Stop Blogging

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“We think you should stop blogging and using social media.” That’s the advice I received in late April from a certain committee that holds  great power over one aspect of my life.  It’s a committee whose members apparently suffer from “head in sand” syndrome.

Blogging and social media are at the core of today’s media world. Today, almost everyone under the age of 50 and everyone in the business world communicates primarily through social media and mobile technologies.

Most business leaders recognize that the way we communicate has changed, even if they don’t understand this brave new world.

Even ostriches know better than to stick their heads in the sand.

Imagine hearing these gems of advice:

  • “We think you should stop making phone calls.”
  • “We think you should stop sending emails.”
  • “We think you should stop marketing your business.”
  • “We think you should stop interacting with other people.”
  • “We think you should only communicate through text that has been printed on pieces of paper, vetted by your superiors, compiled by third parties, and stored in warehouses (virtual or real), preferably accessible only to those who can afford to pay the exorbitant annual subscription fee.”
  • “We think you should stop using the tools your students need for careers in their chosen field.”

Those all mean the same thing as “stop blogging and using social media.”

 Disciplinary Silos

Silo in VermontI’m not naive. I realize that most in “the academy” live in disciplinary silos and have little to no familiarity with current trends in any field outside their own discipline. Certainly not in any professional sense. It takes a lot of work and energy to keep up with one specialty, let alone one discipline, and I respect the choices others make to become highly-focused specialists. Not everyone wants to see and understand the big-picture as much as I do.

But what shocked me is how this “advice” actually goes against what it takes to succeed in my own discipline. I can’t imagine this committee telling a nursing faculty member that he/she should not maintain professional competencies or telling a trial law professor that he/she should never use the tools that are necessary for electronic discovery in 21st century litigation.

Those who don’t understand social media, blogging, the mobile communications world, see it as a trend, a fad. This too will soon pass, they tell themselves.

Social Is Not A Fad

We are not going back.

Sure, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest will pass. But online and mobile communication isn’t going away.

Individuals now have the power through online and mobile technologies to reach an audience of one or many.

“We the people” can now engage with others. We can build tribes and communities that aren’t designed by a top-down, hierarchical authoritarian regime of command and control.

Smart businesses and nonprofits know this and are adapting.

Behind-the-curve businesses and nonprofits recognize the world is changing and they’re trying to figure out how to adapt.

Professional Success Is Built On Social

Any student who wants a “career” related to business, marketing, management, strategic communication, public relations, leadership must have a solid understanding of how to use social and online tools effectively and strategically. Actually, anyone who wants to succeed in life after 2008 fits into this category.

FYI in case you didn’t get the memo text tweet: We are all professional entrepreneurs now. (That’s a subject for another post.)

Social media isn’t “how to send a tweet.” It isn’t about “send a tweet to promote my event.” It isn’t about updating statuses on Facebook. It isn’t even about which new social platform is currently “hot.”

The social business world is about how to build relationships, how to engage, how to measure, how to tell a story using these new tools. For businesses and brands, it’s about knowing where people are, knowing how to find  “my” audience and how to engage with them in those communities of interest.

Social business and social media is about how to create something of value for a community and how to make it available online so the community can find it and share it and use it and make it better.

I can’t teach any of this to my students or anyone else if I don’t understand it myself.

No Blog, no social media. “I don’t think so.” That was my reply.

Your thoughts?

 

Note: The ostrich photo is used under a Creative Commons License with attribution to Sara&Joachim’s Photostream on Flickr.

About Sheree

Change Catalyst, Idea Explorer, Dot-Connector, Square Peg

Comments

  1. Amazing, the large academic universities are even embracing social in the scientific and humanities in a major way. This attitude is an example of why Birmingham remains behind in so many ways.

    • Thanks for your comment, Tom. I don’t think it’s Birmingham-specific. I think it’s just a misunderstanding of the unknown. On the plus side, my department fully recognizes the importance of social media within our discipline and gave me the freedom to develop a course in social media.

      The challenge is that staying abreast of social technology and trends for professional uses is time-consuming.

  2. Not just B’ham Tom. Sheree, stick to your guns girl. I’m still amazed by what some ‘people’ will tell others with the intent to inform the masses of what they deem necessary or proper.

    • Thanks for your reply, Scott. My guess is that the intention was to be “helpful” but it just reflects a misunderstanding of the reality of how the business world now has to operate in an online, social world.

  3. Great post! On one hand I’m shocked to read that this “committee” wants you to abandon social media because it is something that been embraced by so many educational institutions. On the other hand, this shouldn’t surprise me because I work in education and while the administration at my school is all for integrating technology in the classroom, a number of my colleagues don’t understand social media AT ALL and are very resistant to it.

    That said, I don’t know that it’s fair to say this is a “Birmingham” problem, as Tom suggests. In fact, it wasn’t until I moved to Birmingham that I really began to embrace social media and it was because I found such a great and thriving community of social media lovers here.

    • Thanks for your comment, Javacia. I agree with you–the online social community in Birmingham is very welcoming and sharing. Most of my professional network here originated through online social connections, although in most instances it’s moved beyond that into the “real world.” But without social media, I’d never have connected with those folks, certainly not as quickly. Those social/professional connections are valuable for the students because it helps me help them network for their own careers.

      I think you’re right that people who don’t understand social media simply resist it or want to ignore it, as if it will just “go away.”

      On the plus side, my department is very forward-minded and gave me the leeway to develop a course I call “social media practices.” Students who’ve taken my course have reported getting jobs and major internships because of the experience. Real-world clients with whom my students worked have also given written, positive feedback validating the course from a business perspective.

      The challenge is translating the value of the course to the broader academic community and the time commitment needed to develop and maintain the expertise required to teach the course in a value-added sense.

  4. People fear what they don’t understand… and… sigh … There’s a lotta fear here in the U.S.

    Really nice entry Sheree- I think!? We’ve talked about my job loss over a blog? Keep up the great work!

    • Thanks, Lisa. Definitely lots of fear.

      I always think of the wisdom of Yoda: “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

      I have a short post on here somewhere about being fearless. Uses a clip from the old Kung Fu series.

      I don’t think we’ve talked about your situation. You must bring me up to speed.

  5. I weep for your committee. Seriously. One hopes your environmental awareness will trump, or at least outlast, their cluelessness. Hang in there!

  6. Well, it’ an odd coincidence but another blog that I enjoy on higher ed is also written by someone in Alabama. I believe he was also asked to stop. I prefer to think it is Alabama centric but likely not.

    • Interesting coincidence, Tammy. I’d love to know more about that. I think it’s just a misunderstanding of what social communication is all about and, perhaps, a failure to realize that it’s become the crux of business communication and business marketing.

  7. Awesome post, Sheree!! Clearly this is more about their comfort level…or fear!! I the face of advice from people who don’t get it, we can make some efforts at education … and in this case I think demonstrating the efficacy of what you’re doing is where you need to focus.

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