One Ring to Rule Them All

Do a quick search for social media policies and guidelines.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Quickly, open and view five of those documents. Quite similar to each other, right? Copy and paste. Copy and paste. For all the talk about crafting a social media policy or set of guidelines. many of these documents were created based on the publicly available documents of other companies, rather than the needs and culture of their own organization.

You don’t need to search very far for inspiration and guidance for your own policy or guidelines. All you need to do is locate your organization’s Code of Conduct. What is the tone of voice? What mission and values are integrated in the document? Use the Code of Conduct as your guide to determine if a social media policy (or guidelines) is needed or warranted.

Purpose

Many ethics codes include aspirational and rules / principles section. Why was the Code of Conduct created? To inspire? Regulate behavior? Both? Do a bit of homework and determine how the code was devised and the individuals or working group responsible for the creation. Read between the lines and search for clues to the order of information and principles presented. How often is the code reviewed and updated? Once a year is once too late and leads to check-the-box thinking.

Accountability

How is the code socialized within (and, perhaps, external) the organization? How was the code implemented? Is it integrated into organizational policies and practices? Simply creating a code or additional social media policy does not mean people will automatically adhere to those principles. Give them a reason. How is the code currently enforced? Is it enforced through encouraging behavior and demonstration by example? Just stating that one must act “professional” does not demonstrate the action. My version of professional may be different than yours. There may not be a need for a social media policy, but a set of guidelines modeling the expected behavior and reinforcing behavior continuously through continuous learning.

But we must remember that good laws, if they are not obeyed, do not constitute good government. Hence there are two parts of good government; one is the actual obedience of citizens to the laws, the other part is the goodness of the laws which they obey…” (Aristotle, Politics) 

Format

Who is affected by the code and what is the best way to share information with them? Sometimes organizations get so lost in the shiny new tools or design, they disregard the lowest common denominator solution. Determine the format based on the applicability and access to all levels of the organization.

I am asking you to ask a lot of questions. That is because there is no cookie cutter approach to policy. Your Code of Ethics and additional policy and guidelines are specific to the needs, challenges, desires and values of your organization. Often, an understood and updated Code of Conduct supplemented with social media / community guidelines are what is needed and not necessarily the creation of a policy. Only your organization can make that determination by acting the part of the detective and seeking the precious truth and reasoning. Why reinvent the wheel?

Rebuilding the Organization’s Natural Shoreline

We have been busy building levees in our own organizations. The walls have been getting increasingly higher over the past couple decades. And as each extension to these barriers are added, there appears a ladder or natural disaster (aka communications crisis) to breach the new and shiny fortifications. Just as the U.S. coasts has stripped away the natural shorelines and built levees, our organizations have replaced personal communication with automation and firewalls. The natural resources existing within an organization that are the foundation for human connection are disappearing and being replaced with empty policy and processes. Organizations are constantly looking for another to compare to or blaze the trail for them to follow, rather than learn from the oldest, functioning model, Mother Nature.

Living on the Edge

Be the mangrove tree.

This has become my new mantra. Similar to mangrove trees, community managers come in all shapes and sizes and exist across many organizations as mangroves on continents. Community managers have one foot in the organizations where they are employed and the other foot in the community they serve, just as the roots of a mangrove are found on both land and sea. This resilient tree is the first line of defense for rising tides, the home of many a creature, and source of life for others.

Mangrove trees received attention in the wake of the 2004 tsunami when studies revealed their existence served as natural breakwaters and could mitigate property damage and save lives. Even knowing this, mangrove trees and natural shorelines everywhere are being destroyed for commercial use. Doesn’t this scenario sound familiar? Post PR crisis, the need for listening and increased organization-community relationships are called for and hailed as being the answer to prevent a similar crisis. The need is replaced by top of mind desires and fire drills. Quick fixes are made to resolve long term challenges. The resources of a community team are sacrificed and organizations lose their best connection with the community.

Adaptation

Be the mangrove tree.

verb (used with object) to make suitable to requirements or conditions; adjust or modify fittingly; and verb (used without object) to adjust oneself to different conditions, environment, etc..

Not all community managers are equal. The same can also be said of the mangrove tree. There are 70 species from two dozen families thriving across the globe. And yet all have something in common: the ability to adapt. The mangrove tree has a complex root system as the community manager has workflow. Depending on the environment, the filters differ. As the environment changes, so does the tree and the community manager.

