Digital Native, Digitally Naive?

Say, for a moment, that you need to hire someone to lead your company’s nascent social media effort. Quick — picture what that individual looks like. Did an image of a young digital dude (or dudette) come to mind? If so, you’re likely making a mistake.

digital native vs digital immigrantYou’re not alone, the majority of the hiring decision-makers (HR talent recruiters and hiring managers alike) whom I’ve come across, with little personal understanding of social media themselves, believe that this type of job is best filled by a digital native — one for whom the Web and social media have been a part of their lives from early on.

Now, consider these job requirements that I read today on an actual position listing (identifying details altered):

  • Develop a comprehensive social media and community management strategy leveraging your background, experience and knowledge of social media trends and emerging technologies
  • Partner with individuals across the company (management, development and research) to strategize and educate the team on relevant social media techniques to drive adoption and increase thought leadership
  • Manage the day-to-day activities for Facebook, Twitter, Company Blog, LinkedIn and other social media sites
  • Research and write content for social media channels
  • Track and analyze performance of social media programs and activities to drive continuous improvement
  • Manage web and Facebook advertisements
  • Help direct a grassroots street team to promote the [product]
  • Interact with our PR team
  • Monitor trends in social media tools and applications and appropriately apply that knowledge to increasing the use of social media at the company

Did that change your thinking? Sounds like a great job with plenty of opportunity to create strategy, implement tactics and lead the social media initiative for this company for years to come, right?

In fact, this is a great spot for someone like me, a social media professional paid to curate communities, engage with customers, build brands,  develop brand ambassadors and promote products via social media as a career (in my case since 1997).  So why didn’t I immediately submit my application and resume? Because of this next line: Career Level: Early Career (1+ yrs experience) 

Whoa, you want to trust this job — and the reputation of your company, its brand and products (the success of which is essential for the future survival of the company itself) — in the hands of an entry-level individual? Really?

The disconnect comes when companies fail to understand that digital natives lack the necessary business acumen and experience to actually get the job done. They instead believe they need to hire young because, you know, when it comes to social media ‘young people get it’.

That’s a fatal flaw that sets up both the individual hired and the company for failure. There is no substitute for experience when it comes to developing a digital roadmap or building consensus among varied internal stakeholders to insinuate social media throughout the enterprise (the long-term goal for success). And do not for a minute discount the institutional knowledge an experienced person brings to the table regarding what’s worked (and failed) in the past to better be able to recognize the next big thing.

If you want a leader; if you use  phrases like “create strategy”; “implement tactics”; “develop policy” or “lead the organization” as part of the job description, set yourself up for success: hire the digital immigrant —  a social media professional. 

International Volunteer Day – Give Thanks

Today, December 5, is International Volunteer Day, created by the United Nations in 1985 to give thanks to those who volunteer in one way or another “for their efforts and increase public awareness on their contribution to society.” Thank you all, for without your efforts hundreds of thousands of people, many of them children, would perish — and that is not an exaggeration.

And what better time of year, when thoughts turn to celebrating holidays and exchanging gifts with our families from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day to be thankful for what we have and to help others less fortunate.

A week ago, I joined others volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House in New York – the first and biggest of the havens allowing families to stay together to support their child or sibling s/he undergoes treatment for cancer and other diseases to unpack holiday decorations stored away last year and start to bring some holiday cheer to the house. I tell you it was an extremely fulfilling experience as we brought a little bit of cheer to the 85 families who call RMH home.

Ronald McDonald House
There were three times I almost lost composure, touched by what the staff and guests deal with every day. Read more of this post

Blog Action Day 2011 – Food, For Thought

Refugees in EthiopiaToday, October 16, 2011, is global Blog Action Day where bloggers from all over the world blog about a singular topic and this year, falling on World Food Day, it’s food (or lack thereof). (Ed. note: 2011 participation: 2,710 bloggers located in  109 countries).

As I write this entry, one of my daughters, Adriane, is flying to Ethiopia as part of a United Nations Foundation global health observation team. Situated between the Sudan to the west and Somalia to the east, I hope she has a safe, informational and inspirational journey.

Ethiopia has the dual distinction of being both besieged by famine, poverty, health crises (TB, Malaria; HIV/AIDS), the worst drought in 60 years as well as the added burden of refugees arriving daily from its neighbors.

The United Nations defines famine as a region or country where:
• At least 20 percent of households face extreme food shortages
• Acute malnutrition affects more than 30 percent of the population
Malnutrition leads to at least two deaths per 10,000 people every day

Ethiopia easily qualifies. There, as elsewhere in the famine-torn  Horn of Africa, foreign aid is essential to bringing relief to this humanitarian crisis.

What YOU can do to help
Contribute to a reputable disaster relief organization. The American Institute of Philanthropy rates a list of charities that best help East Africans. So, the next time you push yourself away from the dinner table, complaining that you “ate too much,”pick one, donate and think of those who suffer hunger everyday.

Until then, chew on this for a while

Click here for more Global Blog Day 2011 entries. On Twitter search #bad2011

Of Jobs, Jobs and Social Media as Disruptor

Three points I’d like to touch upon:

  1. Jobs, Steve Jobs, that is. The passing of a tech giant.
  2. Jobs, lack thereof, that is. And bringing socio-economic change via protest.
  3. The job social media has as disruptive agent, and the blame it doesn’t deserve.

