Have a Talk with Yourself About Social Media

With all of the banter about whether CEOs should be active on Twitter — I’ve realized that I might need to have a “sit down” with myself about social media. C-Suite executives must carefully consider how they invest and utilize their time on social platforms. So should the rest of us. Not that I fail to see the tremendous value of social networks, obviously I do. I simply would like to pause and reflect on how I am spending my time with social. Is the time spent valuable and productive? I would like to ensure that it absolutely is.

With every innovation — whether a product or process — we search for ways to effectively integrate that change into our lives. It can take a bit of time to assess best fit, as the pendulum usually swings with great momentum toward the innovation, (often with a significant investment in time to master it) and then ultimately swings back in adjustment.

In some cases, with any new piece of technology or system, there is a moment when you might suddenly discover that you’ve had too much of a good thing. (Not unlike the moment when you realized that you’ve had too much coffee or spent too much money.) At that moment, choices need to be made. Your investment needs to be reconsidered. In fact, you might need to become — for lack of a better descriptor —”picky”.

How do we make those difficult choices, to ensure that the time you are devoting is well spent? A set of criteria will help. Of course, that set will vary from person to person. But, here is the start of one:

  • What are the opportunity costs? This is an obvious, yet needed question. What would you be doing with your time, if you were not spending that hour with social media? This trade-off should work for you, not against you.
  • Is your time with social meaningful? When you consider your personal goals, is social media helping you attain them? Are you able to reach the right contacts or customers? Does social help you raise awareness for a cause close to your heart?
  • Does it solve a problem? Is the social platform addressing an issue or need that cannot otherwise be addressed? For example, if you have team members in the field, does a social platform improve communication or work flow?
  • Are we adding value? Ultimately, what we add to the landscape should have value. Are we opening the door to a much needed conversation? Clarifying an issue? Bringing forward an entirely new perspective?
  • Will it help to develop your role or organization? Can the perspective you gain through social, somehow be applied to the betterment of your job, career or current organization? For example, how a crowd sourcing platform, might bring ideas from customers into your organization’s purview.

What are your criteria for making decisions about spending time with social? How will you make these tough choices going forward? I’d love to know.

The Evolution of Work: Careers in Social Media

Last night I revisited a simply hilarious 2008 IBM commercial which illustrated the emergence of social media in the workplace. It featured a young employee dabbling on a social networking site at his desk (presumably Facebook).

When his manager enters, she inquires as to what the heck he is doing. He lets her know that he is exploring “social media” and that he has 800+ friends. He boldly adds that he can find “anyone”.  “Really?”, she says, and proceeds to rattle off directions for him to locate a group of international financial experts, with 10+ years of experience that speak Cantonese.  “By the way” she adds, “they need to hit the ground running by Monday.” His reply: “I don’t have any friends like that.”

Social media in the workplace

Ten years ago we would have never predicted the explosion of careers in social media. Where social media was once viewed as a diversion to the real work at hand, it has evolved into a key essential for many businesses. Organizations of all kinds have developed the belief that leveraging social media is an organizational must. From small businesses to large organizations, the emerging value of social media is apparent.

The evolution of jobs in social media has been a fantastic process to observe. Early roles concentrated on monitoring the “community” of users who interact with an organization or product. But these early roles have given way into an entire genre of social media jobs, seen as integral to the functioning of the organization.

Universities are reporting that recruiters are visiting campuses seeking candidates for these new roles. As discussed by, Scott Tsuchiyama, Community Manager at the University of Michigan Career Center, “We started noticing these sorts of dedicated social media positions crop up around 3 years ago…Most often, employers are looking for strong communication and research skills for these positions.” He goes on to explain that, “some organizations are creating positions devoted entirely to social media, many other organizations include social media responsibilities within more traditional roles in marketing, communications, public relations, and community relations departments”.

There is also growing recognition concerning the impact of social media on many related content areas. According to Linda Gross, Associate Director Career Services Network, at Michigan State, “The reality is that social media has become so prevalent it is no longer a specialty area, but an expected competency associated with digital media”. You will find employer competency and job function expectations for social media incorporated in public relations, organizational communications, advertising and marketing positions among others”.

