The blind leading the blind

In today's ironic category, Nae Priest sent me an article from the AHDI Plexus publication (which I no longer get because I'm not a member). Diving into the Social Networking World strikes my funny irony bone because it's written by Lea Sims, director of communications and marketing for AHDI.

If there's something AHDI hasn't really mastered, it's social networking for business purposes and online marketing.

I'm going to ignore the social networking for personal reasons that the article covers. In my opinion, a discussion of social networking for personal use has no place in a business journal.

What's left is a useless discussion of social networking for business. And my educated guess is that it's useless because the communications and marketing director at AHDI doesn't have a really firm grasp on how to really harness the power of social networking to promote a business.

Years ago, when I was a member of AAMT, Mike DeTuri told me they have a communication problem. I replied that I didn't feel it was so much a communication problem – people just didn't listen to what they were saying. I'll never forget his snappy response: “Isn't that a communication problem?”

Indeed!

Let's take a look first at their use of the very popular Twitter social networking site. The AHDI Twitter account is at least complete with picture and background. In contrast, the MTIA Twitter account looks like the red-headed stepchild of the communications and marketing department, with the default background and no profile picture. At least the profile is otherwise complete! But here's why the Twitter accounts are so indicative of how AHDI communicates… they aren't using Twitter to communicate with people and build relationships – which is the very hallmark of social networking online – they are using it to talk at people. AHDI follows exactly 2 other Twitterers, and one of those is MTIA. They have 128 followers.

Twitter Followers: Having Twitter followers is essential. I looked at the Twitter account of a friend who is an author and I told her she didn't have enough followers. She said she was being selective about who she followed. I understand that – to a point. However, if you have no or few Twitter followers, you are talking to yourself – you might as well not be on Twitter at all. If you don't have followers, you are being cybersnubbed. You might not mind from a personal perspective – but you should mind from a business perspective. No business ought to be talking to nobody.

Twitter Following: If a Twitter account holder doesn't follow any/many people, they are the ones doing the cybersnubbing. They are not building relationships – they are indicating they only wish to engage in one-way communications. In other words, they want to talk at you, not with you.

Experienced people who use Twitter to promote their business know that building relationships is important. You have to actually engage other people. Otherwise, it isn't social networking. The rule of thumb is 80/20 – 80% of the time you should be engaging others and not promoting whatever it is you're there to promote and 20% of the time you can spend on self promotion. AHDI's use of Twitter is not interactive. They don't follow enough people to be listening and engaging.

And that's just Twitter. Their use of LinkedIn is so minimal, they might as well not be using it at all.

When I was at the TEPR meeting in January, I was talking to a friend who had a booth there. He was telling me about the cost of attending and how little real business he was getting from exhibiting there. I told him he could find more qualified leads at LinkedIn for free than he was getting at the conference, but he's not using LinkedIn effectively. Well, neither is the communications director at AHDI. Lea Sims has 1 – yes, that's a big, whopping ONE – connection at LinkedIn. And yet, LinkedIn is one of the oldest and largest business-oriented networking sites. By not actively engaging in this community, AHDI is missing out on a huge opportunity to network and educate.

AHDI seems to do somewhat better when it comes to Facebook; but again, it appears they are talking at people, not engaging and networking.

Social networking for business can be extremely effective, but it is networking. It requires time, effort and two-way communication. The benefits can be enormous. The number of people networking and communicating online is exploding and most social networking sites provide a free platform to tap into those markets. There are business segments that understand this, study how to tap into it – and work a plan. Others simply flop around, getting bits and parts right but they have no cohesive plan or they aren't willing/able to commit the resources to doing it right.

I acknowledge that doing it well is time consuming. However, if you aren't willing to take the time and you don't actually use social networking effectively for your business – don't put yourself out in the community as an authority and don't write articles and give webinars as though you know what you're talking about.

