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Want to Master Social Media?
Then Say Hello to “Working” On Weekends!

“I believe that every communicator had better be deeply invested in and have a very strong understanding of web technology and social media.  I don’t think you can do your job any longer if you don’t.”

That’s what Teresa Detrich, who directs electronic outreach at the Lumina Foundation for Education, told me in the most recent episode of the Communications Network’s diavlog series (below.)  When I asked what it takes to develop such understanding, Teresa didn’t pull any punches. “You have to be passionate.  It has to be your avocation.  You have to work weekends.”

If Teresa is right — and five prestigious Web awards, including a Webby suggest she might be — the question is not if professional communicators should begin this journey. (If you are reading this blog post, odds are strong that you already have.) But, instead, how rigorously we should expect to apply ourselves to it.

If you want just want to keep your job, it may be enough to cruise the web when you find yourself with a down moment at work.  But Teresa claims that if you want to be a “change agent in your organization, this had better be your hobby.”

Fortunately, Teresa has found ways to have fun while she is learning.  She doesn’t confine her exploration to the world of education reform and philanthropy but wanders as far and wide as her creative interests take her.  Consider these links to viral video she sent me in the process of preparing for our conversation:

— Adolf Hitler is tapped to create a learning moment regarding the case for creative commons here.

— “Ask a Ninja” gives the basics on podcasting here.

— Darth Vader’s younger brother, Chad, illuminates the challenges of the non-celestial workplace here.

As a forty-seven year old, digital immigrant who has spent the past four years learning how social media can be used to advance change, I couldn’t agree with Teresa more.  In the first year, much of my learning time took place between 6 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. when I otherwise would have been sleeping.  It was there I began leisurely strolls through the blogosphere marveling at the connections I could so readily make there.

These days, I’m gaining new levels of fluency with tools like Twitter by focusing my avocational interest in men’s fashion.  If you are having trouble making time to learn what’s working on the web, consider learning through topics about which you are most passionate.  Another strategy is to invite your kids to orient you to what they find most compelling on the web.

Despite these “tricks” I have to admit that my commitment to professional development ebbs and flows.  The same thing can be said about my commitment to regular exercise and to eating well.  But no matter how far off track I get, I know I’ll have to eventually come back. The world is changing fast and we’ve got to change with it.

Fortunately, it is impossible to make this journey alone because it is inherently about relationships.  Teresa is a peach but she is only one of many I’ve found through the Network.  She may give you a leg up today but she will need you to turn return the favor tomorrow.  We don’t call it a Network for nothing…

–Susan Herr


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