I was saddened to hear of Steve Job’s passing last week. Not as a Mac fanboi; I have always used Windows-based PCs, have an Android smartphone and except for a video iPod none of my gadgets begin with a lower-case “i”. But there is no denying his greatness as a tech visionary and pioneer. My Facebook post acknowledging his transition said it all:

When we were young, we learned about the great explorers: Magellan; Balboa; da Gama and later Lewis and Clark; Byrd and Amundsen. And the great inventors: Da Vinci; Franklin; Marconi; Babbage. Steve Jobs was a little of them all.

Jobs, and the lack thereof. Mark these words: More change comes about in this country by protest than by working within the system. Think about it. Women’s suffrage in the U.S. culminating in their right to vote in 1920; the Civil Right’s Movement’s victory in 1964; the end of the Viet Nam war, until last week the longest war in U.S. history; equal marriage rights and military rights And now we have Occupy Wall Street, sounding the clarion for increased employment and narrowing the gap between the haves and have-nots by exercising their constitutional right to free speech and assembly. You may not agree with what they’re saying, but you must admire the way they’ve made themselves heard. Their movement has spread to other cities across the U.S. The Arab Spring has given way to the American Autumn.

Which brings us to social media’s job as disruptive agent. They key to this is, social media is not the causal factor for disruption. It is a tool. Like the telephone (and cell phone) before it, the radio before that and the newspapers even before that. Silencing, censoring or otherwise attempting to control social media is a losing proposition.

Riots in London? Squatters on Wall Street? Don’t blame social media for fomenting the masses. It is simply a tool like the ones before it. Instead, look to cure the disease, not the symptom.

Everything AOL Is New Again, Again

American layout roulette wheel.

Image via Wikipedia

I can’t help it. Maybe it’s because I spent 10 years working at AOL during it’s rise and fall. Maybe it’s just that things happen in cycles. Regardless, when I saw this headline today it made me think of something I’d written about previously:

StumbleUpon passes Facebook in US referral traffic

So what does this have to do with AOL? First, some background for those of you who have never been an AOLer. Navigation within the walled garden of AOL content was aided by the use of shortcuts known as Keywords. Want to jump directly from the Welcome Screen to content regarding vacations? Enter keyword: Travel.  Want to go from there to see how your favorite team did last night, use Keyword: Sports. With both major and sub-categories there were literally hundreds (if not thousands) of keywords on AOL.

So what does this have to do with StumbleUpon passing Facebook as the number one referer on the ‘Net? Well, at AOL we were privy to the list of most popular keywords (as determined by user clicks), and invariably every month positioned near the top was Keyword: Random.

Enter “random” in the keyword box and a roulette wheel would appear. Click it to spin and when it stopped you’d be taken to a random page somewhere on AOL. Some pages were great, some not so great. But people loved the, well, randomness of the result, something I refer to today as serendipitous discovery“– where you (literally) stumble upon content you previously had no knowledge of.

It worked back then for AOL, and to StumbleUpon’s benefit it still works today.

♫… No need to remember when
‘Cause everything old is new again …♫

Everything AOL Is New Again

Image representing AOL as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

♫… When trumpets… were mellow
And every gal only had one fellow
No need to remember when
‘Cause everything old is new again …♫

I have a soft spot in my heart for AOL. Shortly after getting my first PC in 1994, I joined all of the Internet portals of the day on a trial basis: Prodigy; CompuServe; Genie; Imagination but ended each subscription at the end of the free period except for one: AOL, because of what I later came to know as Community. I quickly got hooked on building relationships with like-minded people without regard to geographic or societal boundaries. In other words, social networking.

In fact, I loved it so much I became a beta tester for AOL 1.5 (when it had 500K members) onward, then a volunteer, then a contractor and finally in 1997, a paid  employee. During the next 10 years I rode the crest of AOL’s rise to the largest portal in the world (with 35 million paid members) as well as its accelerated denouement.

Blame management; blame the ill-conceived and worse executed merger with “old media” Time-Warner; blame whomever or whatever you wish for AOL’s fall from grace. But the fact is, AOL was a trailblazer in many ways. So, it’s both satisfying and frustrating to see current digital companies (including the “new” AOL) turning back to its concepts and features.

♫… Get out your white suit, your tap shoes and tails
Let’s go backwards when forward fails …♫

Back then, AOL based programming on a TV network model comprised of major content categories called channels, with user engagement provided by supporting community teams. About 20 or so major channels, provided both content and community. And so, it was good to see TechCrunch (itself an AOL “channel”) report today, “AOL Consolidates 53 Brands Down To 20 “Power Brands” in an effort to consolidate both content and advertising inventory. See the resemblance?

But it wouldn’t be a trend if only New AOL were doing this. The NY Times reported on Monday about a growing trend in many large organizations, “Companies Are Erecting In-House Social Networks“. Organizations are employing private networks, or intranets, utilizing social networking to improve communications and increase associate engagement. Great idea! Of course, AOL  provided parallel AOL private networks for a fee to companies and organizations way back in 1997 – fourteen years ago.

Yes, AOL fell behind on many fronts, especially the migration to broadband access and the open Internet as well as products such as blogs and user-generated video. And, ultimately, it has no one to blame for its current situation other than itself.

 But its important to give AOL credit where due.

♫… Don’t throw the pa-ast away
You might need it some rainy day
Dreams can come true again
When everything old is new again …♫

(Lyrics: ‘Everything old Is New Again”  – Peter Allen)

Quick Tweet: The State of Community Management in 2011

Great report by Edelman Digital and The Community Roundtable on the state of community management in 2011

http://ow.ly/4skjI

%d bloggers like this: