The Cure for the Common Social Media Practitioner

Now that so many organizations – both commercial and non-profit – have begun to at least experiment with social media, if not make a serious commitment to it, standing out among the cacophony of posts, comments, tweets, requests, invitations, updates, podcasts, images and video clips calling for attention is no easy task.

On the one hand, much of the content being leveraged, repurposed and produced originally for dissemination via blogs, Twitter, Facebook and the like is not ready for social media prime time. Yes, unfortunately, too little of it is authentic, transparent and extemporaneous enough. And even if you can overcome that challenge, you still have to contend with the so-called “Attention Crash,” the inability of people to deal effectively with the surfeit of information in their lives.

As Steve Rubel, SVP, Director of Insights for Edelman Digital (the digital practice of Edelman, the leading independent global PR firm), wrote on August 28, 2008 on his phenomenally popular blog, Micro Persuasion

“Though the current global financial crisis grabs all the headlines, there’s another storm quietly brewing – a crisis of attention scarcity. The inputs we have into our lives – that which we allow and those that are forced upon us – are exceeding what we are capable of managing.”

“The Attention Crash is here and it will only get worse. There will always be more content vying for consideration.”

So what’s a social media practitioner to do in order to be heard loud and clear above the din of so much online activity, never mind responded to favorably? How do you as a marketer or a PR pro or perhaps even an intern who’s been hired to build a constituency of friends, fans and followers command attention and respect for the brand you represent?

Well, take it from a practitioner of another kind, a neighbor of mine who just happens to be a pediatrician, and be mindful of the three A’s.

The three A’s – Ability, Affability and Availability – are a requirement on his job as a caregiver to young patients and their families, the good doctor told me in a passing conversation we had recently while watching our boys play baseball. And the three A’s, in my opinion, should also be required of anyone who hopes to make uncommonly meaningful, mutually beneficial connections in social media…

1. Ability. Don’t underestimate what it takes to be proficient in social media. It doesn’t take years of schooling to write what you’re doing in 140 characters or less, but it does take more than a modicum of talent to earn the respect and reputation that you need to be successful on Twitter and other social media properties. The fact is that the most acclaimed practitioners in this space are specialists, authorities and knowledge leaders not just online, but in their physical lives as well. They are visionaries who are renowned for their expertise wherever they go, people who are able to articulate their thoughts such that they resonate with, if not inspire, the masses.

2. Affability. Skills alone will only get you so far in social media. You need to humanize your brand identity. Those who are most popular in social media are those who have the best “bedside manners,” the most engaging personalities.  They are amiable and congenial, generous and kind, people who are as good at listening as they are teaching, as humble and humorous as they are confident in their abilities. They are people like Chris Brogan, Paul Chaney, Joseph Jaffe, Steve Rubel, Ann Handley, Beth Harte, Yvonne DiVita, Susan Hanshaw and Sarah Merion, among others.

3. Availability. Like a physician on call, to be appreciated by your constituents in social media is to be open for business practically 24/7. No, you’re not saving lives, but you are demonstrating that you are responsive and attentive to those who want to connect with you. It’s one thing to establish a presence in the blogosphere as well as on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. But if you want to be looked up to as the real deal that you are in this space, you have to be on the grid more often than not and be prepared to lose a little sleep.

For more social media strategies, check out our webinar, “How to Build your own Blog and Social Media Marketing Strategy”


  1. says

    Bob, you share some great points here that many overlook. I feel honored to be included in the company of such well-respected social media personalities. Thank you!

  2. says

    I am humbled to be included in this list with Chris Brogan, Ann Handley, and others. You make great points here Bob. The social media practitioner understands the difference between noise and value; between availability and obsessiveness; between listening and producing. I think the Three A’s are a good rule of thumb.

  3. says

    Hi Bob,

    I just wanted to thank you for your kind assessment of Susan Hanshaw. You nailed it-she is a true professional and possess all the attributes you described. You placed Susan in very good company; in my estimation she deserves it.

    Dean Guadagni
    Business Director
    Inner Architect

  4. says

    Bob, thank you for including me on this distinquished list. Whether i deserve a place there or not, i will confess that gaining expertise in the use of social media has been the all-consuming passion of my life; and sharing its benefits with others my greatest privilege.

  5. says

    Wow, thanks Bob! I am honored by such a compliment. You raise a lot of good points here. It is very noisy online and companies will need to stand above the noise to be heard. That said, shouting louder doesn’t necessarily work, but maybe the three A’s will if people are willing to give them a go. 😉

    Beth (@bethharte)

  6. says

    This recurring theme of 24/7 and not sleeping much, all too often is the realm of the blogger and social media practitioner. I hear so many bloggers commenting on how they never sleep. It’s those folks who can keep the Affability factor strong and maintain a positive approach, combined with finding the bandwidth to be available for both driving new thinking forward and responding to the conversations that have pushed social media to the mainstream tipping point.

    Passion becomes a common factor that pushes each of us to communicate and seek out like minded people we can connect with and share ideas.

    Maybe the training doctors go through that puts them to the 24/7 test should be a part of the new social media program as well.
    Is sleep overrated these days? Let’s hear from the doctors.


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