What is that CMT credential worth

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16 thoughts on “The blind leading the blind”

  1. It’s always great to see you throw it out there, Julie, even when I’m on the receiving end of it. I would be the first to admit that our early forray into the social networking realm has been a learning experience, limited greatly by the fact that the AHDI/MTIA “communications” department is a department of 2 people, and if I’ve learned anything in trying to put us out there in the social networking stratosphere, it’s that it requires all of the things you’ve mentioned above – something that virtually demands that someone with the time and resources to commit to it is giving it their full-time attention, and quite frankly we are challenged to do it for one, much less two, organizations. We have chosen to put most of our efforts into Facebook, with some early good results and we are not just talking “at” people there. We use Twitter mostly for events, though I have linked our Twitter and FB pages so we can try to kill two birds with one stone. We are personally engaging each person who posts to our wall, getting them connected to the resources they are asking about, and helping them connect up to our other groups on FB. The greater connectivity happening through FB, is through news feeds, comments, and dialogue back and forth on an individual basis, and I’ve done some tremendous networking there with people as have other members.

    No one here would ever claim to be an authority on social networking – I wrote that article to help our many members understand just the concept of social networking because we can’t get them out on Facebook if we can’t get them over their fears of that environment and the security of it. The vast majority of them tell me that they don’t even understand how it works. The webinars I’ve given were simply to introduce people to FB, so I’m not sure where you got the idea that anyone was touting themselves as a social networking expert around here. Every one of us, including me and my staff of 1, is just learning. We’d be the first to tell you that we’re still trying to figure out how to make it work for us, balance it all, and commit resources to it. There are just too many days when we are bogged down in other priorities to Twitter or network the way I want to.

    As I cannot disagree with the “schooling” you chose to throw out today on how to effectively socially network, I’ll choose to receive it in the spirit I’m sure it wasn’t intended, which was to help us do it better.

  2. When you charge people money for a webinar, you’re putting yourself out as an authority. And as for writing an article for an association publication – are you saying your members can’t trust the articles in Plexus to be authoritative? And if not, which ones SHOULD be trusted? And how do they tell the difference? Why would you publish something that WASN’T authoritative?

    Let me put this in a different perspective, Lea, by rephrasing what you seem to be saying here.

    I don’t really have time to be a really good transcriptionist – I’m just trying to show other people how to do it.

    I don’t care how AHDI runs its social networking – I understand it’s time consuming. My objection is someone doing a less-than-stellar job instructing other people on how to do it – and charging money for it.

  3. Given the fact that you haven’t attended any of those webinars, I’m not sure you have the right to question what the scope of those webinars has been. Introducing people to Facebook and walking them through how to set up a profile, how to change their security settings, how to post status updates and photos, and how to search and add people is something anyone with FB experience could do. I just happened to be willing to do it, as have a couple of other volunteers. And the people who have paid for it have expressed a lot of excitement about having that information and being able to more confidently venture out on FB. I haven’t offered a single webinar to business owners on how to use social networking to build up or grow a business since I’m no longer a business owner and I am still in the process of learning (mostly from ASAE) how to make it work for nonprofits.

    And the article in Plexus was designed to provide our readers with some history and general information on a subject they have expressed a lack of comfort with. And you won’t bait me with your comments about “authoritative” publishing, Julie. There are all kinds of articles, including invesigative and research pieces written by staff writers who are not “authorities” on their subject matter – they are simply reporting what they have researched. If there was a standard suggesting that in order to write about something in public media you had to be an authority on it, very little writing would get done by an one. I’m sure you are well aware of that. And when you are a nonprofit publication that doesn’t pay its writers, you have to do a lot more research writing than simply publishing the article of a “leading authority,” though we try to balance between staff writing and authored submissions as best we can.

    And the fact that by your own admission you are not member, coupled with the statement, “I don’t care how AHDI runs its social networking,” tells me that your post wasn’t directed at AHDI but at me. The fact that you chose to spend your Saturday calling me out and criticizing me personally in a public forum about how “less-than-stellar” a job I’m doing socially networking for an organization you have no interest in quite honestly says more about you than it does about me.

  4. Oh please, Lea – I am and have been for years critical of people who charge money for dispensing advice when they have no demonstrated expertise in the advice they’re giving. If Mickey Mouse was sitting at your desk, I’d say the same things. You can choose whether or not you take it personally.

