Monthly Archives: April 2011

Social Media: The 'Why' Needs to Come First (Part 2)

In the first half of this two-part blog, I discussed the outwardly directed reasons for using social media.† Those are the reasons that relate to communicating a message from your organization to a specific audience.† Just like older media forms, social media provides a mechanism for telling your own story but without external filters and can fully leverage an intimacy with willing followers that is not practical in typical corporate messaging designed to “interrupt” an audience activity (think commercials during a favorite show or advertisements within an interesting article.)† Now we will focus on what this media can do internally to improve your business processes.

Listening can be just as important and valuable in†certain situations†as speaking can be in others.† If some important event is happening, you must be receptive for information being shared by witnesses or participants to that event.† This can be especially important for public safety entities.† Of course, filtering facts from fiction can sometimes be a daunting task, but actually it is really nothing new and erring on the side of caution by taking extra precautions can be†more prudent than missing true statements by choosing to be†ignorant. †Credibility of purported ďeye witnessĒ reports can always be called into question.† And healthy skepticism should always be used when reviewing social media posts just as you would with many traditional media accounts.

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Social Media: The ‘Why’ Needs to Come First (Part 2)

In the first half of this two-part blog, I discussed the outwardly directed reasons for using social media.¬† Those are the reasons that relate to communicating a message from your organization to a specific audience.¬† Just like older media forms, social media provides a mechanism for telling your own story but without external filters and can fully leverage an intimacy with willing followers that is not practical in typical corporate messaging designed to “interrupt” an audience activity (think commercials during a favorite show or advertisements within an interesting article.)¬† Now we will focus on what this media can do internally to improve your business processes.

Listening can be just as important and valuable in¬†certain situations¬†as speaking can be in others.¬† If some important event is happening, you must be receptive for information being shared by witnesses or participants to that event.¬† This can be especially important for public safety entities.¬† Of course, filtering facts from fiction can sometimes be a daunting task, but actually it is really nothing new and erring on the side of caution by taking extra precautions can be¬†more prudent than missing true statements by choosing to be¬†ignorant. ¬†Credibility of purported ‚Äúeye witness‚ÄĚ reports can always be called into question.¬† And healthy skepticism should always be used when reviewing social media posts just as you would with many traditional media accounts.

I often suggest that posts, particularly “tweets”, are like speaking in a dark room.¬† You cannot be sure who is really hearing your statements.¬† But similarly I equate listening to attending a conference or trade show.¬† There are many conversations happening, but at a physical event, I can usually only participate in one at a time and I miss all the others as a consequence.¬†¬†In the virtual world, however, I have the ability to be “present” at many more conversations and to review them at my convenience.¬† Filters and queries allow me to be even more selective in this type of “authorized eavesdropping.”¬† As a result, I can learn even more in less time and with far fewer expenses¬†provided that¬†others are willing to share their thoughts and observations.

Fortunately social media has become an important outlet for many people and is not as limited by socio-economic differences as much as it is segregated by age.  For my generation, email has become a primary communication technology.  While it has only been mainstream for about 15 years now, email is already being shunned by younger generations who simply no longer use email in favor of communication through social networks instead.  For additional proof of the recognition of the effectiveness of social networks, the US federal government is beginning to use social networks to announce terrorist threat alerts.  Even as far back as the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, Facebook was already being employed by students to connect and share timely information.  More recently, events such as the protests in Egypt or the devistation of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan can be rediscovered by searching Twitter on hashtag terms such as #jan25 or #tsunami, respectively. 

There are useful examples of how social media is being used to connect community in order to supplement situational awareness at the Red Cross and the Los Angeles Fire Department.  Even at the Charlotte Fire Department in NC, their situational viewer can link directly to geo-tagged tweets around an incident to deepen awareness on the fireground by querying for social media posts in the area or using particular hashtags. 

Another significant example of strategic listening is made possible by the innovative smartphone application that connects heart attack victims with CPR responders and identifies AED locations which is only made possible through social networks.

So whether you are systematically building an audience for communicating a message or strategically listening to develop situational knowledge, social media can facilitate¬†your goals.¬† But be aware that poor or improper execution in the social media domain can be fatal to your initiatives.¬† It is imparitive that proper guidelines are put in place and followed to ensure success.¬†¬†There is a good article on the policies that local governments should put in place regarding the official use of social media.¬† And while there are many details to work out¬†on how your initiative will function, it is important that the ‘why’ we¬†become involved in social media comes first.

Why are you involved?

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Social Media: The 'Why' Needs to Come First (Part 1)

Since I started “doing social media” back in 2009, I have found plenty of great articles with tips†covering†the “how-to” and etiquette for lots of specific social media tools (here are some good articles on†Twitter, Facebook, and video†blogging†use for instance.)† There is even an excellent post on overcoming social media roadblocks.† Likewise, I have also heard all those shocking statistics meant to build a sense of urgency for getting involved in social media.† (If you are not one of the 2.7 million viewers already, check out the Social Media Revolution video by Socialnomics to get you excited.)† But what I don’t hear nearly as much about is “why” we should be doing it as an organization or government agency in the first place.

