Red Stapler: Talking to Your Boss About Twitter


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This session was presented in the Red Stapler track of the HighEdWeb 2010 in Cincinnati, describing how to talke with your boss about the importance of social media in higher education communications.

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  • I was sitting in my office day this summer when I got one of my bosses famously crytic emails.  "Lori -- how many university presidents have Facebook pages?" Sent from my iPhone.  Oh, I don't know, I'm gonna say 12.  Etc. etc. seven people sitting around the table and none of them could log in to Facebook.  Joel had received a FB invite from a member of the BOT and they had misread the invite because it contains a boilerplate mention of photos and they thought the trustee was trying to send Joel some specific photos.  So that's an indication of some of the obstacles we might face when we try to talk to our bosses. 
  • So in preparing this presentation I asked the twittersphere what their -- your -- experience were with talking to your bosses about Twitter and social media.  And I got a couple of responses that seemed to express both ends of the continuum. 
  • So why is it sometimes difficult to make the case for social media projects.  There are several obstacles to overcome
  • It’s called Twitter. It comes with all sorts of weird vocabulary.  You have to speak intelligently about tweets and retweets and at-replies and DM’s. 
  • These of smart people, of course. They've heard of Twitter and Facebook. WHen the mainstream media starts talking about senators tweeting from the house floor during the state of the union address... But they don't *really* know cuz they don't use it.  But they *think* they know and this is Twitter's own fault ( "what are you doing?)
  • First two obstacles go hand in hand: we mock what we don’t understand. Inoculate yourself against embarrassment. All these last few slides have contained direct quotes from people I work with. 
  • There's a perception that Facebook  and Twitter are just fun and games. Social networks are  FREE . They have a certain  FUN FACTOR  about them that goes a long way toward making them as useful as they are. But  IF IT'S NOT CONSIDERED WORK , you won’t be given the resources you need to do it well. 
  • All along the way, whether your just broaching the subject or trying to expand into new communities and platforms, you need to reiterate to the powers that be or whoever will listen that  MAINTAINING A SOCIAL PRESENCE IS WORKING , it is a task someone or multiple someones will need to take on.
  • I admit I don't have a great answer to this one yet. I'm more like, "how do you measure the return on investment on a handshake? Or A conversations between alumni and prospective students on Facebook? " But I'm trying to learn more on this front, an and currently reading Social Media Metrics, which is the only book I've found so far on this subject.  SO, WHAT CAN WE DO TO TRY TO OVERCOME THESE OBSTACLES AND TALK TO OUR BOSSES ABOUT TWITTER.  Over the last couple years now I've given presentations to our university's board of trustees, the president''s cabinet, and the college deans, in addition to the conversations in my own office. 
  • ... that we're not making this up. 
  • And statistics can be useful door-openers that can help make the case to those who may still be under the impression that the social Web is a passing fad.  They remember the dot-com bust of the 90s; would be forgiven thinking Twitter might be the next (sock puppet on the dustbin of history)
  • Here’s a slide from a presentation I gave at a trustees meeting a year and a half ago in March 2009. At that time… If Facebook was a country, it would be the 6th largest country in the world -- ahead of Pakistan and Bangladesh, Russia and Japan.  Twitter --  last year at HighEdWeb --  much smaller about 6 million users, but it was growing through the roof. By April, (Oprah joined) after 105 million users, 300,000 new users a day.   Foursquare reported 3 million users in August, growth of 15,000 users a day. 
  • There's a demo you can do that you many have seen others do if you're on Twitter. Where you simply tweet, "I'm showing a colleague Twitter. Could someone say hello?"
  • Slide is from an older presentation I first gave to the college deans in August 2008.   At this point, I log in to Facebook. Make a joke about my friends not being up to anything too naughty.  Facebook groups, pages. YouTube videos. Nothing is more eye-opening. As they start to see things, they may not always like what they see. 
  • This is a slide from that college deans presentation that I like to end on, about that line between participating and dominating. 
  • But wait! There’s more!  What if your boss or a colleague wants to dip his tow into the waters of social media and you think, ewwww, really? How many of you have maybe had this type of request cross your desk?
  • Happens to me a couple times a semester. Our parking office has a Facebook page. 
  • Again -- cocktails and nibbles. If they aren't posting a ton of content to their websites, why do they suddenly think they'll have content for a Facebook page or YouTube account?
  • Often people think they need to be on Facebook, but they don't really want to be on Facebook. And to quote the late great George Carlin, you have to wanna.  Tell Joel story if time allows.
  • It's not an original thought, I know. And I know I said earlier that you should just do it, then have a strategy. But your colleagues should at least know what it is they are trying to achieve. Then it’s up to you to help them decide whether Facebook is an effective -- don’t forget effective, and fun -- don’t forget fun, way of achieving it. Rachel Rueben at SUNY New Paltz has shared a social media brief on occasion that was originally developed by Queen's University. I've used it on at least two occasions this year. HANDOUTS
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