  5. “Years ago, when I was a member of AAMT, Mike DeTuri told me they have a communication problem. I replied that I didn’t feel it was so much a communication problem – people just didn’t listen to what they were saying. I’ll never forget his snappy response: “Isn’t that a communication problem?”

    I wish I could say I don’t agree with that, but I do, and I am a member so I reckon I can say that. Sadly, in the last 5 or so years, despite being told this over and over from members and nonmembers, the organization, I think, still has not managed to change either its tone or its manner of attempting to engage people, despite the much-lauded forays into FB and other social network sites. I am not sure why. Maybe it is just a basic inability to communicate on the same level as most other working production MTs I know that is the underlying problem.

    One thing I can definitely tell you is that YES, as a member, I most certainly do expect articles in a professional journal, the only tangible benefit I can actually hold in my hand from the organization I pay to belong to, to be authoritative and if they are not then just how in the heck can they be considered creditworthy for CEs as this one is for a credit in MT Tools — what is an MT tool about the majority of FB online postings cause I sure haven’t seen that.

    I can’t tell you about most of the other social network sites cause I don’t have time for them all, but I can tell you what my FB interactions from AHDI folks have consisted of … massive amounts of postings regarding FB polls, surveys, and games that those AHDI members participate in daily it seems, and, for the most part most of them are people I happen to know and like, so that is not the problem. I know more pirate nick names, favorite colors, who has found 8 trillion eggs online, etc., than I ever wished to know, to the point where I ended up blocking most of the AHDI folk’s wall postings cause I just don’t have that kind of time to wade through them looking for stuff that really does pertain to MT and not the online farm somebody just had a cow go belly up on (I have real cows that go belly up I don’t need to read about that online from pseudofarmers in the name of the organization’s greater good and fostering a feeling of togetherness or whatever that is supposed to be doing, cause all those games and polls sure are not what I think of as furthering the MT business or even just sharing genuinely “friend” information). There are rare exceptions, a few who have an ability to speak and talk online with skill, who are able to engage folks in real networking, but in the sense this particular article seems to be applying social networking to the business of MT or at least that is what I hope it is doing cause I don’t think telling people what the word “friend or fan” means on some sites really can qualify as a CE creditworthy … nope, I don’t see that happening.
    Nae

  6. And there is a big difference between dispensing advice and passing on information, Julie. I haven’t been dispensing social networking “advice” to anyone, least of all our members. But we can’t move into more “business”-oriented networking until we can at least get them to venture out online, so we’re basically at step 4 or 5 around here and you’re criticizing us for not having some kind of stellar business strategy for our networking, which makes your post and Nae’s a bit over the top for an organization whose members are just venturing out into the “social” aspect of these sites…if their games and posts and comments aren’t important enough for some to read, don’t read them. If it helps those students and members get connected to each other in a way that compels them to get involved, come to a meeting, or not feel as isolated at home, we’ve accomplished phase one, so to speak, of our early-in-formation strategy, because we recognize the developing relationships with each other is what keeps people connected to association life, beyond any particular issue or initiative. If that doesn’t pass muster with you, so be it. And for the record, Nae, Plexus is for working MTs not businesses. The value of a social networking article for MTs (and why it was assigned credit) was simply to help the at-home, isolated MT who may be clueless about social networking get a little more comfortable with it. If it helps them personally to feel less isolated, great. If gives them enough information to venture out there so they can start positioning themselves to professionally network on these sites, that was our goal. If you don’t find it credit-worthy, don’t submit the CE.

  7. “The value of a social networking article for MTs (and why it was assigned credit) was simply to help the at-home, isolated MT who may be clueless about social networking get a little more comfortable with it. If it helps them personally to feel less isolated, great. If gives them enough information to venture out there so they can start positioning themselves to professionally network on these sites, that was our goal. If you don’t find it credit-worthy, don’t submit the CE.”

