It Starts with Amber’s Hats
Last week Amber Nashlund wrote post about the hats a social media champion wears. Whether we’re working inside a company or independently, anyone who offers new ways to do anything knows the challenge is not meant for the faint of heart. Knowing which of Amber’s hats to wear and which skill to call on for each situation is part science and part art. That’s the expertise of a social media champion — it’s the key leadership trait of any business manager leading change.
The proverbial hats — the know how, the expertise — won’t get far with a group that doesn’t know and trust the person wearing them. I know that Amber agrees. We’ve talked about this on other projects we’re planning together.
Remind You of Anything?
In the early years of educational publishing, dedicated teachers wanted more authentic materials than those offered by big publishers. So they made their own tools, activities, and classroom materials. Soon other teachers noticed and asked to use them. A business was born. Teachers made products and sold them to other classroom teachers they knew. The products were handmade, bound with plastic, and copied somewhere like Kinkos.
Rough edges were a mark of authenticity. Hand drawings and low-design meant the quality was in the content. Those qualities said “A real teacher made this.” New customers knew the books were good because they knew the teachers who made them.
The best of those dedicated teacher-publishers gained experience and perspective. Some left their own classrooms to serve more classroom teachers full time. However, they found growing their business wasn’t as easy as starting their business had been.
Our dedicated teacher-publishers saw other dedicated teachers offering homemade products for individual classroom teachers. Inexperienced copycats and opportunists were selling look-alike products that made empty promises and offered bad practices. Big educational publishers began to make books for individual classroom teachers too.
Classroom teachers had trouble discriminating the value from the noise.
When their customers knew them, the “rough edges” had been a certain kind of credibility, now those same homemade values made their products look shabby. Dedicated teacher-publishers needed a new way to connect their expertise with the classroom teachers they served.
Remind you of a situation anywhere near us right now?
How to Wear the Hats of a Social Media Champion
In the early days of blogging and social media, people learned by trial and error and then taught other people. We read their blogs or worked with them personally. Only so many sources existed. Someone new could recognize a wise teacher from a fool by seeing what the wise teachers had in common. We knew who was credible.
Then the blogopshere and the world of social networking exploded. Whole populations exist that have no contact with each other. Anyone can put on the social media hats. It’s hard to discriminate the value from the noise. We need to find new ways to connect with the people we want to serve.
When faced with the same challenge, those teacher-publishers shifted their thinking. They took their expertise out of the handmade package. They raised their production values to match the market. The successful dedicated teacher publishers made careful choices to convey their shared values with their classroom-teacher customers.
They offered the same solid expertise, the same content, in a new presentation.
In any noisy market what newcomers first encounter is presentation. Presentation is more than first impression. Presentation lays the groundwork for connection and relationship.
The way we wear the hats of a social media champion — our presentation verbally, visually, in text, in tone, in personal relationships — is a vital part of the expertise those hats represent.
A social media champion is a living presentation of his or her social media expertise.
Our presentation shows whether we understand who we’re talking to and what they value. From the choice of the photos and the type on a blog — new design in the works — to the choice of whether to wear a grunge jeans to visit a lawyer client, the way we “package” a message communicates even before our first word is offered.
5 Key Traits of Credible Social Media Champions
I’m not thinking we should change our identity. Just the opposite. What I’m proposing is that we make our best traits visible — that we walk our talk in the following ways. I see 5 key traits of in the social media champions I most admire and so I recommend them here.
- Know who you are. — Be a person, not a personal brand. People make credible relationships. You make things happen. Your brand is a reflection of that. Credibility is based in actions that build trust and relationships.
- Communicate what you stand for. — Define social media in detail in clear terms. Expertise leads a champion to have opinions about what works and what doesn’t. Be certain about your philosophy so that like-minded folks can find you.
- Connect through the tangible and the intangible. Social media is about connections. An expert connector is focused on meeting other people where they feel comfortable. Everything from the vocabulary we use to our choice in dress code can be a bridge that connects. Great connectors show relationship expertise by using every chance to relate.
- Be able to explain the social media culture in concrete world terms. Incidents like what happened to the Motrin ad earlier this month cause concern. Champions offer a open doors and reach out with guidance. Give context and offer familiar analogies. You’ll build bridges to replace what was fear.
- Value Their Expertise and Be Available to Them Champions know that every voice brings value expertise of its own. They see the potential of new ideas adding to the culture. Find small, low-risk ways to invite interested questioners to listen, watch, and participate. Be available to explain what they encounter.
Long before they offer us a chance to speak or show off our social media hats, people evaluate our credibility. By the time we talk, they’ve already decided whether they will listen. Jason Falls says it best,
“Social media, you gotta live it.”
It takes quite a skill set — and several hats — to be a social media champion: listening, understanding, building on what went before, showing proof of success, engaging skeptics in meaningful conversation, inviting them into new ways of participation, planning action appropriate to their history, demonstrating ways that make jobs easier, more effective, and more efficient, helping keep the focus, and cheering people on when they lose the faith.
That’s why it’s a called champion, not a manager.
What traits do you see in the social media champions you trust? Who’s earned your credibility?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz!!