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Interested in Being at the Tip of the Spear? Be Prepared for…

This post originally appeared on my external blog, “Social Media Strategery.”

Over the last three years, I’ve met a lot of people who are their organization’s social media evangelist, lead, POC, pioneer, ninja, guru, etc., and I’ve met many others who are aspiring to take on that role. Hell, I even wrote my last post to help those people get started. While it’s easy to get caught up in all the hype that often follows the people in these roles – the promotions, the raises, the invitations to participate in selective working groups, the personal branding, the ability to make your living using Facebook and Twitter – I’d like to take this opportunity to help balance out the expectations.

The following statements aren’t necessarily good or bad, but they do paint a more realistic picture.

So, if you’re itching to become “the guy” at your organization when it comes to social media, be prepared:

  • To be expected to know EVERYTHING about social media, not only about Twitter, Facebook, and wikis, but also all of the policies, trends, statistics, and laws too
  • To know who else in your organization is also involved with social media and if you don’t, why not
  • To encounter people who assume that because you’re on Facebook or Twitter while at work, that you’re never actually busy with anything
  • To justify the return on investment (ROI) of all the time you spend using social media
  • To get dozens of emails from people every time a there’s a negative, controversial media article discussing the risks of social media (you should have seen how many people pointed to the Wired article came out showing how terrorists could use Twitter and told me, “see, that’s why we shouldn’t use social media)
  • To be always on, all the time. No matter what meeting you go into, there’s always a chance that you may have to give an impromptu presentation
  • To have people constantly asking you for your thoughts on the latest social media-related email/blog/memo/article/news/interview that came out
  • To justify your existence to your managers when there are organizations who outsource their social media for a few cents per tweet
  • To get inundated with requests like this – “I just read [insert social media link here]. Do you have like 30 minutes to meet with me so that I can ask you some basic questions?”
  • To see your work (even within your own organization) turn up in other people’s work without any attribution
  • To be told that “all this collaboration is great, but what real work have you accomplished?”
  • To change teams and/or organizational alignment at least once

I’ve encountered all of these situations to varying degrees over the last three years, and at times, I’ve felt frustrated, excited, nervous, entrepreneurial, scared, sometimes all simultaneously, but through it all, I’ve always felt proud to be on the cutting edge of changes that need to be made. I’ve never wondered if it was worth it, and I can definitely say that I’ve always felt challenged and stimulated through it all.

If you’re considering being at the tip of the social media spear within your organization, make sure that you’re prepared…for everything.

*Image courtesy of Flickr user Percita

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Avatar photo Bill Brantley

Great posting (and so is the one you wrote about how to get started in Gov 2.0)! I wish I had this back in 2003 when I was introducing blogging and wikis to my academic colleagues. Some days I felt like I had to answer for every plagiarism incident involving Wikepedia or unflattering student reviews on RateaProf.com. And I still remember the shocked expression on a female colleague’s face when I offered to show her my wiki. That took some fast explaining! 🙂

Steve Radick

Thanks Bill – glad you liked the posts! I wonder if “Let me show you my wiki” is the new geek pick-up line 😉

Andrew Krzmarzick

I can relate to 95% of this post from my past life at the Graduate School (USDA). Good encouragement for people keeping up the good fight in their own organizations…and that they’re not alone!

Rob Brown

Steve, you hit the nail right on the head. I have been trying to define social media’s impact on my personal life within the last few years. What has helped me tremendously in recent months is my ability to go into decisive response mode. I can take an abundance of information, but for me to actually process and give back something relevant is limited when I get distracted by then very next thing (tweet, post, etc). I know that I cannot be everything to everyone all of the time, so I have decided to limit my communication to transmit mode only when I am able to relevantly process something necessary of response. Otherwise I am in “receive mode” and more than likely “filter” mode until my communication goals align with my professional goals and my ability to respond without disrespecting my family or peers. Electronic communication is now the norm, but I think without the human constraint of using it efficiently, it will actually reduce our ability to focus on specific, well thought out plans which make us effective in our everyday lives. For example, many of us are seeing teenagers passing irrelevant information electronically in exchange of learning relevant data in middle and high schools. My philosophy is crawl before you walk and walk before you run. Electronic data interchange should be used as a tool, not social culture change without reason or enhancement.

Amanda Blount

Great stuff Steve! This type of information is great for those who are working very hard to trying to make a difference. I am going to remember this post if I ever run into trouble.

Joe Flood

Great list. I think however that people (like me) who get into social media enjoy these undefined and constantly changing situations. I’ve done several things on this list. It’s actually pretty fun to think on your feet and be the de facto expert, operating in areas without written policy or regulation. Who wants a job that is narrowly defined and never changes? Social media offers people the opportunity to experiment and develop new skills.

Steve Radick

Thanks for the comments everyone – really enjoyed hearing about your experiences too!

@Joe – Take the “however” out of your comment because I enjoy this too. Like I said, these things aren’t necessarily good or bad – they’re just the things that aren’t often discussed. I’ve had a ball doing this at Booz Allen and can’t recommend this role highly enough!

David Fletcher

I’ve had to give up the “always on, all the time” part of this, well, at least a little. I still see some of you on at 1 am Monday morning and other odd times like that. I’ve also had to make creative use of a lot of additional tools. In fact, part of the reason we created utah.gov/facebook was so I could keep up with everything that was happening on Facebook with Utah government agencies. And you also have to realize that something is going to suffer eventually. Right now, for me, that has been blogging, but in the future, it will be something else. Just keeps getting bigger.