Types of social media roles
Many types of social media roles have evolved. Here are a few of them:
    • Community Manager –  An early iteration in the social media model, this type of role has the responsibility of interacting with customers and client bases.
    • Social Media Designer – This individual would be responsible for developing the visual, or “look and feel” components of an organization’s social media strategy. A background in the visual and graphic arts is a plus.
    • Social Media Strategist – This role clarifies social media goals and outline the paths to accomplish them. This group of individuals would develop an entire social media strategy for an organization.
    • Content Specialist – This role concentrates on the content of the actual messages sent though social media channels such as company blogs and Facebook pages. Individuals in these roles often have a journalism or PR background.
    • Business Analytics –  This role entails using available analytics to monitor the social media presence of a product or organization. Working knowledge of various tools such as Google Analytics,  Radian 6, or YouTube Insight may be required.

How you get there and what you might find

At this point the field still appears to be quite open, as a well-defined, “set in stone” curriculum to land these jobs has not yet emerged. Programs at colleges and universities are beginning to pop up – but you’ll likely require another core skill set to pair with your interest in social media. A variety of disciplines can serve as a foundation for a role with a social media component. As described by Sean Nicholson, Director of Social Media, at InTouch Solutions, a Digital Agency in Kansas City, “You can start with a background in Computer Science, Communication, PR , Journalism or even Psychology. But the common thread is the desire and ability to connect and network with others through social media platforms.”

The importance of this mindset is shared by Chris Bowler, VP of Social Media at Razorfish, “Social media is essentially about relationship building and story telling. Those who succeed are likely to be highly creative or analytically driven.” Razorfish, for example, employs a large social media team of over 50 across the nation. The organization has developed various social media roles, at varying levels, ranging from social media coordinators (entry-level and likened to a community manager) to Social Media Directors (would oversee a team and advise clients). These  roles help clients paint a picture of their products and services utilizing social media and monitor message effectiveness.

Paths to social media roles

Just as roles in this realm have evolved, many with early careers in social media experienced a career evolution as well. Scott Bishop, Director of Social Media at Bozell, recalls his path, “I began with a degree in marketing in 2001.”, he explained. He found his early interest in social media was fanned by a desire to understand the psychology of  buying behavior  –  it was simple for him to see how this developing medium could apply. “Over time I became active in social media clubs, where we were all just figuring out the landscape.” He continued to sharpen his skills while networking with others in the space, which helped drive his  social media career journey forward. He finally committed to a full-time social media role in 2009.

In today’s world, you need to assess whether your core skill set would meld with a social media role. Depending on these skills you may land in varying aspects of social media – such as content creation vs. analytics. For example, those with a journalism background would be most appropriate for content development. Those with a quantitative orientation would be most suited to social media analytics. However, as Nicholson states, ” Being well-rounded can be a real advantage. A general background in business is quite helpful. Knowing how to connect social media to an overall business strategy is highly important.”

The world of social media seems to be changing daily – with this changing tide comes the evolution of a myriad of jobs in this arena. It is entirely possible that one of them is for you.

Note: If you are interested – you can observe an ongoing discussion of this list of social media roles discussed on Focus, by Jeremiah Owyang.

Another Note: Razorfish offers an internship program – you can get more information at http://www.razorfish.com/#/careers.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist located in East Lansing, Michigan. You can also find her on Twitter and Linkedin.

Crowdsourcing for the Rest of Us

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In today’s world, how do small to medium sized businesses leverage cutting-edge tools to improve day-to-day operations? Answer: Borrow the strategies of the big hitters such as  InnoCentive and Proctor & Gamble, then adapt them to meet your needs. One relevant example: crowdsourcing and it’s really just about listening.

Crowdsourcing is all about opening the lines of communication, forging new connections and gaining a new perspective. The concept may sound intimidating — but it is simply about listening respectfully and utilizing the information to move your business forward.  When implemented correctly, it can offer you information that can help business evolve effectively.

Your customers and crowdsourcing
Crowdsourcing can augment your overall customer strategy. The process can not only offer a needed layer of protection when tracking a developing product or service problem, it also has the ability to collect customer ideas for future improvements. Starbucks, Cadbury and Toyota are a few of the companies gathering customer input, with links on their websites to gather ideas and feedback  — a strategy that any business can implement.

