Social Media Isn’t For 13 Year Olds

A few days ago a super smart friend of mind posted a blog (“Perception and Boobs”) about the importance of calling out speakers and other professional presenters at conferences who wrap their product in a lot of intellectual theory and slick sound bytes, without actually offering anything of practical value. In her laundry list of things she despaired, she made the following statement:

“I’m sick of intellectuals treating social media like it’s NOT something a 13 year old can do.”

Wait . . . what?

Can you imagine your small business social media efforts being run by your kid or grandkid? Niece or nephew? I have several grandkids in the social media space, but I can’t see them successfully handling a customer complaint about quality or prices or customer service.

In fact, many small business owners – way over the age of 13 – are so busy feeding, nurturing, and defending their baby small business that they are the most unsuccessful social media managers in the space.

Recently, an owner of Mile End Deli in New York got into a  very public cat fight with a customer on Twitter and Facebook over a raise in prices. The debate escalated to the point that people began calling for a boycott of the business.


The deli had lost it’s commissary in Super Storm Sandy, and there is no doubt in my mind that the owner was under far too much stress to be worried about posting on Facebook and Twitter. Ultimately an apology was issued on Facebook.

So . . . is social media really so simple that a 13 year old can do it?

I don’t disagree with my friend’s premise that social media, like most subjects at professional conferences, can be over-engineered and presented in a way that makes everyone in the room think that they have to run out and hire the most expensive ad agency on the block. And she’s right that conferences, like the HR conferences that I attend frequently, are far too full of glossy crap instead of real substance, and that people should be complaining.

But social media – good social media – isn’t so simple that any 13 year old can do it. Not usually.

Having someone else take over your small business social media efforts may be the wisest choice, but don’t let your 13 year old do it unless they are more mature, understanding, patient, communicative, intelligent, and reasonable than you are.


July SHRMChat Recap – Conferences


Once again we had an interesting and lively chat, this time on the subject of conferences. You can see the preview post here, but I am repeating all of the questions we asked because I am lazy and it makes it easier for me to write. 😉

Q1. Excluding content, what are the 3 most important ingredients for a successful conference?

There were a lot of thoughtful responses to this question. Facilities seemed to be the most frequent answer, if you consider that facilities can include a large number of considerations such as wireless, the physical ability to network, and food provision. Food, in fact, was the subject of many serious tweets about its importance. Also included in the discussion of facilities was a suggestion to include electronic enhancements like charging stations or electronic kiosks. The ability for attendees to get online and stay online was clearly thought to be a priority by the chatters.

Q2. Can there be a successful HR conference without social media? Why or why not?

The consensus answer to this question was “no,” although there was a short discussion of whether that was what the chatters wanted, or what they thought attendees wanted. This question also prompted many tweeters to recognize HR Florida and the recent annual SHRM as models of using social media to engage the attendees as well as promote the events. One of the advantage social media brings, it was noted, is an opportunity to invest in future conferences through pushing and involving the speakers. In fact, there was an entire spin-off discussion about speakers and vendors during this time, with tweeters discussing the need to get speakers and vendors more involved in the overall fabric of the conference.

My favorite tweet regarding this question came from Curtis Midkiff, Social Media guru for SHRM. He stated that when social media is used effectively at a conference, it can thread together all of the components, such as marketing, speakers, attendees, etc., into a cohesive whole.

Q3. Name the top 3 social media practices a conference should use.

Not surprisingly, Twitter showed up on the list of almost everyone who responded to this question. After that, chatters differed in their choices, naming video/You Tube, LinkedIn, blogs, and mobile apps. A social media educational center, such as The Hive at the annual SHRM conference, was also listed as a best practice in several tweets.

Q4. Are HRCI credits a must for a successful conference? If not, how do you attract attendees?

This question did not get much of a response, because everyone just said “yes”, credits are an absolute when it comes to running a SHRM-affiliated conference. There was a brief discussion about HRCI and SHRM stretching their credit requirements in a way that would allow fresher, newer content and programming. (Note: I am trying very hard to find someone from HRCI willing to guest on SHRMChat for a discussion about HRCI credits. Stay tuned.)

Q5. What are the 2 or 3 most important attributes of a successful conference director?

This question prompted a very passionate and lively discussion, as you might expect from HR pros. Some specific attributes that were mentioned:

  • Patience
  • Dedication
  • Insightful
  • Motivator
  • Leadership skills
  • Articulated vision
  • Ingenuity

What most chatters agreed on, though, was that the best conference director had the same attributes as any good manager – the ability to build an awesome team and get out of their way.

Join us for our next SHRMChat on August 14 at 8 pm EST/7 pm CST. Details soon!

(AUTHOR NOTE 07/27/12 – If you are involved in conference planning of any kind, you must check out this blog from, outlining what they did at #SHRM12 and how it paid dividends to them as a sponsor. It was mentioned briefly in the discussion of Q2 above.)


You Don’t Have To Pay To Be Inspired

(Friends – some of you know that I am starting a new life chapter. I am in the process of moving to Florida, where I hope to meet and work with a whole new group of HR and social media people. But packing and moving is time consuming, so I am going to apologize for not posting my blog for the next month or so. Bear with me – I’ll be back!)

Some of you may remember that I poked fun at SHRM a while back for booking Michael J. Fox as a keynote speaker. He’s a purely inspirational speaker, and my argument at the time was that there were more pressing issues concerning the field of human resources to be discussed, and that he wasn’t the person we needed to discuss them.

This week, while looking into Transform, the new conference hosted by TLNT, I sadly discovered another reason to argue against the use of  high-end motivational or inspirational speakers: they drive the cost of conference attendance too high for the average HR practitioner to attend.

Now, to be fair to TLNT, I can’t say for sure that their speakers are purely inspirational in content, and maybe they all will have some real world, practical solutions that a practitioner can take back to work and immediately implement.

Okay, the moon is made of cheese.

I know this for sure, though – their 2 day conference cost is a whopping $1200-1600. That’s as high as SHRM’s national conference, with far fewer sessions and speaker choices. They don’t even have Hall & Oates or Keith Urban.

I don’t need to pay a huge sum of money to be inspired. Inspiration is all around me, cost-free. Here are some examples of every day people who have inspired me recently:

  • Jennifer DuRocher – a flyball and Facebook friend who recently lost over 140 pounds. Her incredible story was recently featured on a local news station.
  • Bryan Wempen – as the host of Drive Thru HR he is familiar name to many of you. Bryan (a grandfather!) decided to get fit and start running, so he could participate in a memorial race for a friend. He recently completed his first 1/2 marathon.
  • Branden Ginsberg – yes, he’s related (stepson), but after a long battle with drug addiction and a prison term, he is drug-free, healthy, and has kept his job for over 2 years.

All of these people motivate and inspire me to do better things. I don’t have to pay a cent or pack a suitcase.

What about you? Is there someone in your life that you find inspirational? Leave a comment and share the story. :-)