I am often asked “What is it like to work with The United Nations or The European Commission”. I struggle with the question because I don’t. I work with people who work for those organisations. In fact I will be working with those people in both organisations again in the next couple of weeks. Our conversations will be about how they do social media and again I struggle. They struggle. It is not easy.
What is easy for them is to treat social platforms as channels on which to place content. Sure they can get better at making the content relevant for those channels and the tone more appropriate – but it is still content. It is not a conversation. On social platforms I want conversations with interesting people who work in interesting situations – it’s what they are for. The people I work with are really interesting and do really interesting things but most of the time when I visit their sites I don’t know who I am listening to. Often there is no way to talk back, or if there is it’s in a comment thread populated by other people not knowing who they are talking back to. Most of the time I disconnect and move on.
Many of the people I meet are at the front line in this shift of expectations. Some of them are being brave, being themselves, and forming genuine connections. Some of them are now friends here on Facebook. But it is not easy. How do you manage the tensions between being you and representing your organisation? Where is the line? How can one, very often junior, person represent their large, complex, often contentious organisation?
For me the answer is that they don’t have to. All they have to do is to be themselves talking about what they do, what they know, what they see and what it means. This is what I love so much about Hilary Clinton on Twitter. It is her being her, doing what she does, sharing it genuinely, not being indiscrete, sometimes being brave, and generally getting it spot on. But getting your organisation to let you do this is hard. I bet it was hard for Hilary too!
So could more people do this? Could people in commercial organisations as well as political ones do this? I know it’s not easy but the rewards for those who manage it will be huge.