Last week, I attended an excellent seminar on social media. As is typical, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut during Q&A time. My comment was tweeted by 3 people before I even sat down, and people on stage kept talking about me as an expert and about EPA as a social media leader. I appreciate the kind words, but every time that happens, I get squirrely.
Don’t get me wrong; I love that EPA is out there with social media, and I take some pride in helping push us there. But, as I tweeted from the seminar: “Every time someone refers to me or EPA as leaders, I think of the things we still don’t know and still aren’t doing.” Some nice folks told me I was being humble. But my feeling goes much further than humility and I thought a blog post would give me more than 140 characters to explain.
Simply put: I’m concerned that people will hear “EPA is a social media leader,” then look at what we’ve done and how we do it, and think that’s the right thing. Right for their agency, or even right in some abstract universal sense. Even more troublesome is the notion that some will look at what we’re not doing and decide it shouldn’t be done.
It’s very very very very very very very VERY important that no one draw either conclusion because every agency is different. I don’t just mean different missions, because I think most missions require pretty similar communications/interaction mechanisms. But we have different cultures, different staffing, different budgets. Different levels of management comfort with uncertainty in general and social media in particular. And different timing priorities; we might eventually do something we’re not doing now.
In sum: what EPA does is directly related to our situation, and yours may be different. Probably is different, actually.
Have you heard my definition of an expert? It’s just someone who knows one thing more than you do. Granted, we EPAers have about four years of social media experience under our belts, and I have some definite ideas about how to do things (for example: my mantra and thoughts on policy). But Chris Dorobek provided a great metaphor at the seminar: we’re in the first pitch of a nine-inning game, and what I don’t know far exceeds what I do know.
So I’ll close with a plea. By all means, consult with people who got out there a little ahead of you. Ask probing questions. I’ll continue to freely share our experiences and lessons learned: here, on Twitter, via email and on the phone, and at conferences. But please make your own decisions based on your own situation. And trust that you’ll make some good decisions. As Dr. Spock once said (not Mr. Spock): you know more than you think you do.