Social Media is… well, Social

I have a lot of blog thoughts going through my head right now, and I think the theme that will tie them together into a relatively cogent post is that, at least for me, meaningful social media focuses on the social, not the media.

  1. Being social leads to the exchange of ideas and information.
  2. Ideas and information lead to friendships, alliances, and action.
  3. Using social media lets you be social with more people in a way that’s literally linked to the great information resource that is the world wide web.

You might have noticed that I linked to a Dinosaur Comic a line or two ago.  I did it because I have a soft spot in my heart for T-Rex, and also to make a point about the ideas and information we exchange: let’s not pretend that it’s all formal.  Not to say that it’s all informal either.  Some value I derive from social networking is directly, clearly work-related.  See?  I just helped advertise to a Twitter-based blood drive in Texas.  Way to forward a cause with social media, Emily.

But a lot of the value comes from less formal, more purely social interactions.  People don’t just swap lists of 10 ways to improve your website or strategy-of-the-day for saving money.  They swap thanks, compliments, and moral support, and in doing so build a sense that we’re on the same team.  I think of it as the cheerleader phenomenon.  On Twitter I mentioned I’d had sort of a rough day yesterday, and several people took a moment out of their days to offer a quick show of support.  Morgan, who I’ve never met, left the nicest comment ever on my blog last week and it totally made my day.  Last year my family made a Christmas wiki, which was useful and extremely fun to put jokes in.  And let’s not even get into how Twitter, blogs, email and IM let you stay in contact with friends and family you’re far away from.  So yes, social media is dead useful, but I find that what keeps me coming back is the human element.

I also really like how it supplements “normal” interactions.  For example, I commented on a coworker’s blog earlier today, a conversation that might have quick taken place in the office kitchen if we’d happened to be there at the same time.  I’m glad I heard what she had to say even though our paths didn’t physically cross today, and I hope to continue the conversation.  And see what I did just there?  I linked to her, the equivalent of meeting you in some other kitchen and bringing up the linked conversation.  I’m doing things I’d do anyway, just in a different way.

So I guess that the real, true draw of social media for me is that it gives us another way to be human to each other.

(For more about the “Why” of social media for nonprofits on a more organizational level, see the great project Beth Kanter has going.)

Ironically for a post all about being social, I don’t have a billion comment-prompting questions to put out there.  Nonetheless, comments, questions, and vaguely related thoughts are welcome.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Rewards of Blogging

This post is in response to Michele Martin’s comment, in which she asked “…how blogging in particular has made the web a more rewarding place to visit.”

I realized I had quite a few different but connected answers and struggled for a way to present them.  Many thanks and apologies to the genius of Wallace Stevens.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Rewards of Blogging

It’s like having your very own room when you’re a child.  It has your stuff, your bed, and unlike everything else out there, you control it.  Yes, you have to keep it clean so your parents don’t get on your case and so friends can come over… but still.  It’s yours.  You want to be there.

It’s like going to a party thrown for people in your profession; it’s fun!  You all have something to talk about, letting you connect with new people instead of awkwardly talking about the weather.

The Blog Stats page is fun to obsess over every evening.

Getting comments from people you know you can connect with is a little like getting digits from that party you attended in item 2.  It’s gratifying and opens new conversations and possibilities.

I have a showcase of my everyday writing.  It’s like an automatic portfolio for anyone who may want to hire me or collaborate with me.

I can show people what I’m interested in who might not fully understand if I just say it.  My grandmother, for example.

I’m not anonymous when I comment on other people’s blogs.  The blog is an anchor, some context, the home base of my web presence.  My comments don’t stand alone because they link right back to my blog.

Having a web presence is important.  It helps me be a tech-savvy professional, keep up with what’s going on around me, and share what I know.  Back to the portfolio idea, my blog also shows that I am tech-savvy, interested, and a sharer of knowledge.  It’s both the pudding and the proof.

Watching my Technorati authority creep very slowly upward from zero makes me smile.  I’m building something!

Speaking of authority, as my blog becomes more and more established, I feel braver about commenting on other people’s blogs.  It’s as though I feel invited to more of those parties.

I enjoy writing.  It’s nice to have a public yet low-pressure venue.

I finally have a reason to take notes: I can post them and reflect upon them.  While I haven’t found many of my notes post-worthy yet, having a blog inspired me to take notes in the first place.  It’s helped me be a more active listener, always thinking, “How can I blog about this?  What would I add or ask about?” because those thoughts now have a place to go.

Through blogging, I’m involved with communities I care about in a flexible, comfortable medium.  I can widely represent myself “business casually” instead of only through formal and/or narrow communication.

Management Suggestions: Communicating

One of my organization’s biggest strengths and biggest challenges is that we have a main office and several satellite sites.  This week I got a chance to talk to some satellite coworkers I rarely see, and it was fantastic to get to reconnect.  I spoke with one coworker in particular, largely about communicating with supervisors.

What I Realized:

  • When people work really really hard, they need to know that the people above them do also.
  • The wheels that aren’t squeaking still need you.
  • It’s easy to assume the worst in lieu of facts.
  • Face time, with people and at places, makes people feel better.

Management Suggestions:

  • Face time.  Make time for it.
  • Make sure that at least some of your hard work is visible.
    • If you’re at work at 10pm, make sure to send some emails then.  Time stamps are subtle and say a lot.
    • Share your to-do lists, projects, and finished products.
    • Take a moment (not an hour) at check-in meetings to report on what you’ve been up to too.
    • Make at least some piddling tasks a priority.  Fix that water cooler, address the lighting in that parking lot, help with that crazy landlord.
  • The line between trusting an employee and ignoring an employee has a lot to do with the employee’s perception.
    • Send a quick thank-you to the people doing a great job.  Acknowledge that you’re being very hands-off, and that you’re still there when they do need anything.
    • Have regular meetings and switch up the location.
    • Publicly recognize accomplishments, and not just the momentous ones.

What are some other suggestions or lessons that come to mind?  How else can management communicate effectively?

Commenting Strategy

At risk of linking to Beth Kanter’s blog way too often, she started a pithy, interesting, and altogether extremely helpful discussion about commenting strategy the other day.  I think it’s especially relevant for new bloggers, but I recommend checking it out to anybody reading this.  Why?  Keeping it short, because I learned about comment tracking tools, heard opinions from several seasoned bloggers, and found more fodder for my RSS feed.  It was the most thorough answer to a question ever.