    I would think that it is not a question of whether I, personally, plan to submit it as a CE, but more a question of how it got approved for a credit if it is not truly reflective of what a CE is supposed to be, isn’t it?

    Nae

  8. I keep thinking about this … you know, I guess what I would say if you were sitting here in front of me, Lea, is that you are the one with your name in front of us on a national organization website as the Director of Communications. In that capacity, it would be my assumption that if you are publishing and writing authoritative articles as part of your job, then it is also part of your job to deal with members and nonmembers who may or may not like or understand what those articles say in a reasonable, rational manner. To me that would be what communication is about. Maybe that is where Mike was so dead on with his comments so long ago now, with the exception of a very limited few, our organization simply has yet to learn how to do that job properly. I sometimes wonder if we ever will.

    We, as an organization, are the ones who keep asking folks what they don’t like, what they wish to see done differently, why they don’t see the organization as relevant enough to join up … aren’t we? If the folks we hire to do the job cannot communicate effectively and persuasively then how can we possibly expect our general membership and nonmembers to do so in return? If every time folks do tell us what they feel is wrong or off the mark is met with the sort of reception that gets repeated so often … they are not members so we don’t have to care what they think; or, the general members have never really supported our leadership vision, so as long as we have their check who cares what they think … then I don’t see how the organization can ever, ever succeed no matter how many social networks we troll around on, and no offense intended, but that is precisely the impression I have from your postings here … is this how a Director of Communications communicates? I don’t think that would fly for long working for many places I know of.

    If the intention of the article, as you seem to be saying here, was more that of luring people to become involved online in the organization itself rather than that of being applicable to the “job” of MT I don’t have a problem with that. It makes sense to do that and you know I think so, always have. But, how that equates to being creditworthy is a whole other ballgame that I would expect our staff members to understand full well. That some do not appear to do so is definitely a very wide communication chasm for me as a member.

    Nae

  9. Nae, I don’t disagree with that, yet I would take exception to the concept that just because I don’t appreciate being called out in a confrontational manner by a critical (by her own admission) nonmember that somehow that makes me an unresponsive leader. All of what you say here “sounds” very reasonable and earnest, yet as a member you chose not to engage me directly in a dialogue about your concern over the article. You chose instead to share it with an individual you knew would simply use it to sling criticism and censure me publicly. How that falls into the category of member-to-leader or leader-to-member dialogue escapes me and quite frankly always has. You assume that just because I’m not “all ears” and “thank you’s” when I’ve been publically dressed down by a nonmember that I am somehow lacking in attention to the concerns of members and nonmembers. That’s like walking up to me in public, slapping me on the face, then expecting me to stand there and listen with rapt attention to concerns and feedback. Truth slung in ill-concealed rancor and sarcasm is rarely well-received no matter how true it is. That’s just human nature.

    And yet, I chose to respond to Julie’s unduly harsh original post by admitting that the vast majority of what she said was true. And while I wasn’t remotely obligated to respond to her, I chose to say yes, you’re right…we’re just learning and trying to figure this whole social networking thing out. That was as “reasonable and rational,” and quite frankly transparent, response as it was possible for me to give. I was quite clear that while I don’t approve of the manner she chooses to criticize, I couldn’t disagree with the critcism. I believe I said, several times, that I’m still learning.

    As a point of clarification, we’re not just trying to pull MTs into the social networking realm to market the association (though certainly that’s a goal). We are trying to pull those isolated MTs who aren’t connected to ANY industry information into the technology future by using a social networking site like FB. The article was written primarly to say…hey, here is some basic information about how social networking sites work…and attempt to address some of the privacy/security concerns we’d been hearing people express at our events when we encourage them to get on Facebook. Before anyone can address the more complex subjects of how to “harness the power of social networking to promote a business,” we had to get people over the hump of “I’m not crazy about being out there in a public place,” and “Can people really see everything I’m doing?” and other concerns of that nature. Can MTs ultimately be taught to more powerfully and strategically socially network? Sure, but most of our members aren’t quite there yet, and I would venture to say that most MTs, member or not, aren’t quite there yet. And if they were there, I would be tagging someone like Nick Vanterheyden to get them to that next level and teach them how to do it.

