Give social media the respect it deserves

FCW cartoonist John Klossner admits that he could benefit from taking social media more seriously.

And to listen to my daughter.

I did not learn of the death of Osama bin Laden from a newspaper, print or digital version. I did not hear report of his passing from CNN, Fox, MSNBC, or even Oprah. I did not overhear it in the grocery store.

No, I learned it from my 14 year-old daughter. She in turn had heard of the successful attack via her Facebook friends, who had been posting it all night long for her to see and inform me when we both woke up that Monday morning. Maybe I need to take a lesson from her and check my FB page upon waking. Maybe I need to take another lesson from her and check my FB page every half hour, instead of once a month like I do now.

To this point I have not considered my 14 year-old daughter a hard news source, unless you count the theme of last week's episode of "Glee" as hard news. Part of this is the parenting process – up to this point, I have been able to lord my worldly knowledge over her, discounting anything that she knows that I don't as "junior high school drivel." (I think that has been able to work so far because she doesn't know what "drivel" means. I'm hiding behind a 1960s vocabulary. Or, in this case, an 1860s vocabulary.)

Part of this is my not treating FB as a useful information outlet in my world. (My wife, for example uses FB as a means for public announcements and communications for the several committees and organizations she participates in. I wouldn't consider it productive to use FB to announce the several new obscure YouTube clips I discovered today.)

But now I have to start trusting my daughter as a source for more than the name of the latest teen YouTube sensation. I'm actually looking forward to it, as I'm beginning to view every one of my relationships – both flesh and digital – as another "hard drive," which I can tap into for various data. My daughter, until this point, had been my hard drive for all data important to her age group – pop music, the latest Twilight movie information and pointing out to me which one is Taylor Swift. This latest experience means I can now count on her for more than saving me the time spent reading the latest issue of People magazine.

Actually, this doesn't have as much to do with my daughter growing up as it does with me growing up and learning to respect every potential information source.

I have been considering this as I read a GovLoop discussion on skills needed to be a social media manager in the workplace. I think the one skill needed – besides knowledge of the established social media networks – is openness to all the potential sources. There is a quilt of social media possibilities out there, and the good social media manager, while knowing how to best use the major networks, also would do well to keep their eyes, ears and fingertips open to previously unknown and unused social media sources, and how people are using them.

This isn't as easy as it may appear. There is a systemic fear in this: fear of the "social" element in social networks. Many offices still do not encourage social network use, or outright prohibit it, for fear of the social taking precedent over work. This is a tough line to straddle: When does a conversation cross from being social interaction to being work? We can't monitor each and every conversation that takes place, whether it be oral, digital or passed around via handwritten notes.

The rules of employee oversight – are they getting the work done or not? – should apply in all office interactions. I don't think we can prohibit digital conversation just as we can't monitor/prohibit conversation taking place in the office hallways. This fear of social networks could prohibit potential growth through the use of these networks. (At least that's what I read on GovLoop. It's enough to make me want to start checking my Facebook/LinkedIn/GovLoop/Twitter/Quora accounts more often.)

John Klossner on social media