Other common social media platforms provide targeted crowdsourcing opportunities. Consider posting a question on your company Facebook Page, include a poll on your blog concerning options for product updates, or post an informational video on Youtube (you’ll get plenty of comments). You can also utilize your Google+ Brand Page to hold a hang out with your customers and explore ideas relevant to your business plan. Whatever the topic you choose to explore, be sure to keep the “call to action” simple and try not to overwhelm your customers in the process.

Get Creative
Organizations of all kinds, are connecting with their customers through crowdsourcing. Sweetgreen’s novel “New Years Resolution” campaign focused on developing a link with customers. By collecting resolutions through post-it notes at their physical store and on Twitter, customer relationships were forged and strengthened. You can utilize crowdsourcing to include your customers in your developing business story, whatever the topic.

Crowdsourcing within your organization
Crowdsourcing is not only about establishing a rapport with your customers, it can also open a new communication channel with your employees. It is possible to crowdsource just about anything within your organization — including ideas to solve inefficiencies within a department or a function. Have budget constraints? Want ideas on how to save money wisely? Pitch the question to your employees, as they are the experts concerning the day-to-day operations of your organization.

Does your organization routinely utilize teams to develop new ideas and solve problems? Social engagement platforms such as Jostle, offer opportunities to implement crowdsourcing within your day-to-day operations, by facilitating new connections and communicating current topics, challenges and opportunities. Essential elements for internal crowdsourcing. The platform provides opportunities to document team formation in response to ever-changing business needs. As explained by Brad Palmer developer of Jostle, “The idea is to connect people by encouraging the discovery of those within the organization. This facilitates cultural knowledge that can positively enhance effectiveness and extended teamwork.” As such, this information allows employees even somewhat removed from the work at hand to serve as a potential contributor or problem solver.

Before you shrug off the notion that crowdsourcing is inappropriate for your business — give the idea just one more thought. Implementing the process could offer you the needed edge to catapult your organization forward.

Check out this crowdsourcing infographic.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist located in East Lansing, Michigan. Contact her practice at marlagottschalk@comcast.net.You can also find her on Twitter and Linkedin.

Are You Mature? The Struggle of Klout to Measure On-line Influence

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Observing the evolution and challenges faced by Klout, a venture designed to measure the on-line influence of an individual or organization, has been nothing short of fascinating. Changes in the Klout algorithm (and its impact upon scores) can send the world of social media into a frenzy. The overriding opinion seems to be that you shouldn’t “mess” with the numbers, right?

But, that is absolutely wrong — in fact, you should.

I have a very different perspective on Klout’s struggle to develop into a meaningful measure. I find the struggle to be quite predictable. Probably because where I come from, when a new construct and its measurement are proposed, it often takes a very long time to determine true value and identify prudent uses in the real world.

On one hand, the outcry that resonates after a scoring revision is an excellent sign. It lets us know that Klout, at the very least, was actively being considered as one measure of influence. On the other hand, it becomes obvious that the scope of the development phase, may have needed to be more controlled to allow for necessary iterations occur.

In psychology, the development of a new construct is an important and often long-winded process. However, when you consider the importance of measuring concepts, such as intelligence and motivation, the development of that construct — and its valid measurement — are paramount.

All in all, you must tread quite carefully.

A Framework
It may be useful to view Klout in reference to a few traditional elements of construct development:

  • Does Klout have Face Validity? In other words, does the idea and its components seem to make logical sense.
  • Does the measure demonstrate reliability? In other words, can the measure show consistency.
  • Does Klout possess Content Validity? Do the components that make up the measure adequately represent the elements of influence.
  • Does the measure have Construct Validity? When you look at scores on the measure, the scores should jive with other key markers of influence. (Convergent and divergent validity.)

There is another point to briefly consider here. Klout may be measuring “Potential to Influence” and not “Influence” itself. We simply do not know. As with other constructs, such as job satisfaction and its relationship with turnover — Klout scores may signal an impact on attitudes, yet the relationship with behavior, is not a causal one.

Time to Mature
All in all, Klout has to be allowed the time to develop fully. The algorithm should be subject to changes and iterations, as the organization sees fit, to adequately develop the measure.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist. You can also find her on Twitter and Linkedin.