Managing Social Media Not Letting it Manage You
Posted by Allison Fine on September 16, 2009
I am a guest “giving guru” tomorrow for the Gear Up for Giving effort organized by The Case Foundation in preparation for the second Giving Challenge. I wrote a piece on how to reorganize onself to better manage social media, and the time it takes to engaged online — and not be overwhelmed or managed by it. The post is below and also on the Case Foundation blog. I’ll be doing a live video chat tomorrow at 1 eastern to talk about online giving using social media.
I hope you’ll join the chat tomorrow and check out the other terrific resources and video chats on the Case website.
I want to tell you about my friend, Sheila. Sheila is the Executive Director of the Inner City Homeless Shelter. She’s worked at the shelter for fourteen years, the first ten as the program director.
Sheila has watched over the past few years in bewilderment as all of this webby, bloggy, Facepagey stuff has been happening. She doesn’t quite understand what they’re all doing. Sheila uses email at work, she still has her AOL account at home that she uses to send messages and funny stories to her sisters and mother, and she has a cell phone that she uses, when she remembers to turn it on.
Sheila was aware that other organizations were setting up Facebook pages but didn’t know why, and hoped, really, deep down inside, that maybe all of this was a twenty-first century version of the hoola hoop, which she was also never very good at anyway.
She hears bits of conversation about some new thing or other seemingly every week, was it Wither or Twicker, well, whatever it was, everyone seemed entranced with it while Sheila could barely keep up with email and couldn’t envision adding any more things to her life, increasing her information overload and making her long to-do list always longer.
Oh, how she dreads her to-do list! It’s a treadmill of a list that just keeps churning on and on, while she dashes from meeting to meeting. Sheila works at least twelve hours a day on a shoestring budget. And year after year she has to find new ways to raise money to keep the place afloat. It always feels like a house of cards; she’s just one major grant withdrawn from the whole thing collapsing. She can’t make the day any longer, she can’t click and ping like the kids, she feels like she’s fading away into oblivion. In a sigh of resignation Sheila adds one more thing to her to-do list: hire summer intern to take care of social media stuff.
Does Sheila sounds familiar? Maybe just parts of her story strike a chord with you or someone you know. Sheila needs to learn how to work better, smarter, more effectively. But the key for Sheila is not to think of adding social media to her too-full do-to list, but by becoming a more social person using the tools right in front of her.
The first step is finding a mentor, maybe it’s a young person at work, or one of her kids, who can help Sheila learn to use the tools. She needs to really try them out, gets hands on and practice being social. Sheila needs to upload photos, be a guest blogger somewhere, set up her own Twitter account (as herself, not behind a logo!).
Sheila needs to build an online social network of trusted people, friends and people she knows by reputation, who make up her ecosystem of people and organizations who care about her issue and organization. On sites like Facebook or Twitter, she beings to reveal herself in small bits. What she’s thinking of doing, what questions she has, what help she needs. Sheila starts to unwrap herself from the waxy building up of organizational inertia that makes it so hard to reach outside and invite others in.
Once Sheila begins to practice in private, she can begin to talk to her staff about all of the ways that they can begin to work with their network, not at or in spite of it. Only when Sheila is comfortable with the social media, can the entire organization start to get creative about ways to leverage the creativity and smarts in their network.
This will all take time. Mastering anything new takes time. But what choice does Sheila really have because continuing down the same road, working in an organizational silo, refusing to engage with her network that is sitting there, waiting and wanting to help, isn’t a sustainable way of working. Ellen Miller, the co-founder of the Sunlight Foundation has spent a forty-year career as an advocate for open and transparent government. In the last five years, she has become an outspoken and energetic proponent of using social media for social change. Here is Ellen’s advice to Sheila, “If it is a priority to you to reach out a community for whatever the purpose is; financial support, volunteer support, community support, if outreach to your community is one of your key responsibilities then this has to be a priority.”
Managing one’s time with social media is an important and not always easy task. Here are a few tips for managing the flow based on Leo Babauta’s blog.
- Practice turning the flow on and off. Designate specific times to use particular tools and try to stick with it. If 8-9 am is Twitter time, stick to it. And don’t worry about being off line for a while, everyone will survive.
- Take a week and track where you go online and how much time you spend there. What was a good use of time, what wasn’t? Eliminate the bad time.
- Cleanse your Inbox. Unsubscribe to everything that you possibly can. Emails have an expiration date, it’s important to delete the mail, clean it out, and get rid of what’s been sitting there for a while. Set up folders for specific topics to move them out of your Inbox. There is nothing more dispiriting than facing two thousand emails every day.
- Find your trusted sources. Watch to see who is quoted or retweeted a lot in your network and make sure to follow them. And don’t be afraid to defriend other folks who fill up your spaces with less useful information. Let these trusted, influential sources search the web for you.
This entry was posted on September 16, 2009 at 10:10 am and is filed under Social Media. Tagged: america's giving challenge, The Case Foundation. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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