A Brief Post-Mortem

5 Oct 2010 by Randall Helms, 2 Comments »

So, the good news is that I finished and submitted the dissertation last Thursday.

What a relief!

I will have the full version online within the next couple of days. Honestly. However, in the meantime I will be posting some new content, including some of the interviews, as well as some of my thoughts on various social media issues.

To start off with I thought that it would be worthwhile to jot down a few thoughts about what I learned from writing (and not writing) this blog.

The first lesson is that keeping up your motivation to blog is not easy, as can be seen quite clearly from how I let this blog fall to the wayside! In the end, it proved very difficult – ok, impossible – for me to devote the time to blogging after spending an entire day researching, writing, and thinking about social media. The motivation simply wasn’t there, and so I let it slip.

Which wouldn’t have looked very good for anyone arriving at this page, whether from a search engine, LinkedIn, or from another source. This was one of the ideas explored in the report, that starting some kind of social media presence and then giving up looks worse than not starting in the first place.

And this was something I was guilty of!

Oh well, in any case, this was actually a very good example of one of the themes of the report, which is that whether you are a company or an individual, if you want to use social media to help achieve your business goals then you need to be willing to devote the appropriate resources to the job. Depending on the circumstances, this may be a matter of money or manpower or time, or some combination of the three. In my own case, it was simply a matter of time – because I was spending so much of the day working on the dissertation, I didn’t really have the time to devote to creating proper content for this blog.

Last week, Lucy Kellaway of the FT published the following question:

I am employed at a Fortune 25 IT company that is forcing the senior technical leaders to blog and engage in social networking. I have told my management that I don’t have time to write a blog that will mean something to those outside the company. The response was: “Just do it … you only need to spend a couple of hours a week in the evening working on this.” Why should I sacrifice my time outside of work on this? There is no way that a good blog on some technical topic can be done in an hour or two. Should I protest further or get with the programme?

Director, male, 40s

This is a great example of a social media venture that is doomed to failure. OK, maybe not doomed, because strange things do happen in the world of business, but I certainly feel confident in stating that this is unlikely to work. Why? There are a number of reasons why. The first thing that struck me when I read this was that the company doesn’t have a clear idea what they are trying to achieve with this blog. Obviously I am working on limited information here, but from this description it seems like there isn’t a clear business rationale for this project. ‘Other people are doing stuff with social media, so clearly we need to do something as well!’ If only things were that easy … if you aren’t clear about what you are trying to achieve, how will you recognize success or failure?

Furthermore, the company is treating it as an afterthought by asking its employees to devote their own personal time to this project. With the best will in the world, life has a tendency to intervene, so it is very likely that an initial burst of enthusiasm could carry this project forward before the volume of new posts got lighter and lighter before finally grinding to a halt.

Which would just make the company look bad.

If they really are serious about this project, then they should devote the proper resources to doing it well, by building time into the schedules of the employee-bloggers so that they can write on company time. If this project is not more important than any of the work that these employees are currently doing, then they should not be asked to contribute, which means that the writing should either be done by other, less important employees or someone should be hired explicitly to write the blog, whether as a full-time employee or on a freelance basis (depending on what they want to achieve). If the company is not willing to take these steps, then they shouldn’t start a blog in the first place.

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2 Comments

  1. Oliver says:

    Great post Randall, and a nice touch with the FT letter. Congratulations on finishing the disseration; I for one am looking forward to reading it!

    I couldn’t agree with you more on the points raised in this blog, and they are simple lessons that people fail to learn time and time again. From a news media perspective, reporters and increasingly editors are being forced to keep blogs. Motivation comes from a number of factors, primarily I would say reputation: we are working in a media environment and blogs are a well-established presence in our lives; pay: take a look at Forbes’ new venture, forcing all reporters to blog. They measure by amount of traffic generated and compensate the journalists accordingly, from what I’ve read.

  2. hi Ollie,

    That’s interesting about Forbes – I didn’t know they were doing that. I think it was Gawker Media that pioneered the whole concept of tying bonuses to pageviews. It makes sense, but I’m sure it has some side effects in terms of pushing people towards being less reflective and more controversial.

    I actually do think that it makes a certain amount of sense for media operations (newspapers, magazines, etc) to encourage their opinion writers to blog, since most journalists (in my experience, anyways) are pretty compulsive writers, so it’s not such an onerous task for them to keep it up. As above, I’m much more skeptical about people who aren’t professional writers being asked to write regularly, particularly if they are expected to do it in their spare time.

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