The organization has to adapt to life and not force fit solutions. No person or company can remain the same forever. Adapt to your surroundings and avoid adaptation for the sake of keeping up with the cool and colorful crowd. Be yourself as you go along with the flow of life.

Rehabilitation

“Plat a few trees, and you usher in an ecosystem. Build nature a house, and she makes it her home.” – Forests of the Tide by Kennedy Warne

One community manager, one evangelist, one mangrove tree at a time, we need to give new life and protection to the organization and communities we serve by nourishing the natural order. As sea levels rise, mangrove trees will be the first to face the tides. Removing that barrier costs money and lives, not just human. Removing community managers or not investing in those resources results in a similar outcome, the loss of jobs, profit and reputation of the organization.

Already removed the trees? Have no fear. We can replant. We can rebuild. We can recommit. There is no lite version of saving Mother Nature, just as there is no such solution for the organization. We can create policy and process inspired by the spirit of nature and rehabilitate the organization’s natural shoreline.

Be the mangrove tree.

Next week, I will be speaking at Blog World Expo NYC, Community track. It is an incredible privilege to be in front of the BWE crowd again and I am even more excited about the topic of conversation I will be having with you, my community. Yes, the topic is playbooks and you may have heard me chat about this before, but I can guarantee you have not seen this presentation before. It is new. Influenced by nature and the Social Contracts, I am rethinking community management as a career and how community exists inside and outside organizations. And I am psyched about where this conversation could lead. Join me?

Scripting Action

It is that time of year for movie blockbusters. My family was not disappointed with the viewing of The Avengers. Now, I hate to ruin any fantasies you may have of Scarlett Johansson, but she did not inherently know how to save herself from the precipice of doom by swinging the chair over her head, whacking her assailants and shooting herself free all the while talking on a cell phone. That Black Widow was trained by Hollywood and the scenes crafted by talented writers and choreographers.

Choreography

Whether you are wielding the hammer of Thor or your organization’s Twitter presence, you will need to practice your moves. When do you feign to the right or jab with the left? The community does not want to see you stumbling over your own feet or those in other departments. In real life, you may not be able to script the action for every scene, but you should have a pretty good idea of how and why you will participate and engage.

Listen first. What types of conversations are already happening on that channel? How do these mentions relate to conversations occurring across other channels (online and offline)? Don’t reinvent the wheel. Identify how those conversations are being handled inside and outside of the organization. What can you learn and embed into the choreography of social media and community channels?

Just as the action does not belong solely in the head of the writer or choreographer, you need to share and distribute the details of who, what,when and where you will engage. These resources are not meant to be static, but living, breathing documents like playbooks or quick reference guides that give teams a launch pad and easy checklist of workflow items to remember while engaging.

Practicing with Tools

As discussed in the Community Manager Chat last week, there is a tool for everything. Everyone has their favorites or subset of go-to tools for the vast responsibilities of a Community Manager. Before you jump in and begin participating in community discussion, you need to know when and how to wield the tool/s or you risk becoming the tool.

Don’t skip reading the instruction manual or attending any available training. It doesn’t matter how young or technically savvy you may be, you need to learn the tips and tricks of the tools you are using before becoming immersed in engagement. True, there will always be an element of on the job training, but you don’t want to have to learn how to use a tool or platform and waste that valuable time when you should be engaging inside and outside your organization. Learn how the tool or platform works for you-not every other organization. Focus on how the technology hooks into existing systems and roles throughout the organization. Keep the support contact information handy and get to know the people behind the scenes other than your sales representative.

Practicing with Each Other

Establishing workflow is much more than generating a pretty flowchart. Not only do you need to know the nerves of the organization, but how and why they carry messages to other parts of the organization. Simulate reputation and crisis exercises to locate the opportunities for change in the current workflow. How can you streamline communication internal and external of the organization to better serve the communities?

Lights. Camera. Action!

The actors cast as The Avengers spent months practicing the action scenes by themselves, with stunt doubles and each other. They may look beautiful and the action scenes smooth, but on the first day, I can assure you, the scenes were not captured on the first take. Great action scenes do not simply happen. They are the product of well thought out and creative interactions blended with awe of the community and the purchase of a theater ticket.

