I’ve been in my new position now for a little over a month minus my two week honeymoon and I’m so excited to be working in Social Media full time. I think it’s true what they say “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”. Though it’s still early, I love getting to work, reading blogs, commenting, advising clients, brainstorming…it’s great! I think I should take a moment to look back at my last job and give them credit for their hand in my development as well as give them some advice.
Early in my career I did all sorts of different stuff and in 2006 I decided to get an MBA so starting in 2007 I started at Drexel University in their one year intensive MBA, which is not an MBA lite, it’s 63 credits in 11 months. My first job coming out of Drexel came with a call from the Director of HR at Gap International. Gap International isn’t The Gap as in khakis; its the management consulting company that essentially teaches leaders how to think differently to improve their business. Partners in breakthrough was the tagline. I met the Director of HR, at a job fair at the Philadelphia Union league. She was looking for someone to take over a position in interactive marketing and at the time my resume had a tag cloud that caught her attention. After like 10 interviews they offered me a position that I accepted.
The next 2 years I got to dabble in the interactive marketing and social media world helping the company to establish a brand new website, a fan page, a company Twitter account, a Twitter account for the CEO, and a comprehensive set of strategies for leveraging the online world including Linkedin and blogs. While that sounds like a lot it never really felt like it because it only made up about 30-40% of my days. I thought my job was going to be strictly in Marketing but was not. Gap had plans of making me a consultant and while the training was very valuable it was not part of my long term career goals. In the end that is what upsets me the most is that Marketing was only a fraction of my job. I think the best way to use your best asset, your people, is to put them to work doing what they are excited about.
The people were great, albeit in some cases a little…unique. My direct supervisor was a VERY cool guy, an envelope pusher, kind of like me, which is probably why we got along. In the end what I take away from Gap are a number of leadership qualities that I know make me more capable. I developed better listening skills, the ability to see outside of my own way of thinking (something that is harder than it sounds) and learned the importance of internal communication, or “circling back” as it’s sometimes called. I think the work that Gap International does has the potential to make a profound difference for some companies.
My biggest frustration while I was there was the speed at which things seemed to move, or more appropriately didn’t move. It took over two years to get iPhone support. Tweets often needed approval and I was never fully put in charge of our social media channels. We fell into the trap of counting friends and followers. Our social strategy never really made it out of the bullpen because of what I perceived as a fear of “doing it wrong.”. Our SEO company had advised certain things to do technically to help our rankings and we chased our tails for months never getting the kinks worked out. I left the company still never seeing a blog over a year in the making.
I’m not mentioning all of these things with the intention of saying that they are “wrong” instead I bring up these examples to highlight how similar these issues are to so many other companies out there. These new technologies are terrifying to many companies especially ones that have built a business on word-of-mouth and traditional channels such as print and event sponsorship. The best advice I’d have for them is applicable to so many companies right now:
Don’t be scared. You are probably going to mess up. Move quickly, everyone else is and the opportunity cost of not moving quickly is huge. Social media is not a place to try and fit old methods into a new medium, it’s about relationships. It’s the natural evolution because it represents how we all really want to be treated…as human beings, individuals. Don’t try and figure out how it all works before you get involved because there’s no template, only good ideas. Jump in head first and be ready to learn along the way. Find people in your company who are passionate, give them a few small guidelines and then trust them to represent your company.