How to Frame Social Media for those Who Don’t Understand It

So, I have quite a conundrum. I am early on in the process of a comprehensive training program that I organized for myself on behalf of the non-profit I work for, designed to provide me with an extensive education in social media with the aim that I would take over social media for the organization. This includes this course, as well as a couple other online courses, a few books, a couple conferences to attend, and I just began my first week of a four-month professional and personalized training program.

But that’s not the problem, that’s actually all very interesting and informative and really making me excited and hopeful about coming up with creative ways to manage social media and create a strategy for the organization.

The problem, however, is that few others at the organization seem to have an understanding of what effective use of social media is, and what kind of effort that will take. For example, this week, I was given two tasks:

  1. To position a manager as an “expert” on LinkedIn, including educating myself about best practices on the platform, what it would take to be an expert user of the platform, as well as to be considered an expert within your field through the platform. And then I was to set up that profile.
  2. Come up with a draft of a comprehensive social media strategy for the organization… by Monday. And then a final draft for the end of the month, to be implemented at the start of July, and then start training other staff by mid-July. All this well before my own training has concluded (I’m probably, at best, 30% through my own training process, which I would consider a generous estimate).

Needless to say, when I started my week with these two tasks, I looked on like…


But now I need to actually deal with this.

So, there are some ideas and practical steps I can address and take right away; various things I have been considering and could easily suggest in terms of creating a strategy. But there is still much to learn, and not only in terms of using social media and understanding it, but just in terms of getting relevant information and metrics from my employers, regarding demographics of target audience, etc.

I know what their priorities are, but I need to address those, while also tempering expectations and perhaps seeking to adjust timelines into something I would consider more realistic.

So this begs my question to you:

How do you communicate the conceptual and practical management of social media to those who don’t have much (or any) experience with it?

I am working on this at the moment, and in terms of trying to find effective frameworks both for myself and for others to provide a larger context.

Two frameworks that make sense to me are in terms of thinking of social media management as a form of “social engineering” or “community building.” Doing these things in the ‘real world’ requires a lot of time and effort, a lot of listening, communicating, building networks, sharing, working with a number of people, trial and error, experimentation, and an understanding that attempting to direct the development of something is different from being able to dictate its development. In many ways, I feel like managing social media and implementing a social media strategy is akin to social engineering and community building and organizing, but in the digital realm.

This framework could help to temper the expectation or misunderstanding that ‘expertise’ and ‘success’ in social media are as easy as a few clicks.

What are some other possible frameworks/conceptualizations that you can think of that could be useful in communicating the requirements and demands of social media management and strategy?

Another issue I am facing is the idea that it is desirable to have less time and effort spent on social media, while simultaneously making its use more effective. To me, this seems like an inherent contradiction. When I was asked to make a higher-up an ‘expert’ on LinkedIn, I wrote a brief report outlining what (according to my tertiary understanding) would be required, and I included the question: How much time are you willing to spend on a weekly or daily basis on curating this?

Ultimately, expertise and success in social media requires what is required of expertise and success in all endeavours: time and effort.

Certainly there is an argument to be made that a more effective social media strategy will result in more efficient and productive use of platforms, doing away with wasted time and effort, but not necessarily reduced time and effort. If you want a particular result, you have to put in the requirements.

How would you explain to others the necessity – or justification – for spending time and effort on social media?

These are challenges I am currently up against, and I am doing my best to navigate through them. But I am sure some of you will face these challenges in the future, or already have. So I’m curious what your answers are to the above questions, and, I am also curious:

What are similar challenges/demands you have faced?

Thank you!


The importance of #framing social media for those who don’t understand it #SocialMedia

What are some real-world experiences that could help you explain social media to those who don’t get it?

2 thoughts on “How to Frame Social Media for those Who Don’t Understand It

  1. I would explain social media to someone kind of as the the movie “The Matrix”. There’s reality and there’s virtual, but it’s also a tool that can be used for promotions, marketing etc…

  2. AGMARSH, you’ve taken on a lot! I think it’s always good to have an excellent example to show people so they know what they have to do and how the social media platform works. So you might want to find an existing LinkedIn user in the industry you’re working within to show as an example. I find your challenge around explaining “time spent” / return on investment very interesting. Isn’t it funny that businesses think that it’s “easy” and not a lot of effort to create an online strategy? The more I learn about social media, the more I understand that it is a marketing strategy that requires as much planning time, energy and people-hours as any other strategy a company might use. And it needs to be tended to by someone if it is going to pay off. This offers a great opportunity to someone within the company who has the skills and interest to move this forward. Maybe you can recruit some early adopters (i.e. an intern??) to help your more mature clients along or to mentor them? Good luck with your plans!

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