Monday, August 22, 2011

3 Mistakes and Failing Forward

Aunt Bertha is an older woman, but a young company.

I'm a young social worker, turned community manager.

Building community has been around forever.

I have a lot to learn.

As we begin to develop relationships over shared interest in service delivery, technology, and providing equal access to need-based programs, we can't help but be humbled by our mistakes.

Shirley Ayres, an UK innovator in social work and new media, recently shared the concept of failing forward. The ability to make a mistake and take it as an opportunity to step up. A crucial element in any organization that seeks to provide quality service and build community. These are some early communication mistakes and how I stepped up:

1) Inform someone about their own community: One of my jobs as community manager besides creating the strategy around our online content and presence is reaching out to individuals and organizations that we would love to work with. I reached out to a School of Social Work Dean. No small potatoes. The Dean was gracious, thoughtful, and considerate, even though my message implied that her community was lacking the program search support that Aunt Bertha provides. Big Mistake. The school had an active web based program search directory, it was well-organized, client-facing, and the School of Social work was already working with organization.

Lesson: Listen First. Always do your research.

2) Ignore the data: In therapy, we say: "The client is the expert on their story. "We co-create. Yet, when it came down to our project team removing the e-mail wall(individuals could not access the site without entering their e-mail initially), I was totally against it. I kept talking about conversion, building a tribe, and having a way to update users on our website instantly. I wanted to collect everything. Even though the data showed that people were leaving our website as soon as they reached the e-mail page. I still argued for an e-mail requirement. Finally, the wisdom of our team prevailed and we gave folks access to our program search immediately without obligation.

Lesson: Trust the process. The community will always tell you what they want.

Don't ignore data!

3) Multi-Tasking: It was just like any other day for a community manager, I was: writing a blog, updating twitter, researching my followers, reading about evidence-based practice, while eating a sandwich, when I came across some startling information. It appeared that my twitter followers had increased by 500% in one day. Never being one to waste an opportunity, I quickly began thanking my fan base for the support. 50 tweets down "my" list I realized that this follower list belonged to someone else.

It took 15 minutes to clean up my mess and a week to learn the lesson. Focus.

Lesson: Focus.You will always do a better job by paying attention. Quality matters.

How have you failed forward in your personal or professional life?

Use hashtag: #failforward to continue this discussion on twitter.

Be sure to vote for our panel at #sxsw: The Human Cost of Failed Gov't Tech

is the community manager at Aunt Bertha.

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