A New Mission for the Assistant Senior Patrol Leaders of Social Media

When I was in Boy Scouts as a teen, serving as Assistant Senior Patrol Leader or some sort of youthful post of authority, I had a moment that made me step back. Teaching a younger Scout to tie knots, I got him to learn the bowline (not the easiest one, but one you needed to know for camping, boating and wilderness survival). That in itself was not remarkable- but the look he gave me when the switch flipped and he “got it” was. It was then that I realized the impact things I do can have on people.

Fast forward a number of years:  having been active in social media for some time now, the biggest change in my industry (ostensibly, public relations) since about 2005 is the growth of a new, public face to communications professionals. Many of us have become, more publicly, the equivalent of that Assistant Senior Patrol Leader (some of us even have badges– look at our blogs!)

While doing the work of making our clients famous, we are also working on our own fame, and that’s…ok.  We blog, we Tweet, we update our Facebook status, and make other media such as video and audio. Now, many of us write books.

For this, many of us get “influence.” Here’s where the Assistant Senior Patrol Leader thing comes back at us. Even if you don’t perceive yourself to be on some sort of social media marketers’ “A-list,” the things you say have an effect. Are you getting that “look” from people I described in the opening paragraph (and is that a good thing)?

Is what you are saying contributing to the betterment of the industry or are you just blowing hot air to keep the balloon up? While I’m happy to prop up egos- goodness knows we need some ego to succeed in the marketing and PR industries- and give public kudos to our professional friends, I’m just as happy to prick holes in the ego balloons, including my own, as well

There is a reason (well several) this blog has been a bit less active lately. I’m happy to hear myself talk and think I’m oh-so clever, but if I don’t have time for it, it’s not a priority. When I do write, I want it to be different- something that isn’t better placed on my employer’s Voce Nation blog.

A New Mission- For Social Media, um, “Leaders:”

(Some of you thought I was going to use another word there, admit it)

  • Explain yourself- if you recommend something, tell us why (succinctly please) We are all recommending links and videos and whatnot, if you really want to cut through
  • Allow dissent. Of course you do that already, who am I kidding? Ok, then– encourage dissent and debate. Demand it. If you are droning on and on about your latest social media treatise, you are more likely putting us to sleep than bettering the industry. Challenge us, don’t tax us. Id people troll, and they will, well, that’s their problem not yours.
  • Consume your own content. Yes, we are proud of your book, and by all means you should- you must- promote it. but look at what you publish- are you a leader or have you flooded your content stream with your own marketing spam? Don’t get away from what made you good enough to write that book.
  • Remember you are an Assistant Senior Patrol Leader. Live for that “look.” The good stuff will get it, the rest will wither and die.

A New Mission- For the Social Media Audience:

This isn’t the first time I have discussed the “responsibility of the audience.” here, I am thinking of something more active than being critical in your reading and thinking

  • Hold people accountable. none of us should be just throwing pronouncements out there without discussion- no one is King of Social Media. If someone Tweets that a video is good, ask them why. A video is at least 5 minutes out of your very busy day. You should be able to give reasons.
  • Don’t just agree. Yes, your favorite blogger just wrote the most amazing screed ever written. No, you can’t possibly see anything you disagree with in anything your Hero writes. You just have to surface and say “Great post!” right? No you don’t. By the same thinking as in the last bullet, explain why it’s great. Add something (and if someone just says “great post” in the comments here, I will challenge you to do better).
  • Think for yourself. That’s a little like the above, but add to it that you needn’t be part of some pack that can’t brook disagreement with your heroes. I’m told these people exist (though I have never been so attacked– maybe I’m nicer than I thought).
  • Filter. The inane and boring exist- they are part of our lives, and mixed into our Facebook and Twitter streams (perhaps less so in our blogs). Somebody cares what the Kong of Social Media had for lunch. Ignore and move on.