Social media can be overwhelming. There are so many tools, none of which you’ve used before, so you don’t have an intuitive sense of how they work, let alone if they are really helping you get the work of your organization done. And if you’ve gotten into these tools at all, you’ve probably noticed that they are not implemented in the same way as many other initiatives within your organization. You’re not sure who’s supposed to tweet or blog, and suddenly there are people outside of your staff who are saying things your staff used to say. On top of that, several different departments (IT, Marketing, Membership, Public Relations, Advocacy…) are all claiming ownership of this work. So even if you figure out the tools, the complexity of organizational implementation can be overwhelming.
The big problem with “overwhelming” is that it translates into inaction. It translates to slow. And that’s a problem for social media (and for associations in general, if you ask me). Social media is fast. The game changes quickly, and it doesn’t wait for you to figure everything out first. Yes, you have to figure things out, but you’ll have to do it as a parallel process to the implementation.
So while you are figuring out the tools, you will also need to figure out the organizational implications for social media. Eric Brown has a great post about social media consultants, implying that their ultimate role is to help an organization be more human. Social media sounds like common sense: listen, respond, build relationships. These are the basics of being human. The problem, however, is that most organizations weren’t designed with “human” in mind.
The way we do things—the way people behave, the way we make decisions, the processes we use to get things done—many of these things make implementing social media very difficult because they were designed with a better machine in mind, not more effective humans. These designs worked for a while, but social media is now revealing some flaws. The organizations that will be successful in embracing social media will be the ones who understand how to change the building blocks of their organizations in a way that allows for more humanity, better relationships, and the ability to move forward in a system where power and control are distributed more broadly. Have you looked at that in your organization?
If you try to figure out the tools first and then go back and change your organization, you’ll be frustrated. If you want social media, then you need to work on your organization right now.
We’re working with Jamie on developing a one-day standalone workshop which will help associations build organizational capacity for social media by helping define, understand and ultimately overcome the challenges in individual behaviors, internal processes and organizational structures that affect them. Please feel free to contact us if this sounds like something you’d be interested in for your association.