Anna 7.5 is a whole new version of child. It’s not just the pierced ears and newfound ability to style her own hair – she rides her bike within a 2-block boundary unattended, coordinates her own playdates, prepares her own lunch, reads “chapter books” for hours at a time, runs races, and jumps off the diving board. It’s been confidence building for Anna, and a lesson in letting go for mom. I’m struck each day by her growing independence, and have to take deep yoga breaths the first few times she does something new.
While watching newborn Anna sleep in her bouncy seat, my friend Laurie Hafner told me that as kids grow, it is the letting-go of parenting is the hardest. She said it sometimes feels like your heart has grown legs and is walking away. Now, I remember her words and wonder if she was warning me of the chest pains and shortness of breath that I experience every time Anna goes off into the world on her own. Yet it’s this independence that we’ve been preparing for since she took her first wobbly steps. She knows where she’s going, pays attention to her surroundings, and always comes home on time. She knows the rules of the road, uses hand signals, and always wears her helmet. She consistently stays within the boundaries I’ve set for her. She has proven herself responsible, trustworthy, and determined. Each day I feel so grateful for the opportunity to know her, to learn from and with her, and to hug her (but not in front of her friends!) before she rides off into the distance.
Anna’s independence is about more than just letting her bike to her friend’s house – it represents a cultural shift in our house, a redistribution of power and a redefinition of our relationship. In the world of business, a similar cultural shift must take place if an organization is to successfully implement a social media strategy. In his book, Smart Business, Social Business: A Playbook for Social Media in Your Organization, Michael Brito describes the cultural changes necessitated by social media. In social media and parenting, building the infrastructure to support change and encourage growth is indeed essential to success.
Here’s my version of Brito’s pillar:
- Get your house in order. Brito argues “organizations cannot and will not have effective external communications with consumers unless they can have effective internal communications first” (p. 3). Effective change begins in-house, where all involved (in business, employees; in parenting, family members) embrace and engage the brand and its evolution. Everyone needs to be on the same page, with a clear sense of brand identity – the who, what, and why of your organization – and the ability to communicate that to others. For Anna, this means knowing her address and phone number, the names of her parents, and having a sense of where her house is in relation to her community. For parents, this means knowing what you expect from your kids, what you’ll do if they do/do not meet your expectations and being able to communicate that in a way that is heard and understood. For families and brands, it’s about working together as a unit, collaborating on the important stuff and trusting others to handle their ends. Similarly, in Engage, Brian Solis states: “Before a company can collaborate with its extended community, businesses must first learn to collaborate internally” (p. 171). Engaging in social media isn’t just about conversing with customers, you have to listen to them as well, allowing their feedback and requests to influence the way you do business. According to Brito, this process should start within an organization first: firewalls and information silos should be broken down, allowing employees to engage with each other and with customers directly.
- Best practices. This is the “process” part of Brito’s book, which presents best practices for social media use in businesses, including the development of a social media strategy, the governance and training of employees, the integration of customer support into social media platforms, which technology platforms to use, budget management, how to get support from management and employees, and how to measure success. Rules and expectations must be carefully defined and behavior monitored in order to “protect, inform and educate” (p. 63) the organization in its entirety. Anna follows her own best practices, wearing her helmet, signaling turns, riding on the right side of the road, etc.
- The rules of engagement. Anna’s always been an early riser, so she’s ready to head out for her first bike ride by 6:30am, and I practically have to sit on her to keep her inside until 8, which for many families is still too early for entertaining guests. We have guidelines about who she can play with, when she can call on them, and the types of play we’d like her to partake in (i.e., you aren’t going to your friends house to sit comatose in front of the television… GO OUT AND PLAY!) To leverage the power of social media effectively, published content should be both relevant and timely, promote the brand, and reach the right advocates and influencers (a tall order in a 140-character tweet) at a time when they are likely to read and redistribute information.
Brito shows that social media doesn’t just change the way we communicate externally, it changes the way we think of ourselves as individuals, communities, and businesses. Applying these insights to my client, The LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland, reveals the need for a well thought-out strategy for social media use, with a clearly defined mission, communications that are relevant, and goals that are measurable. Additionally, we need to decide who the players will be, who will best advocate for our cause online, and establish or nurture our relationships with them. A tall order, but it success is just a few tweets away.