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Taking the Time to Learn
April 25, 2013 - 10:01pm
Take time to tinker and learn

Consulting is oftentimes an exercise in troubleshooting or problem solving. Schools bring me in to talk about social media, strategic communications, and/or digital identity. That's the initial premise and while I end up covering the things that I'm "supposed to," there's more to it. Organizational change takes center stage. Divisions and departments don't always recognize it, but they are actually hiring me to assist in working through how they create change. One of the most consistent aspects in my work is the concept of time allocation. Everyone wants to jump in and implement social media tactics and while that is admirable, that is not step one. The beginning task for most people, the part that is the most difficult, is the act of carving out enough time to become fluent at whatever it is they want to do.

For example, let's say that a student affairs division wants to "ramp up" their use of social media. We talk about goals, outcomes, staffing, sustainability, storytelling, curation, scheduling, and experimentation. However, a large portion of the conversation goes back to how individual practitioners can create more space in their day-to-day lives with regards to how they can actually learn how to use the tools. Action and strategy are great from an aspirational sense. But, it's practically impossible to get that far along on the journey without significant experience. I can direct people to various "101" or "how-to" sites, but that is only part of the success equation. Practitioners have to dig in and get their hands dirty. Learn the lingo. Figure out the social norms. Get used to the channels that are most prevalent at your campus. It takes time. Carpenters learn their craft via hands-on experience. We must make, take, and create time for learning how to use the tools of our trade. And, in this case, a major set of tools in our kit are social media sites.

Every single school that I've worked with has gone through this evolution. Switching from a tools-oriented mindset to a strategic, tactical, and operations-focused lens takes time. An increase in the social media competency of an entire student affairs division is no small charge. Think of the possibilities that could (and can) be created once everyone has a certain level of foundational knowledge. Couple that fluency with the specific knowledge of a campus and its students. That would be game-changing.

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