ve probably said something like that myself) is about doing the things that are concrete, tangible, and most likely relative to a day job or whatever work pays the bills. For me, it would be work that’s pertinent to my day job as VP of social strategy for Radian6. For you, it might be dealing with clients as a PR exec, or managing your team, designing websites, or any number of things.

In short, it’s the stuff that you’re supposed to be able to point to and see some kind of “real” result that moves your business or other goals forward. By whose standards we’re judging “real” I’m not quite sure. But there’s something very important to remember.

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Social Business and The Age of Infrastructure

It’s inevitable that in many discussions of social media and social business development, someone will ask:

What’s the next big thing? What happens now?

The next big thing isn’t big at all. Well, at least in terms of flashiness or bombastic, noisy fanfare. It’s not even likely to be sexy.

If you care about where social is going next, it’s time to get your sleeves rolled up and dig in. Because the era we’re approaching is in the merging of social at a superficial level, and social at a foundational and organizational level. And that’s going to get messy.

There is and always be a bleeding edge for things, and people that somehow manage to make their livings and livelihoods from predicting what that edge will look and feel like. But there’s precious little room on the brink, and when it comes to building something sustainable that applies to your existing business, there is much work to be done.

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Put Some Skin In The Game

Building something entirely new. Creating something fresh from something that existed. Evolving business to a new place. Changing a culture. True innovation. Standout success. Attaining influence or authority. Building a devoted following. Creating lasting relationships.

There’s one thing that all of these have in common…

You must invest something of personal value and worth.

It might be your ideas, your energy, or your reputation. Maybe it’s something tangible, like money or resources. Perhaps it’s a bit of all of those combined.

But leading – truly leading from within, not just sitting in a position of annointed leadership – requires an element of vulnerability that few are willing to risk. It means betting on your own hand, and being part of the things that you’re asking others to do with or for you.

If you have little invested, you have little to lose. And it’s hard to trust your intentions if you can’t be bothered to commit – and risk losing – something you value in the name of the thing that you want.

Let your team, your volunteers, your customers, peers and colleagues know what you’re willing to put on the line to achieve something. Don’t just work on a project. Don’t just build a plan and execute on it or delegate it. Invest in it. Personally and professionally. Put some skin in the game.

And let them see you do it.

Then watch how the game – and your own perspective – changes dramatically.

Amber Naslund

image by banspy

Get Your Hands Dirty and Change Something.

There are countless books, articles, academic papers, blog posts, and the like around things like “change management”. (One book I particularly love is Switch by Chip and Dan Heath. Thought provoking, accessible, and insightful.) But here’s an important thing to note about change:

It’s not simply going to happen because you wish it would.

In business culture, we frequently commiserate with colleagues and lament the things we wish were different. We question decisions or processes. Complain that the management or executive teams aren’t listening, or aren’t accessible. We frustrate ourselves around the environment we don’t like, the challenges we face, the personality clashes we experience, the lack of communication or information.

The trick, however, is that we also often throw those frustrations out over lunch or drinks with colleagues….and then simply go back to putting our heads down and doing business as usual without changing our own behavior one bit.

Before change can be managed, it has to be sparked. By someone. By actions. By getting your own hands dirty.

Yet we wait. For change to happen to us. For someone else to take the initiative to sit down and think not just about the problem, but to design a solution rather than simply a compromise. For someone else to initiate and prepare for the conversation with the big boss, or pull the department heads together, or to take the team to lunch and put some tangible ideas to paper. For someone else to take ownership of the issue and simply shower us with the miraculous results for the sake of making our lives easier.

But why can’t it be you? Or me?

In our personal lives we talk a great deal about accountability for changing behaviors or habits. Wanting it badly enough to simply take steps toward making something happen.

But organizationally, we’re daunted by things like hierarchy and process. We excuse ourselves as being too busy individually to take the time to collectively contribute to something different (collaboration does indeed take time). We cite the limitations of our job description instead of embracing the potential and the audacity of fluid boundaries, of doing what’s needed instead of just what’s prescribed. We presume the executives know the issues at hand, despite ESP not really being a skill most CEOs possess. And for whatever reason, we tend to think it’s other people’s job to communicate with us instead of seeking out and in turn distributing the information we need.

Whether it’s designing a more social business or simply improving communication between departments, change has to be a verb before it can be a noun. It has to start somewhere before it can take root and actually impact the business for the better.

(As for what to change, I’m exploring the different types for an upcoming post. Share your ideas in the comments.)

So how about it? Can you do one thing today that puts the change you seek into your own hands, even a little bit? Are you willing to get your hands dirty to make it happen?

Amber Naslund

image credit: Ciaran McGuiggan

The Discipline of Social Media Measurement

We hate math.

Our abhorrence for calculation enables us to mutually agree on statistically dubious metrics with nary a shrug or arched eyebrow.

Consider Nielsen ratings, which are used to determine the popularity of all TV shows and, consequently, how the dozens of billions of dollars in TV advertising is apportioned.

