Don’t Put Experience Out to Pasture For Social Media’s Sake

flickr: Linda Dougherty

I was at a benefit dinner last weekend to help provide services to support aging seniors when the conversation turned to social media. An executive-level woman who has extensive experience in nonprofit fundraising offered her best advice­: “hire the young.”

It was ironic that, while attending a dinner that supported the aging, a key benefit of aging–experience–was being so dramatically overlooked.

I cringed at the woman’s advice. Don’t get me wrong, as a college instructor I want you all to hire my newly graduated students (and interns!), but what many seasoned professionals overlook when they go looking for social media solutions is the value of their own experience.

Some keys to successful social media

Before any social media campaign will be successful, you first have to know your audience–the topics that motivate them, the pet peeves that irritate them, the media they consume and how and when they consume it, the events that will get them off the couch and out the door (even when its pouring rain) and what and who they find credible.

You have to be able to find commonalities among other communities and be courageous enough to form partnerships or co-op opportunities. You have to know how to compose messages that strike a chord, and then design mechanisms to listen and respond. You have to be a bridge builder over waterways that twist and turn with each new administration and regulation.

You have to be confident enough to stand atop the tower and assess the grandeur of the forest, while not being so taken with its beauty that you fail to notice the report on the beetle infestation in the trees below. And if you get something wrong, you have to be humble enough to admit it, fix it, apologize and carry on.

Skills a seasoned professional already has

All these concepts that are second nature to seasoned marketing or public relations professionals are of great value in social media campaigns. In other words, if you are a seasoned professional considering social media, you already have a lot of the strategic thinking it will take to begin a campaign…now add a heaping dose of interactivity and a boat load of new (and often untried and difficult-to-measure) tools.

Yes, the tools are new, but you still start planning social media campaigns with the outcomes desired at the forefront and build a plan based on communication with the audience (or, as Dan Gillmor calls social media audiences, “the former audience,” to indicate the enhanced interactivity).

Why a SMeRT may be a SMART place to start

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by social media. It is expanding fast and it’s difficult to keep up with all of the new technologies, tools and metrics.

Dean Giustini, the biomedical branch librarian at the University British Columbia wrote an article last year for the Journal of the Canadian Health Libraries Association where he explained how he and his colleagues had formed a SMeRT to help them get a handle on social media.

SMeRT stands for Social Media Research Team and, according to Giustini, “The SMeRT librarians have wide interests pertaining to social media and have identified a number of research areas that are of interest. First and foremost, however, we have come together to share our ideas and to build a supportive, collaborative network.”

What I like about the SMeRT model is that the group doesn’t look only to the outside social media gurus to have all the answers. They start as experts in their field who want to expand their tool base to be more successful.

The individuals in the group create Slideshare presentations to share among their SMeRT and with any one else who may be interested. It’s an open learning concept facilitated by seasoned professionals.

A part of everyone’s work

In his conclusion, Giustini writes, “Looking to the future, social media is a part of everyone’s work in libraries. Social tools continue to be used in innovative ways but are disruptive to our traditional methods of service provision. In other words, how will we maintain our traditions of service in the face of so many online tools?”

With just a few word changes, that quote could just have easily been said by any hospital marketing director … and be as true.


How we help

Hive Strategies helps hospitals engage patients through social media. We don’t manage social media. Instead, we help hospitals develop an effective social media strategy and mentor them through the implementation process. Read about our services. Start a conversation. Email us or call us at 503-472-5512.


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