This point was made quite clear to me as I sat in†the only†social media presentation available at FDIC in Indianapolis last month listening to a fine explanation of using the latest tools when someone†from the audience†raised his hand to say that Facebook and Twitter were banned at his organization and he was†there primarily to learn why he might challenge that position.† It also struck me that he wasn’t alone.† The nodding heads showed that at least half of the audience in that room was there not to learn “how” to use these tools, but to leave with†an understanding of “why” they should use them.† That moment†felt a little like the Today Show hosts describing the Internet in 1994.

A cynic may suggest that†the reasons†for its use not being discussed more often is†because†they are†not yet clear even to those who simply enjoy cutting themselves on the bleeding edge of†technology†without the forethought of its†application.† These “innovators” at the early end of Geoffrey Moore’s curve often face such descriptive abuse just as others before them faced at the introduction of email.† But I suggest that†most of the†stammering†is really because the answer is so elementary.††These new social media tools are being used for the exact same Continue reading

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Social Media: The ‘Why’ Needs to Come First (Part 1)

Since I started “doing social media” back in 2009, I have found plenty of great articles with tips¬†covering¬†the “how-to” and etiquette for lots of specific social media tools (here are some good articles on¬†Twitter, Facebook, and video¬†blogging¬†use for instance.)¬† There is even an excellent post on overcoming social media roadblocks.¬† Likewise, I have also heard all those shocking statistics meant to build a sense of urgency for getting involved in social media.¬† (If you are not one of the 2.7 million viewers already, check out the Social Media Revolution video by Socialnomics to get you excited.)¬† But what I don’t hear nearly as much about is “why” we should be doing it as an organization or government agency in the first place.

This point was made quite clear to me as I sat in¬†the only¬†social media presentation available at FDIC in Indianapolis last month listening to a fine explanation of using the latest tools when someone¬†from the audience¬†raised his hand to say that Facebook and Twitter were banned at his organization and he was¬†there primarily to learn why he might challenge that position.¬† It also struck me that he wasn’t alone.¬† The nodding heads showed that at least half of the audience in that room was there not to learn “how” to use these tools, but to leave with¬†an understanding of “why” they should use them.¬† That moment¬†felt a little like the Today Show hosts describing the Internet in 1994.¬†¬†¬†

A cynic may suggest that¬†the reasons¬†for its use not being discussed more often is¬†because¬†they are¬†not yet clear even to those who simply enjoy cutting themselves on the bleeding edge of¬†technology¬†without the forethought of its¬†application.¬† These “innovators” at the early end of Geoffrey Moore’s curve often face such descriptive abuse just as others before them faced at the introduction of email.¬† But I suggest that¬†most of the¬†stammering¬†is really because the answer is so elementary.¬†¬†These new social media tools are being used for the exact same reasons¬†that¬†the now older media of print, television, and radio have been employed.¬† It is all about communicating your story to a select audience.¬† But we must be careful in using this logic¬†since that line of thought also masks the real differences¬†between them.¬†

The differentiator in social media is both in how the audience is “selected” as well as in¬†the intimacy and immediacy of communicating that message.¬† Older media forms¬†broadcast a calculated corporate message to a broad audience in hopes of reaching just a few percent of¬†a captive¬†crowd through interruption.¬† Social media, on the other hand,¬†builds personalized relationships over time through trust to grow a dedicated¬†group of “followers” actively listening to an unfolding¬†story.¬† While the direct “reach” expressed in numbers is often smaller for new media by comparison, it is a highly focused presence more accustomed to drive relevant action.¬† Social networks are hardly made from passive spectators, but rather they are often vocal activists that multiply “reach” by creating “amplification” of¬†your message.¬† Social networks are also often imbred technologies in that they intersect with each other through cross-posting between various social media tools effectively¬†increasing both reach and amplification beyond a direct following.

As Erik Qualman remarks in his video linked above where he poses the question, “is social media a fad?”, he states “we don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.”¬† To this statement I propose¬†four basic responses:

  • you can ignore it thinking that what you don’t know can’t hurt you
  • become a voyeur and simple listen to stay informed without sharing yourself
  • try to control the conversation to prevent any “off message” remarks
  • or honestly engage with a community through active participation.

Of course there are always costs and rewards for each position, but the greatest value, as shown graphically in the diagram below, is found through increasing active participation along with the level of cooperative engagement.

"Social Media Strategy Options"

Social Media Strategy Options

Another major distinction is that the presentation of your message, or thoughts, are direct to your willing recipients through social media.  You have editorial control of the media now in your hands instead of being at the mercy of the reporters filter or biases.  For good, or for bad, you are only a single step away from your listeners.  This also shows the danger of a potential mis-step in quickly losing that receptive audience.

Engaging with social media then, while achieving the same ends as older media forms in communicating a message, is inherently a very different proposition that requires a distinct implementation strategy and presence of mind.  The reward for taking this new route includes the direct communication of a message as well as the creation of personal influence.  An influence built on trust creating an authoritative presence that can drive relevant action where desired.  Still, this explanation provides only the first half of the answer of why we should be involved in social media.  The second half relates to the specific new functional applications created by social media which will be explored in my next post.

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