Social Media: Actually, it is Work!

“Doesn’t anyone work anymore?”

I heard this from a woman in the audience during Q&A at a conference session. It came at the end of…well, let’s call it a rant. After describing her frustration with online social media tools (though she didn’t refer to them in that way) she explained that the staff in her office are on the computer “all the time,” engaging in such activities as “doing Facebook” and “twitting.” Clearly exasperated with the situation, she asked of those of us in room: “Doesn’t anyone work anymore?”

I understand her frustration. She doesn’t understand the tools, how to use them, and why they exist. To her, the colleagues in question were goofing around while phones went unanswered and mail went unopened.

But here’s the thing: for some people (like me, and maybe like you too), those things she described are work. Gasp!

Engaging in social media as an individual and/or on behalf of an institution isn’t necessarily hard, back breaking, abhorrent work. It can actually be fun sometimes. But it is complicated, requires attention to detail, and good strategy. Keeping on top of community management and targeted Facebook messages and blog posts and so on is work, to be sure.

Going back to the woman at the conference…I see two problems. One is that the staff in question didn’t make the effort to educate everyone in the office on social media and why it is relevant. Assuming someone won’t “get it” and not bothering to engage them can cause more harm than good. Problem two is the opposite side of that coin: the woman was closed minded about social media tools, didn’t make much of an effort to learn about them on her own, and had discounted them entirely because she didn’t understand their purpose. 

If you encounter a situation like this, try to see it from both sides, and then open up the conversation. We work in a new field, one that’s growing and changing constantly. It makes perfect sense that not everyone would understand all of the subtle nuances right away (and let’s face it, we might not understand them ourselves). The thing is, our jobs are pretty cool. And we get to be the ones to tell people just how cool they are.

Note: I realize that this may be over simplifying the problem in some cases; there are folks who won’t listen no matter how many times you try to open up a conversation. That issue is for a whole other (future) post…

Now get back to work!

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One Response to Social Media: Actually, it is Work!

  1. Great post. Whenever this topic comes up — and it came up just the other day, at a meeting on another topic but in which I was visiting with someone who attended the MU Social Media Summit — I’m always reminded of that great line from an old Bob Dylan song: “Don’t criticize what you don’t understand.” Because the times, they are a-changin’. Still.

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