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Why You Probably Don't "Get" Social Media

You may not intuitively understand social media. Not because of a lack of understanding or technical acumen prohibiting you from using some internet connected device and hosted social media software, but more likely because you don't feel the internal need or drive to put forth the effort or energy to embrace it.

As social media continues to accelerate as a method of connecting people to one another as well as to news, information and other snippets of value, I keep thinking about people who aren't all that social, are not inherently "connectors," or are folks who are not all that interested in connecting with other people, especially in some virtual way.

Years ago I always thought not being social was, well, being antisocial. It meant you were one of the weirdos who smell bad and can't be trusted around small animals or children. The people you see leaving Blockbuster on a Friday night with 10 videos...for the weekend. The hermits whom I always seem to stumble upon when hiking in the Superior National Forest and who abhor bumping in to anyone.

Then I became enlightened.  

When I was running strategic alliances at Lawson Software the company sent all the VPs through various executive workshops run by one of the largest behaviorial consulting organizations in the country. One workshop I attended required a multi-layer assessment that resulted in my receiving a personalized report when I arrived in La Jolla, CA for the workshop. As it turned out, contained within it was a "motive profile" that surprised me greatly and consequently informed my own analysis of my social media behaviors along with understanding why many of the leaders with whom I interact could care less about embracing social media. 

One portion of this report focused on my motive profile which was based on the work of the late Harvard professor David McClelland. In his work McClelland proposed that an individual's specific needs are acquired, and change, over time and are shaped by one's early life experiences, but that there are three primary intrinsic motivators we possess which were hardwired in to each of us by the age of 3 or 4. 

Classified as either achievementaffiliation, or power (or what McClelland apparently wished he'd called that last one, influence, due to "power's" often miscontrued meaning) these motivators are key to 

I was surprised to discover that I was a "power V" with 91% achievement, 28% affiliation and 74% power. Pleased since it is an entrepreneur's profile (large organization CEO's and top leaders typically score in the power V range but score in the upper 90th percentile in achievement and power while being even lower in affiliation needs).

When these results were handed to me by the workshop leader I was stunned, since anyone who knows me would laugh at the notion I'm low on affiliation and actually not a social animal. I complained to our workshop leader immediately and he asked if we could post my results so the group could talk about them.

"What troubles you Steve," asked Dan, the workshop leader, as he wrote my scores on the board. I responded, "28% in affiliation!?! But I *like* people, can talk to a rock and have always been perceived as an extroverted good host at parties and a fun coach and mentor." Dan calmly explained to me (and the group) that what our scoring meant was the measure of what each of us needed to be whole and satisfied each-n-every day. He explained that I had an innate drive to achieve, a high desire to influence others, but that low affiliation score meant that I had a low drive motivating me to need to be around or connect with people in order to meet my daily core needs.

I calmed down as this was a remarkably accurate profile since affiliation with others wasn't (and isn't) a motivator for me. Though I find that my best ideas and energy come from being around others and brainstorming, I must admit that I do love and crave solitude while needing daily time by myself to feel whole. Learning this about myself was (and still is) incredibly instructive, but has been more so as I've been involved in the social media space. The lessons I learned from this personal "Aha!" has informed my interactions with executives and leaders while providing me with new insight into how to consult with companies on social media and internet platform initiatives.

So what's the lesson in all of this for you?

Almost all the other executives at that La Jolla workshop were the same relative motive profile as me. Other leaders with whom I've interacted through the years are also the same 'power V' as well. These are clearly sweeping generalizations, but my subsequent experience has proven them fairly accurate and worth noting as you consider what internal filters you might be using to decide on a strategy for social media use at your district or school:

1) Factor in your own need for affiliation when you're deciding on a go-no-go embracing of social media and/or how you look at proposals for the district or school to move forward on blogging, video use, collaboration or other communication forms which are social

2) If you're a 'power V' yourself and are the decision-maker, understand your own motives, needs and perspectives as you listen to the pitches and proposals from your staff and teachers (or your students), and factor that in when you listen to the vision being proposed

3) What works to get me engaged with social media -- and might be one you'll find useful too -- is when people who are connectors and love connecting people to others (like my friend with the biggest rolodex in Minnesota and over 9,700 connections in LinkedIn) see those connections and make them. Reach out to the connectors in your life to counter-balance your perceptions and, possibly, run your social media initiatives

One senior leader from a organization I talked with recently -- who has an atypical awareness of the social media technology space but admits he could care less about building relationships, community or honing his people skills -- said it best when I asked why he didn't invest time using Twitter sending out tweets, blogging or otherwise creating a presence in the social media space. "Because I'm getting (expletive deleted) done and I can't invest my attention or energy there."

Point taken, point proven, and yet he still is guiding one of his staff to move forward on a myriad of social media initiatives because he knows it's a powerful communication mechanism, quite inexpensive, and his people are having fun with it infusing their outreach with enthusiasm and passion...and that's what superior communication is all about in his view.


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This is good to read and I appreciate it that you shared something good. Thanks.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Accelerating Change are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.