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Sunday, 08 April 2012 00:00

We Don't Need No Stinking Social Media

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Dilbert Cartoon

I need your help. Why is it that as we get older, so many of us lose the desire to learn? Where is the fun in that? A few years ago, I was nearly sucked into it myself—at least for a few minutes. A half-dozen of us were sitting in a coffee shop talking about growing our businesses and conversation turned to Twitter—about its uselessness. As I drove back to my office, I thought, "The six of us ought to go tell the twenty million people using Twitter how foolish they are." With that utterance, I realized how I had been drug into the world of stasis. I spent the subsequent three days immersed in social media, studying Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and numerous other social tools. Now I am perplexed on how to get others to see the value. Let me fill you in on what I have learned about teaching people, maybe you can point out my flaw.

Learning Patterns

This is important to me since I like teaching people. It is my conviction that each time I interact with someone they should receive value from our meeting. Their significance could be through a connection to another person or giving them a tidbit of knowledge. Even through this blog, the goal is to educate—both you and me. I have read about various adoption patterns—ones classifying people as innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards—and I have simpler way to look at the problem. It appears that people can be classified into three broad groups—Facebook Facet, Bring It On Bunch, and Forget It Forum. The two at the opposite ends of that list are most intriguing to me.

The Bring It On Bunch

Surprisingly, the Bring It On Bunch is not the youngest. This group's ages range from 30 to 50. I was expecting it to consist primarily of Gen-X and Gen-Y. The Bring It On Bunch were the Twitter initiates five or more years ago and quickly saw the value of LinkedIn for expanding their network. At that time their age span was 30 to 45. There is something about the 30-year maturation point that transforms people from bagel-eating broadcasters to knowledge-sharing networkers.

Forget It Forum

The Forget It Forum spans a very wide age range from 20 to 80 with two bubbles in the undereducated twenty-somethings and the that's-beneath-me 50 plus crowd. They have abandoned learning because they seem to believe that they know everything important. Be it that they are pumping gas, eyeing the next C-level position, or somewhere in between, they are the ones that will be lost if their positions are outsourced. The Forget It Forum is disinterested and, possibly, incapable of learning anything knew. They advance and excel in politics rather than knowledge. Their prejudices and biases impede their advancement.

The Facebook Facet

The Facebook Facet is almost exclusively under 30. They want to share their lives and rarely worry about others. They are far more interested in instant gratification than exploring new concepts for long-term gain. Not everyone under thirty is this way and many leave the Facebook Facet to join the Bring It On Bunch around the age of thirty.

Five Hundred Cups of Coffee

What makes a 55 year old IT geek, project manager, business owner, grandfather, with a BS in chemistry (heavy on the BS) qualified to make such statements? Five hundred cups of coffee, 100 lectures, classes, and workshops, and 25 years of figuring out that rescuing projects and organizations required in-depth understanding of people and culture. It had nothing to do with process and technology. The most valuable? The 500 cups of coffee. Sharing an hour slice of your life, finding out what value you can give, and watching people's reaction when you give them something for free is a world of education. The reactions are as you might expect—Bring It On Bunch, "Thanks, what can I do for you?"; Forget It Forum, "Yes, but did you know..."; and The Facebook Facet, "Cool. Hey, let's ride bikes!"

My Quandary

Recently, I was talking to a Bring It On kind of guy. He wanted to meet since I will most likely be on the board of a local IT professional organization. After my desire to run for a position was announced—I am unopposed—I gained instant friendship with every IT products and services vendor (aka Facebook Facet) within a hundred mile radius. But, I digress. He was not a vendor and his focus was far more altruistic. He wanted to increase the organization's social media presence and, by doing so, educate the membership. He feels it is incumbent upon the organization to bring IT executives into the social media world kicking or screaming. (I think he meant they would be kicking and screaming not us. I will ask for clarification.) I was hesitant, to say the least. Having raised three kids, I know the reception to unsolicited educational suggestions.

The Big Question: Educating the Unwilling

With all my zeal and use of social media, knowing the value that it brings, and aware that most companies enter this world despite the efforts of IT, it was me that was dragging my feet on expanding the horizons. Am I a curmudgeon thinking it is impossible teaching the Forget It Forum a new tool? The old adage sticks in my brain—do not try to teach a pig to dance, you only annoy the pig. Therefore, I am reaching out to the greater social media world for some collective advice with one simple question:

What method should you use to get people, especially IT leaders, who are in denial of social media's value to spend the time to understand its breadth and depth?

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