A Little Help

Alan BelniakSocial Media1 Comment

What if I need help pressing 'help'?  Then what do I do?

I was attending the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston this past June when I got a phone call from a friend of mine.  I’ve written about this friend before.  He and his company (my former company) are trying to figure out how to leverage social media for sales or marketing or…  heck, they aren’t trying to leverage it, they’re trying to get their heads around it and just kind of figure it out.

My friend had just wrapped up a meeting with a senior steering committee where they were discussing social media.  My friend mentioned our previous dinner and highlighted parts of the conversation.  I asked how it was received, and he said it was received generally well, though some folks are skeptical.  Understood and expected, I replied.  My friend’s take is that they should go out there and test the waters a bit.  People are already saying things online and about companies.  Why not be part of it, get a voice heard, become an expert in a topic area, build a community, etc.?

Most agreed that this was a good approach.  Some pushed back, though, saying ‘what if an employee says the wrong thing?’ or ‘what if we get into some trouble?’ and things like that.  I replied that crafting some social media guidelines for company use will help stem those comments, as well as (and more importantly) stimulate interest in participating (guidelines like this tell employees that you want them to go out and create and interact and generate buzz and all the good stuff). But they need to be written well.  Moreover, they need to be delivered well.  Note the use of the word ‘guideline’ and not ‘policy’, ‘procedure’ or ‘decree’.

He was agreeing with me, and said that yeah, they’d like to do that.  And I offered to help. Note that I don’t work there anymore.  I’m not on their payroll.  But I love this space so much, and I have a personal, social connection with my friend and many others who still work at my former company… so much so that I’d really like to help out.  I’d set some boundaries here: I’m not going to write it, top to bottom.  In fact, I’m not really going to write it at all.  But I will point him and them in the right direction for resources.  And I’ll review a draft.  I’ll make comments and suggestions, and talk about suggested delivery.

The thing is, even if I had the time, I wouldn’t write it.  It’s not my document to write.  I worked with that company for eight years, and have a good sense of the culture, values, and aspirations.  But this was also pre-economic implosion, and lots of things have changed.  So, this is a document better written by the people still there.  They need to own it.  But if they need a jump-start or a pointer in the right direction, I’m glad to help.  They can even go here and get a huge jump-start.

The take-away is that this is social media in action, in a round-about way.  My former company will have a better end-product because of social interactions between two friends.  Mutual benefit will be gained (my friend: free help; me: more chances to do what I love).  And we’re doing so in a human way.  We’re using the technology only to facilitate the connection and the discussion; the rest is good ol’ fashioned conversation.

What do you think?  Have you ever helped out someone for a seemingly altruistic reason?  With no explicit benefit?  With maybe a benefit to be gained later on down the line (through a reference, word of mouth, or something along those lines)?

image courtesey of http://www.flickr.com/photos/matthiasorfield/368716706/