Beth Kanter and Allison Fine accurately quip in “The Networked Nonprofit” that “social media is a contact sport.” You can’t expect to succeed without getting your hands dirty. As it happens, that’s just how the young nation of Israel agrees to learn the Torah – standing at Sinai, overwhelmed by the presence of the Divine, they collectively intone “na’aseh v’nishma” (Exodus 24:7 – what an appropriately enumerated verse). Loosely translated, “we will do, and (then) we will hear/understand.” Or, even more loosely translated, “first we will give this a try, then we’ll have some idea what it’s all about.” Israel agrees that the Torah is not an intellectual exercise, it is a lived experience.
“Na’aseh v’nishma” is your social media call to action. Knowing conceptually that it would be useful to connect with other people free of the constraints of time and space is an important step. But it can’t compare to, for instance, engaging your network on Facebook to help find the modern equivalent of “na’aseh v’nishma.”* Sensing that social media increases the likelihood of serendipity doesn’t hold a candle to finding your next job through Twitter. Believing that social media is a key part of your communications strategy is very different from putting that belief into action. But what about those who need to feel the ROI (or rather, ROE – return on engagement) before diving in? What about the “lo n’aaseh” (“we will not do”) folks? On the one hand, there are those who will take on this challenge only because they “have to.” A friend recently told me about a colleague in her office who, upon taking the job, was cajoled into creating a Facebook account for the first time. The position involved working heavily with teens, and the person he was replacing realized as he was ending his tenure that he had missed out on opportunities for engagement by avoiding social media – “Facebook” was the advice he passed on to his successor. The new colleague is seeing early signs of success, meeting the teens in their own space, in their own language. Another friend had a similar experience:
On the other hand, there are those for whom working in social media may never feel like the right fit. It may move too frenetically, require too many technical proficiencies, feel too exposing or time consuming, or any number of things. At the same time, social media is becoming part of the vernacular of our culture. Even the most reluctant of us may have to reexamine our practice in light of new ways of working. This is a familiar story to some:
Ultimately, you can’t really “get” social media without saying “na’aseh v’nishma” and engaging it as a contact sport. Facing reluctance is tough – there are always reasons not to do anything! So if you’re working on a co-worker, easing them into working with and through social technologies, it would be useful to have the following things in mind:
- Have a plan and a goal. Pick one thing, something that requires little effort, but can reap big rewards. Choose an internal project to work on in a Facebook group instead of over email, or tweet out questions during conference calls to solicit input from your organization’s followers and fans instead of (or as part of) a newsletter. Talk about both how things change, and what that means for your work.
- Blend online and on-land experiences. Reference Facebook in phone calls, share a great question from an email conversation on LinkedIn, bring digital spaces into your in-person conversations. These online spaces are not something “other,” they are powerful connective tools that can weave worlds – and people – together.
- Once you get started, remember that these things take time. Look for the bright spots, the places where your colleague is having success (or learning to redefine success). Focus on those, and encourage growth from there.
With social media, as with so many things, the understanding is in the doing. Admittedly, this is no easy task. Success in social media does take an investment of time, energy, thought…much like any meaningful human relationship. But this is how we learn. We do, and we do again. And then we understand. What was your “na’aseh v’nishma” moment? When did the “doing” make all the difference? (Share your voice in the comments and one lucky commenter, chosen at random, will receive a free copy of the book “Switch”.)
*The modern equivalent of “na’aseh v’nishma” could arguably be found in cognitive psychology: “effort justification.” It’s a fancy way of saying that when we work at something, when we dig in and invest ourselves, we understand it better and appreciate it more. Hat tip to Jay Schreiber and Rabbi Josh Yuter for helping me out on that one.