    The article was deemed credit-worthy because it provides basic historical information about social networking, how it came about, what it means, how it works…and most professionals would find that a valuable starting place regardless of how they choose to use it. Whether an MT ultimately moves on to use it as a professional tool rather than a personal one, he/she still needs the basics of what it is and how it works. I considered it a Social Networking History 101 kind of article, and there are plenty of CMTs out there who need that basic information to even begin to explore the whole concept with more confidence. So we’ll just have to disagree on what is credit-worthy and what isn’t. That doesn’t mean I’m not listening. It just means we disagree. Quite frankly, that happens every single day around here with staff, leaders, and members. We’re all listening to each other and trying to make the best decisions we can. I have a very large editorial team of volunteers who provide feedback and help me shape the direction of the publications, and it was members of that team who prompted me to consider an article on social networking because most of them knew very little, if anything, about it.

    -Lea

  10. Lord love a duck … you don’t you even begin to see the problems in communication happening do you?

    By your own admission the organization is trying to get members, nonmembers communicating online, but you “prefer” discussion, especially if it is not complimentary to still take place behind closed doors, privately as it were. You wrote and published an article in a national publication … darned if I see anything in it that says “no one but members can read it or comment on it.” There is nothing here that says it is forbidden to share the magazine with anyone at all … why on earth would you even think that members should not share it, regardless of who it goes to? For all either of us know President Obama is reading it right now and either agreeing or disagreeing … would you tell him he could not comment on it publicly? We don’t get it both ways no matter how much we wish we did … either you seriously intended it is an article to be taken seriously in a national publication, open for anyone at all to comment on or you and the organization should not have published it all. Which is it? Either you were qualified to write it, as an authority, for CEC’s or you were not … which? Either you, as the published author, can take the heat of someone not liking what you have to say or you should not have published it. I am not sure what about that concept doesn’t really click for you, but there ya go. I am not sure that telling us your editorial team knows so little about social networking skills that the organization (i.e., you, as the author) is saying are so important as to be creditworthy is a very good ruler for this one and I am sure we disagree on that one as well.

    I wish I had kept that post of Mike’s … it should have been tattooed on foreheads or something.

    Nae

  11. Awww … phooey … I will say it myself, Julie runs rinky dink message doohickey stuff that won’t let me edit and make myself look more intelligent … rats 🙂 At least she is not struggling with the current problems MT Chat has with technology that we all hope will get solved soon … some good planning on her part I reckon! That’s what I get for trying to post in a hurry while I am still trying to work. Oh well, folks will get the jist of what I was trying to say and if not they can always ask, I never have minded looking foolish at times, it is part of life 🙂

    Nae

  12. I never said you couldn’t share it, though it is a member-only publication that we offer as a benefit to paying members, so members who choose to share it are not doing themselves any favors in that regard and we also don’t put it out publicly for nonmembers to see, which is why you have to be logged in as a member at our website to view it electronically, but that wasn’t the point. The point was that you said I wasn’t open to hearing from a member about it but you didn’t (a) engage me personally to discuss it or (b) even post your concerns yourself. You took them to Julie and she posted them. That was my point. So your posturing about how I wasn’t open to listening to a member was out of place with how this particular scenario unfolded. You chose to let Julie throw it out there and then jump in after the fact to support the argument.

    As for being qualified to do some research on social networking and write a credit-worthy article on it…I was as qualified as any other staff person or volunteer writer that I have who might have chosen to do so. However, that doesn’t make me an “authority” on social networking nor would I claim to be so. Being able to show people how to get set up on Facebook also doesn’t make me an authority on social networking, but it doesn’t take some kind of social networking guru to show people how to post a status and figure out a news feed.

    What is ironic is that you haven’t suggested that the content in the article wasn’t accurate or well-researched, just that it shouldn’t be credit-worthy because I wrote it, which also makes no sense.

