In Defense of the Non-Ninja

Matthew Herek currently serves as the assistant director of young alumni in the office of alumni relations and development at Northwestern University.

On a normal day, I wake up and check Twitter on an Ipad, usually while still in bed.  I double check Facebook on a Droid, usually while walking my dog.  Eventually I’ll use the same phone to check-in to the train station on Foursquare before going to work, where I spend at least part of the day monitoring alumni activity on those same platforms using Tweetdeck.  I would define myself as a social media ninja.

Described another way—I’m very comfortable in the social media universe.  If you’re reading this, I suspect you are as well, or at least you have the time to learn about it.  Yet, as social media gets more integrated into what we do, we need to learn how to tell the story of social media to the non-ninjas in our lives.   These are the people who don’t know the difference between a paycheck and a check-in, a ceiling fan and a fanpage, and think Tweets are a bulk Easter candy.

Social media is becoming so important to the work we do that we have to be able to talk about it in the workplace without it devolving into an Abbot and Costello routine. (He’s our fan? I thought he was our follower?)

Here are some thoughts about communicating effectively with the non-ninja:

  1. Lack of Facebook knowledge does not equal the lack of a high school diploma. When talking to your boss, your boss’s boss, or your mother about social media, don’t treat them like Forest Gump with a login.  Remember how you felt before you learned to ride a two wheel bike?  Watching all the other kids zoom past you?  Until you learned you probably felt frustrated.  Don’t stoke that frustration in others.
  2. Why say “geosocial” when “check-in” will do?  I had no idea how to describe Foursquare or Scvngr until I was at the CASE Social Media conference, at which point I learned the word “geosocial.”  That was 3 weeks ago.  It might be a little too soon to assume everyone in my life intuitively knows what it means.  Don’t use fancy lingo that only you understand just to make yourself look smart in front of decision-makers.
  3. Social media is changing the “how”, not necessarily the “why.” The goals of alumni relations and advancement are certainly evolving.  However, in the end, we are still seeking a high level of engagement and participation. Social media is becoming a powerful tool in meeting these goals.  Remember though, your vast experience with and understanding of Facebook does not necessarily trump someone else’s years of experience in donor relations, marketing, event planning or gift solicitation. It is up to you to show how these tools can help enhance their efforts to meet measurable goals.

As social media integrates itself more and more in what we do, there will be more ninjas than non-ninjas. Until that day comes, patience, understanding, and some deep breaths will help everyone maximize the use of these new technologies.

2 responses to “In Defense of the Non-Ninja

  1. I clearly agree with you Chris…and appreciate the comments. I really like the idea of engaging with your mouth as well as your mouse. I’m constantly reminded of the maxim I was taught in undergrad “technology must be a good servant, not a bad master”

  2. Much needed conversation–thank you for keeping it going. Social is as social does–part of engaging is reching and being humanly social to non-nijas. Engage with your mouth as well as your mouse. Great points here. Love it.

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