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.


  1. Great piece, Doug. That’s a great example of how teaching should happen and why Scouting works. If we all spent more time giving people a hand in discovering on their own we’d all get ahead a lot faster.

  2. Great post! Nothing to add!

    (Kidding, I just *had* to.)

    I do agree with the content, however. I’ve noticed that as a blogger in this space becomes more prominent, the number of “Yes! You are so right!” type comments seem to proliferate, and the next step is that tolerance for dissenting opinions goes down–not by the blogger, but by the regular/frequent commenters.

    I’ve stopped adding comments to some blogs where I’ve observed this behavior. Even if the blogger allows for or encourages comments challenging his or her opinion, it’s no fun to get shouted down by other members of the “community,” which in reality has started to resemble more of a cult.

  3. As a veteran Senior Patrol Leader, Eagle Scout, and co-founder of a hashchat, I can say with certainty that what you said is spot on.

    One thing I’ll add is that if you have to admonish a member of your patrol/tribe/community, do it behind closed doors. Nothing breaks a tribe like open ‘abuse’ of power. It’s our responsibility to create an environment where we as the leaders are questioned, but within the tribe criticism is handled in such a way that there is a clean resolution.

    Great post.


  4. Thanks all for links and comments;

    David, I recently remembered that moment, but it’s been with me a long time. And I do want to keep getting it.

    Shelly- the “book” comment is my fave too (if I do say so). I understand that products need to be promoted, but when the promotion hijacks what made you valuable, it cheapens everything.

    Jen– why do I never get shouted down when I offer constructive comments on a blog? maybe I need to be meaner, or more direct (and I have no time for blogs that refuse to publish dissenting comments)

    Chase– well said re: taking admonition in-house– on the other hand, I would argue that public acts and statements should be rebutted, clarified, and even ridiculed in public. That’s the leader’s burden, being able to take the hit.

  5. Solid reminders here for both sides of the social web fence. I’m glad to see more and more people challenging this space. Accountability is something, I think has been lacking of late. I would only hope that someone who took the time to pay attention to what I say would give me honest constructive feedback.

  6. Even before I read the post the image brought me a smile. It brought memories of my childhood and teenage years as a cub scout and later on a boy scout.

    I sure remember tying the bowline (the real challenge was tying it with one hand). I had many people that where always willing to help me as it is now days. From Boy Scout to serving in the U.S. Army to holding various jobs I can say that always keeping people accountable is key.

    On my side I can say that my jobs have been more inclined to keeping people accountable from being a military instructor to being am IT Auditor my job is to ask questions.

    Where it really kills me is when people just follow other expecting something in exchange! when people say that something is great just to keep the other person happy!

    I think we need to run across more of these type of posts as a reminder that social media empowers us to be authentic and let our voice be heard not the opposite.

    Now can I say Great Post! :)

  7. Raul, you can say it, I can’t ;)

    “expecting something in exchange” is a great thought. You always are more likely to find something when you stop looking/asking for it, but simply deserve it. That’s the most difficult part of marketing

  8. Hi Doug-

    Couldn’t find a direct email for you so I’m attempting this method to connect. Would like to communicate with you about being a guest speaker on a January 7th conference call for the FIPA members.

    If I don’t hear back from you, I’ll try to connect with you via phone at Voce. Many Thanks!

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