    And this is for me the last post I’ll be placing on this subject, both because I have a sick 19-month-old on my hands at the moment demanding my attention and because as usual it is nothing more than a verbal brawl between parties who have a long history of this kind of “exchange” and little true regard for each other, so it makes little sense to continue it, though I’m sure you’ll get your last word in, Nae.

  13. I realize you’re retiring from the discussion, Lea, but I want to make the point that you just don’t seem to get it…

    You seem to want to take this all personally and trust me – there’s a lot I could say that would be meant for you to take personally that I haven’t said. It wasn’t that YOU wrote the article that makes it unworthy for credit – it’s that it wasn’t written by someone who has demonstrated professional qualifications, as outlined in AHDI’s publication on CECs.

    But that’s a topic for another post.

  14. Well darn, I sure hate to disappoint, so, okay, I would love to have the last word. 🙂

    AHDI is a professional organization actively engaged in soliciting members, not the Brothership of the Golden Chalice or something with blood oaths and all sorts of eternal fealty swearing. For as long as I have been a member that magazine (under its different names and permutations) has actively been used as a membership recruiting tool. I have, myself, stood at 2 different annual meetings, once standing right beside you in the vendors hall, as we were putting it directly into the hands of members and nonmembers alike and not once did we go over a check list of “who do you like or not like in the organization” before we handed it to them. We have actively encouraged folks to get those magazines in the front of the public as much as we could to generate interest and hopefully ask about the organization … trying now to say the magazine is some sort of perpetually sacrosanct vessel because there are personal interaction difficulties between any of its authors and someone in the MT business who comments on a written article is really one of the more silly contentions we have come up with in a long time, if you ask me, which, of course you didn’t 🙂

    We have had many member-leader dialogs (how is that possible by the way when you are paid staff, not an elected leader, and have not been for years?) privately on this very same communication issue. Over and over again, in fact. It was made abundantly clear during our last discussion that it would not be welcomed again unless I changed my thinking regarding how the organization deals with its members/nonmembers. Since I haven’t changed my mind about anything I felt then I don’t see why I should have initiated any sort of personal dialog yet again. No offense intended, but, talk to you/not talk to you (as in organization, not you personally) … I really wish y’all would just make up your minds and stick with it.

    I am not the one reading personal insecurities into the words here, so I figure those are your own problems to deal with or to pretend do not exist, whichever one floats best. Certainly you have known me long enough to know that a private dialog would undoubtedly have been much less carefully worded as anything I would place here or at any forum because I would then have felt I was able to add organizational-specific points to the discussion reflecting more clearly my unhappiness about our lack of forward movement in this particular area that most certainly I would agree with you do not belong in public.

    We do agree on one thing. Occasionally we do you know 🙂 It is certainly true that without Julie’s blog and your specific comments on certain aspects of this particular publishing process making me look at that article a second time, from an entirely different viewpoint than I had of it at first, I would probably just have dumped that magazine on the pile for reading months from now. For sure it would not have occurred to me that the person one needed to consult about the suitability of any article being assigned CEC’s was the Director of Communications instead of the educational/credentialing arm of the organization. If you had not begun speaking to the points Julie was bringing up I would have probably fired off my email explaining my unhappiness about this to them without a second thought about who it should really go to, now I am sitting here trying to decide who really should be getting the darn thing and just how much I need to rewrite it.

    Nae

  15. My question about this organization is, why would you put someone who is paranoid and refuses to take any criticism, constructive or otherwise, about the organization (and seems to turn every criticism into a personal affront) in charge of …communication?

    Seems to be the lack thereof.

  16. Wow, you folks are really harsh on what I thought was a very well-written article. I can’t believe I just wasted 15 minutes reading the rants of some apparently dissatisfied ex-AHDI members/supporters.

    As a member of AHDI and its Facebook page, I’m very happy with what I’ve been seeing as far as their efforts to network with folks who otherwise wouldn’t know what an MT is and does. The monthly Vitals emails contain fantastic info on webinars, news items, and websites that have given me all sorts of new info and training.

    Sorry to hear that there are unhappy people out there, but at least for me and many of my MT friends and associates, AHDI has been supportive and a huge help to us both professionally and personally.

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