Once More into the Breach: A Response to the Techno-Skeptics among Us

It’s Friday morning, and I’ve decided to take the advice offered by a morning-drive DJ and “make Friday count” by wading once again into the social media debate.

I’ve decided to devote part of the morning to respond to the techno-skeptics, those professionals, wherever they may be, who are resolutely opposed to social media adoption in their organizational ranks.

“Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more,” to borrow from Shakespeare.

Anyone involved in social media adoption within a large and diverse organization inevitably deals with a measure of techno-skepticism.

Based on my own experience, this dissent about social media and technological innovation tends to be expressed four different ways.

I’ve listed these and added my brief responses.  For a wider discussion, see the response I posted to YouTube.

 “We already have a Website!”

Many in large private- and public-sector organizations alike seem to believe that a comprehensive Website resolves everything.  In other words, why bother with the added challenge of social media training and adoption when virtually everything that needs to be said is on the Website?

They mistake apples for oranges.  In many respects, the use or nonuse of a corporate Website is no longer relevant to the larger picture.  The Internet and, more recently, the advent of Web 2.0 have given rise to a diverse media landscape, corporate Websites comprising only a small part of it.

While it’s always important to know who is using our Website and how, it’s wrong to assume that upgrading a Website will substitute for a comprehensive social media strategy.

“Why bother with social media if our clients aren’t using it?”

You may be right: Your clients may not be using social media.  But if this is the case, you will not be in business much longer because you’re serving an increasingly marginalized and receding base.

Some professionals, particularly older ones, are still making a case for limiting our outreach efforts to nonadopters. Their argument goes something like this: “Over the course of the last century, we’ve perfected outreach methods that serve our traditional groups exceptionally well, so, instead of reinventing ourselves, why not stick to these?”

Imagine for a moment if a similar strategy had been adopted in the 15th century: “No need to set ideas to type because 95 percent of the population is illiterate.”

We all know how the printing press reordered everything and ultimately empowered billions around the globe.  Society underwent profound and lasting change. There is no basis for assuming that this emerging technology will be any different.

In one respect, these dissenters are right: We must continue to invest resources in serving nonusers.  However, this strategy should incorporate a kind of Hospice approach as we phase out these approaches over time to capitalize on emerging technologies targeted to younger audiences.

Make no mistake, though: Restricting our focus to nonadopters assures our eventual extinction.

What’s so compelling about media adoption?

I’ll answer that question with a question: What is so compelling about farm mechanization in the early 19th century or, for that matter, precision farming adoption in the 21st century?

The short answer: to assure farming’s survival by rendering it more efficient.

That is our professional charge today.  By rendering our workplaces and outreach efforts more efficient and equipping us to leverage our scarce resources, social media adoption enhances our chances for survival over the next century.

Part of our strategy as social media proponents should be providing tangible examples to the techno-skeptics among us of how social media adoption already is rendering both workplace and outreach efforts more efficient.

What not let corporate headquarters worry about social media adoption?

This is another way of saying, “We’re too busy out here to be bothered by all this innovation.”

Our employees need to acquire what I’ve come to call a platform mentality.  Within the last generation, the Internet, and, more recently, Web 2.0 have created a new information platform.  This platform is empowering people in radical ways, much as the printing press empowered tens of millions in the 15th century.

Failure to adopt social media consigns us to a snail’s pace in a future in which everything around us moves at breakneck speed.

To put it bluntly, techno-skeptics in our ranks are the 21st century equivalent of 15th century tonsured scribes. They don’t understand that technology is now equipping our clients to make end runs around us.

Technology is democratizing all of his, and the sooner we all understand this, the better off we’ll be to weather the challenges that inevitably await us.

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2 responses to “Once More into the Breach: A Response to the Techno-Skeptics among Us

  1. Preach it brother! Thank you Jim for being an advocate for change. Scribes, telegraph operators, buggy whip makers… all had to learn a new skill or go the way of the Dodo bird. I, for one, intend to survive. Extension has valuable information to share, but we can’t do that effectively if we are not fluent techno-media communicators and participating in the same channels which the new generation of tech savvy clients use.

  2. Some of us have been predicting the demise of Extension for years IF we can’t become more politically viable with what can be called “non-consumers.” These are the folks who have never heard of Extension…or if they have, they assume it is the AG Extension service with narrow target audience of production agriculture. It could very well be that the true demise of Extension will come from within as you suggest. IF we can not adapt effectively and internally to provide access to the University knowledge base for new learners, we will see others continue to do so in our place. And, to your point, this “replacement Extension” will be built on new uses of media especially social media. If not us, then who? Look around the answer will be obvious.

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