Go watch a movie. Read a book. Write your own action scenes.

Neon Nerves Inspire Workflow

There are numerous blogs and technology now supporting the growth of the ever evolving role of the community manager, but how many are tackling the internal communications process necessary for  mapping connections and real time external engagement? Very few. You see, policy and process are not sexy. They are not cool.

While there may not be a silver bullet technology or cookie cutter process, we can learn from those lessons and perspectives of those doing the heavy lifting. But few are sharing. Yes, you may find a directory of social media policies, but I challenge you to find policies that are fresh and reflective of the culture instead of copy and past versions of other policies. But, process? Unless it is related to a shiny new platform, few people are talking about how they make real time engagement work and scale across multiple business units.

The workflow is a key ingredient of a community manager’s toolkit. We cannot plan for every scenario that may play out online, but you can review past topics and conversations that have occurred online and in other communication channels. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. The function of a workflow is to streamline your communications, eliminate layers, and clearly depict process in simple, connected steps.

As if you needed another hat to juggle, think of yourself as a trauma surgeon and you must navigate all the nerves obscured by trauma or disease. You need a map to navigate your approach. It would be helpful if those nerves were tagged with a fluorescent compound to reduce the number of nicked nerves accidentally nicked or severed during surgery. As a community manager, you are navigating the nerve paths in your organization so you can engage in real-time external conversations. Sometimes these communications paths are blocked because of hierarchy, miscommunications, and a host of other problems common to internal communications.

Build a workflow mapping the connections of the nerve paths in your company and how communication is passed among the business units. Similar to the fluorescent compound surgeons use, highlight those paths a community manager will need hooks into to meet the expectations of your community, so you or another authorized representative can respond at the right time with the right information.

What communications / nerve paths are you highlighting in your workflow? Are you mapping the connections by phase and function? Please share your lessons learned.

Dear Community Manager,

Today is your day.

Today is your day to take responsibility.

Today is your day to stop thinking tactically and own a seat at the strategic table.

Today is your day because no one is going to hand you your dream role on a silver platter.

Today is your day to own what community management means to you, your organization and your community.

Today is your day to keep beating the drum and show your organization how the fluffy side of engagement aligns with business goals and objectives.

Today is your day to share the stories of community members with folks in your legal, human resources and IT departments.

Today is your day to understand and embody the needs, challenges and desires of those you represent.

Today is your day to begin mapping connections between the organization and the community to find gaps and opportunities for monitoring, observation and engagement.

Today is your day to educate your organization about what it means to be a community manager through your actions.

Today is your day to be what the community needs you to be at the time they need you to be it.

Don’t squander away the this day or any day. Own today for all todays.

Give your words power. Live them. Breathe them.

I am not a big fan of resolutions, just as I don’t wait until the end of the year to evaluate success. I prefer to always be in a state of progress (towards perfection, of course). Last year, I was introduced to the concept of three words to live by instead of setting typical resolutions. Rather than keeping the words I have chosen for 2012 close to my chest, let me share what I have chosen to become this year. You hold me accountable.

Coordinated

All of us know I love a beautiful flowchart and have a process or dashboard for everything I do. When I say I want to be more coordinated, this is not to be confused with more organized. I want to see, feel, hear and touch the process. Become one with the process as a dancer becomes one with music. My organization skills are like the choreography of a dance. It is time for me to know more than the steps, but dance them, as well. I want my feet and hands to move in sync with rhythm of the music.

Author

I have been saying for quite some time how I want to be a writer, a novelist. To be such, one has to write.  I have not been writing. Fear has been my greatest obstacle and I am working each and every day to conquer that beast…the beast of my own creation. The characters in my head have a story to tell and it is my responsibility to give them a voice.

Tempted

I would not describe myself as being impulsive. I do love a plan (especially when it comes together), but it is time to live in the moment. I will not become the extreme opposite and embrace the wild child within (some of you have seen this Lauren). Instead, I will embody the attitude to take action when an opportunity is presented. Perhaps this new attitude will lead me to a destination half way across the world or an afternoon at a local museum. Whatever the adventure, I am ready.

All that said, I need to go build a mind map now and determine how I am going to make these words my reality!