First and foremost, the largest of props and maddest of love to the organizers of the first annual(?) Social Capital Conference in Ottawa. Wi-fi and room access snags aside (snags that were totally out of their control), the event went off swimmingly. I took advantage of the opportunity to pop in and out of sessions and roundtables, paying as much attention to the attendees as the presenters (sorry presenters) and it was clear that people were being challenged, inspired and educated. Which is kinda the point.
So good show all around. Now, what comes next?
The overly-used and only slightly-cogent toolbox metaphor
As digital communicators, marketers and community builders of some sort, we’re all equipped with a number of tools to get our jobs done. Social media are a relatively new addition to our toolboxes and we’re doing ourselves, our organizations, our clients and our customers a disservice if we don’t do what we need to do to learn when, where and how to use them. Events like Social Capital are a good way to do that.
But here’s the important thing. Unlike an actual toolbox, there’s no size limit on our particular tool storage units. We don’t have to toss aside an old rusty screwdriver when we bring home the latest cordless laser-guided power drill that the smug bastards at Home Hardware make us covet with their lighthearted and quasi-patriotic commercials.
To bring in yet another over-used metaphor, if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. But not everything is a nail. Sometimes you’re dealing with a screw. Sometimes you’ve got a nut. And sometimes you’re using those weird nut-screw hybrid things that IKEA uses to bind the corners of my nightstand and my god why are those so hard to align just right?
Don’t fight single-mindedness with single-mindedness
Promoting the use of social tools simply because they’re social is just as stupid as ignoring social tools simply because they’re social. Honestly, those of us who loosely define ourselves as social media advocates don’t need another self-appointed martyr throwing themselves on the bureaucratic fire in a fit of misguided rage and blind loyalty to one toolset over another.
Sometimes, printing another poster is the answer.
Speaking as someone who makes recommendations on digital tools for a living I can tell you that the social media revolution rhetoric that so many advocates spew out does more harm than good. As my good pal (and self-identified radical) Nick pointed out during our session, Clay Shirky is on to something with his assertion that technology has to become boring and pervasive before it can really be allowed to reach its full potential. Trumpeting the relative values of social media as a singular, revolutionary force is as counterproductive as it is overly simplistic.
If you want to go social, stop talking social
The best way to “sell” social media in your organization is to stop talking about social media and start showing how one or more social tools can help you reach your goals. Don’t advocate for social because it’s social, advocate for the tools that will help you reach your goals – social or otherwise.
Go to conferences, attend events, read blogs and play with the tools. Do all the things you’re doing today and more to understand what social media can do. But don’t forget about the tools and processes that exist already.
Social media provide opportunities to connect and communicate in new and exciting ways. For that reason they are worthy of consideration and as a professional communicator, marketer or community builder you have a responsibility to understand them. But don’t toss aside your rusty screwdriver just yet. It might still come in handy.