Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Social Media Engagement Tips: Don't Drop the Ball

By Dennis D. McDonald, Ph.D.

Also in this series: “Social Media Engagement Tips: Don’t Give Up on Email Just Yet”

I’ve seen organizations paralyzed with indecision about how to use social media. I’ve also seen “organic adoption” succeed.

The latter happens when middle managers take advantage of the cost and availability of tools they’re already familiar with from other professional or social activities. Their success breeds attention by senior management. What can happen then is that wider adoption — and planning — of social media and social networking follow.

I also see examples of groups and sites that sit idle after an initial flurry of interest. What sometimes happens is that a group or community page is set up, a community of members is recruited, and then reality sets in. 

Reality in this case means that an appreciation develops of the time, attention, thought, and other resources needed to keep the group going. Policies are required. Identities and permissions must be established. Most time consuming of all: content must be created, maintained, and discussed.

It all takes time. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. One thing that can surprise people is the time and energy needed to engage with people in two groups: those who are already heavily engaged with the group, and those who aren’t.

The first group, sometimes a minority of group members, needs to know it’s being taken seriously for it to continue engagement with the group. That requires regular monitoring and quick feedback at a level of appropriate sophistication and seniority.

The second group requires a different type of attention that can also time consuming. These are  folks who may be less familiar with social networking tools. Or, they might be in positions of authority and  have traditionally isolated themselves from the rapid give and take of the social media world. In a purely voluntary environment this group may also be overly composed of “lurkers” who rarely participate as much as the first group but who, perhaps because they are in positions of influence or authority, function as important gatekeepers and stakeholders.

Group management ignores them at the group’s peril. At the same time, this second group may require more training and individualized attention in order to, say, wean them away from a total reliance on email as a collaboration tool. This may be necessary but time consuming.

It’s important to remember that both groups require attention. The skills, resources, and processes involved in engaging with each may be different. That’s OK. Just be sure to keep that in mind when you’re planning a social media community effort that you intend to make an ongoing part of your overall organization.

Copyright (c) 2009 by Dennis D. McDonald

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