Nielsen ratings have a direct impact on hundreds of thousands of people in the United States. In 2009, there were 1,147,910 households with a TV in metropolitan Charlotte, North Carolina. Of those more than 1 million households, the behavior of just 619 was tracked by Nielsen to determine ratings. A total of 619 families became the unelected representative tastemakers for 1,147,291 other families. That’s not math; that’s folly.

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The Fallacy of Social Media Reciprocation

You are not entitled to attention.

You are not entitled to a follow-back on Twitter simply because you follow someone. You are not entitled to blog subscribers or comments simply because you publish stuff. You are not entitled to clicks to your junk or signups for your newsletter or any thing of the sort.

In fact, you are not entitled to anything.

The web is not a democracy, nor is this an egalitarian society. Giving of attention when it’s such a precious commodity is not something to be done in some empty gesture of validation, and as the attention giver, I and only I will decide how I’ll approach my connections online. My reasons aren’t yours, nor should they be. You don’t decide the value in paying attention to you, I do. This black-white, good-bad, hard-and-fast-rules of engagement stuff is ridiculous at best, and pathetic at worst.

If you honestly need someone to follow you or friend you on a social network to find self worth or acceptance, it’s really time to re-evaluate your priorities.

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Rethinking Social Strategy

I really enjoyed this post by Brian Solis that articulates that social business and social strategy as we’ve been defining it are rooted in ideas that stretch beyond what we’re comfortable with today.

We’re eager for all-encompassing terms, and we have some in depth discussions about finding just the right monikers for the upheaval that we’re feeling and experiencing. By giving it a name, we can understand it better. Work through its characteristics and nature. Define it in a way that makes it clear for us.

But Brian’s post inspired me to comment on something that I’ve been chewing on for some time, especially as more and more information comes out about what, exactly, a “social strategist” does, or how we can articulate the nature of a truly social business.

Neither social strategy nor social business can be tucked into a singular definition or layer. They happen at every level of a business, and need to be considered in the appropriate context.

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The Personal ROI of Social Media

My job is to care about the business case for social media. That’s what I do for a living. Put social media in the perspective of a brand or company and do my best to illustrate how it can build a business.

But if I never manage to definitively prove some fancy formula for “social media ROI” in a business context, I’ll still be here. Why? Because there are personal rewards to participation here that go above and beyond awareness, or sales, or anything of the sort.

I have met friends through whom I’ve rediscovered the meanings of trust, faith, and loyalty.

I’ve found a home for some of the personal battles I’ve fought, and solidarity through hearing the stories of others.

I have seen people raise money and awareness for causes that deserve more than we can ever collectively give them, but that might not otherwise stood a chance of getting seen.

I’ve seen the weak find strength in the voices and actions of others.

I’ve laughed more richly and more genuinely than I have in a long, long time.

I’ve walked into rooms and hugged people as if I’ve known them for decades, thanks to the late night chats on Twitter or a string of discussion on a blog. And I’ve shared drinks or dinner with many of those people and forged bonds of forever friendship that started on these “silly” social networks. We may have found one another on the web, but that’s just the spark that lit the fire.

I’ve reconnected with friends who I’ve always regretted losing track of, and I’ve been able to apologize for that in person. I’ve seen people closest to me rediscover the love of their lives many years later and forge a future together because of a serendipitous click.

We used to be bound by geography and circumstance in order to encounter people. Now, our potential for connection – and our ability to do so regardless of where we are or where we go – is amplified many times over, and more fluid and unencumbered than it’s ever been.

There are skeptics and naysayers all over. There are the “yeah, but”s of the world masquerading as pragmatists or realists when they’ve really got a perspective or attitude problem of their own. There is always the other side of the coin. But I choose to focus my energy elsewhere, because I’ve personally experienced how these relationships have enriched my life, my work, and my perspective on the world around me.

I will and do support the idea that quantifying social media’s impact is important to justify continued investment as a business. But I can’t believe nor understand how many companies can’t also accept the fact that deeper and broader personal connections can net stronger business ties, too, whether or not you can capture the data proof points that bear that out. It’s been that way since the dawn of time. We prosper in business through better connections, stronger relationships, deeper trust. We’ve always known that. We’ve rarely demanded to see the evidence until we got all up in arms about the fact that we were talking on this internet thing instead of over the golf course or a drink.

But I’ve found all of these things in spades through Twitter, my blog, the blogs of others, Facebook. I’ve found them in you, friends and readers and those that have provided so much information and insight for me to learn from. I’ve made business deals, yes. Numbers of them. But I’ve also exponentially enriched my life through the people I’ve met, the ideas I’ve discovered, the learning I’ve done.

I’ve found personal gold here on these crazy places on the web, simply because they give me potential. They give me personal inertia. They’ve brought me the gifts of people and friendships that will last long beyond the wires that first connected us.

That’s my personal social media ROI. What’s yours?

Amber Naslund