The profile for @DODASSMC reads: “The Army’s Director of Online and Social Media Division coordinates these monthly meetings for professional development and networking of DOD social media folks.” For the past two months, I’ve had the pleasure of addressing that group, and I’ve come to realize that it’s time for me to embrace (resurrect?) my inner Social Media Ninja. More on that later.
First, it’s important to understand why DODASSMC’s monthly meetings are so exciting. The event coordinator, Juanita Chang, explained the group to me by saying: these are not Social Media 101 types. They’re looking for Social Media 401, maybe even grad-school level instruction.
Now, I’ve been in enough conversations to know that many people in the Gov 2.0 space are tired of the endless parade of “[name of site/tool] can help your [company/agency/organization] become more [participatory/transparent/efficient/effective]” discussions. We know that we can. What we need to know how best to do it, and not just in a “tricks of the trade” way; we need to be shown–and then to share–how to utilize more fully the capabilities afforded to us by social media. We know that we can talk to individuals and groups of people through social media, but we feel, intuitively, that the tools are more powerful than that. And we need to learn how to use them and then to teach others.
This is what I tried to do at last month’s meeting with a presentation I called “Twitter: From Time-suck to Tool through TweetDeck.” (if Ning lets me embed an iFrame, I’ll share it at the end of the post)
As I explain in my presentation, through the use of Tweetdeck, Twitter becomes:
- A channel for content in itself.
- A passageway through which you lead an audience to content on other platforms.
- A sounding board of opinions from subcultures that are discoverable and distinct, though often overlapping.
- A social medium through which you can find people with whom to initiate and/or enhance meaningful relationships.
This is important to understand, because Twitter, as Twitter, is not any one of those things. It’s just a microblog. And though you could try to perform all or any of those functions through Twitter’s native interface, it would be like using tin cans and piano wire to make a phone call. Far better to use the filters that Tweetdeck, Listorius, and Formulists. These filters act like magic: ninja magic.
This is what separates communications departments from social media departments: though communications pros may have used focus groups, they almost always go outside their organizations for that function. Occasionally, a communications company (like the one where I used to work) will have a single in-house person whose entire job description is running focus groups. But social media is different: finding ways to listen is part of the job. And it’s not as simple as visiting twitter.com and reading the feed.
Thankfully, some people (and agencies) understand that operating in today’s social media requires a different set of skills than a traditional communications professional has acquired. Yes, there are overlaps, as with communications and program management–both, after all, require the technical and writing skills necessary to compose, send, and respond to email. But as my presentation demonstrates: there is a need for people who focus on the particular capabilities of the new social media landscape, and how existing and emerging tools can help us mine that landscape and utilize its resources.