I love my job. Working in social media for an esteemed institution such as Cornell is both fun and rewarding. Like the other growing number of community managers, not only is the depth of my creativity tested on a daily basis, but I have the pleasure of being firmly entrenched in the ever evolving technology sector.
After spending three days at the CASE Social Media Conference, I’m on a high from collaborating with other social media nerds. However, in yucking it up with my peers, I was struck with the notion that engaging in frequent, high-level strategizing needs to be accompanied with the understanding that the people we hope to engage don’t have the knowledge we do.
While at the conference, someone spoke about Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram. During the discussion, the session leader made a comment about how they personally didn’t understand the value of Instagram or why it was so popular. Now, one-billion dollars is a lot of money for anything, especially a photo sharing mobile app, but nevertheless the market has dictated it’s value, at least in the short-term. During the conference similar comments were made about Pinterest, one of the fastest growing communities of all-time. However, there are many out there who say Pinterest is a fad and will inevitably fail.
When we have these discussions with our peers in the tech industry, we love to discuss everything from emotional value to a network’s user interface. I love to spit-ball with my peers as much as anyone. When you work in higher-ed you constantly have the ROI albatross hanging around your neck and conferences are a nice retreat where you get to be amongst your own for a few days. But, to borrow from an underrated Harrison Ford movie title, these dialogues may represent a clear and present danger.
I represent the fortunate minority of people who make money using and learning about social technologies. With that in mind, we have to remember the people we hope to engage (in my case alumni) don’t have the luxury of tasting every entree on the buffet table. Where they are and what they use, is where we need to be and need to use. We can’t allow our personal biases as social media “experts” to lead our strategy. Certainly it is our job to be out ahead of technology so that we’re there when our constituency catches up, but getting too far down the road could be just as detrimental as being behind.
The thing I try to remember is that it’s not about me, it’s about them. It’s not my job to engage with people on the networks I deem worthy, it’s my job to engage with people in the space where the critical mass resides. If I detect there are thousands of Cornell alums on Pinterest, it’s my job to be on Pinterest, even if I think posting pictures of clothing and jewelry is foolish, as long as Cornellians are there, I’m there.
I have been a vocal opponent of Google+. Google+ is the go-to buzzword for the casual social media enthusiast. I like Google, I think they’re a swell company who has revolutionized the world, but my PERSONAL opinion is that Google+ is PRESENTLY a waste of my time. It’s not that I don’t like the design or the tools it offers, it’s the fact my target audience isn’t there. Sure, I created a page on Google+, just in case there’s a mass Facebook exodus, but for now I’m not devoting time to producing content for crickets and echos. The difference between this decision and turning a cold-shoulder to a network like Pinterest, is that Pinterest has a growing, active community, where as Google+ does not. (well they claim it’s growing, but it sure doesn’t feel active) This is an example of how our time and research should dictate strategy versus simply avoiding something because we personally are turned-off by it.
I’m a big fan of the NFL. Sundays between September and February are sacred. The only thing I detest about football is the over-analyzing we’re subjected to from former players and conceited journalists. I find myself wishing the TV coverage was as much about what happened between the lines as it was about predictions, second-guessing, off-field crime, and twitter scandals. [Side note: I also wouldn’t mind Chris Berman hanging it up. The puns and catch-phrases are wearing thin, Chris. Time to move on.] I worry we might see the emergence of social media pundits who spend their days acting as the tech-equivalents of Jim Cramer. BUY, SELL…..DOWNLOAD!
I fear it could be easy for those of us in the social media business to be tempted to craft a strategy based on our “superior intellect” versus focusing on user behavior and their preferred method of communication. There will always be networks we don’t respect, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t people using said network that deserve our respect.
You never know, that filter “enhanced” photo you posted on Instagram or the university blazer you pinned might be the very thing that connects you with a high-level donor…