There are literally thousands of blog posts out there telling you how to take your first steps in Social Media. Those first hurdles are so important to clear. But have you ever looked at the setup on the track after the high hurdles are run? It’s not the first hurdles that trip up the athletes — it is the last ones. When you’re tired, when you’re in a groove, and when you think you know everything at high speed, that’s when your trailing foot comes low and trips you up.
If you are exploring the use of Social Media in your company and have any thought of bringing executives or a CEO on board, be as prepared for the end of the race as for the starter’s pistol. What could be worse than trying to reign in a superior who doesn’t realize he’s getting strategically sloppy?
There’s a reason why coaches tend to have played the games they now teach. They know what it’s like to make decisions in the heat of the moment. They understand the pressures, the distractions, and the demands. There’s also a reason you don’t see many player-coaches anymore. The speed of the game makes it almost impossible to see the entire arena as X’s and O’s. You lose your strategic edge, and the perspective of the whole picture.
If you’re the Social Media coach or evangelist for your organization, set the expectations that there are dangers that come with familiarity. Your CEO who is hesitant to touch the interface at first may not be as thoughtful when the mechanics of blogging become second-nature. The power of instant publishing can be intoxicating, and “drunk bloggers” can lead to unhappy accidents.
Build a Firewall
The very first firewall is technical. Those who are unsure about the mechanics are looking at each entry several times before it “goes live.” Before you set up your system, stress the importance of an editorial function. Yes, the CEO will have the final say, but it’s foolish to give him every say. Make sure there is a Jiminy Cricket built into the plan, someone who can ask the crucial question: “Are you sure this is how you want it to sound?”
I’ve been part of an online journalism community for nearly ten years. A few months ago, I was promoted to become one of a small number of moderators. A couple of us are still active “members” of the discussions, and we are very careful not to participate in ways that could be construed as abusive. If I take issue with someone’s argument, they shouldn’t feel as though I might abuse my Mod Powers. I’m very cognizant of my capacity to lose my temper.
My solution? Before posting, I change both the color and the font of everything I wrote. It takes just a few swipes and clicks, but it forces me to look at everything one more time. It is my self-enforced firewall to ensure I don’t click too fast and bare thoughts that shouldn’t be shared.
This topic actually stems from a discussion I had with Geoff Livingston. Geoff has had one hell of a year; writing and publishing a book, spearheading the content for two top-rated marketing blogs, scoring Social Media victories for his clients, and running a lot of traditional communications counsel through his firm. He’s been through quite a bit, but that’s not an excuse for losing his cool.
Geoff’s let his temper get the best of him, reading too much into things that were not intended. He said some things and acted out, and will be the first to tell you that’s not representative of what he wants to be. He’s now taking a few days off to re-fresh and re-center, and will back to the grind next week. He knows I’m writing this — we talked about it — and there’s value in sharing it. If it can happen to Geoff, it can happen to me, and it can happen to you or your CEO who blogs.
Build the firewalls now, because the most dangerous hurdles are closer to the end.
(Ike Pigott can be regularly found at Occam’s RazR.)