Last week I was working with a client and we were at a critical juncture of a web development project in which we were discussing the jumping off points for their initial foray in social media. We were doing this by merely adding social elements to the website in the form of a few actions.
The first was instead of creating “a website” we decided to create it in WordPress so that we would have the latitude to “turn on” commenting for starters. let me back up, I just used the word “we” but in actuality the directives were coming from me and the developer. I had suggested Worpress and a specific WordPress developer.
During the development phase we ( the developer and I) decided to make the commenting more robust and so we decided to go down the path of Disqus. Disqus is a great product for those with social profiles who bop around a lot from site to site. It eases log in issues and multiple identity problems. We were on the fence about creating a community but we (the developer and I figured we could roll it out a week or two later). As an aside-let me also add that by doing this, the user would have had to create 3 separate user ID’s to access various parts of the site.
Do you see a recurring theme here? I haven’t mentioned the clients input at all and or their input in the whole decision making process? Well, that’s because at this point, it’s very one sided. As a consultant I was not doing my job. I wasn’t consulting. I was dictating. You could argue that I was doing what I thought was best but I wasn’t really listening to the client.
A big mistake and I should have known better.
The developer and I were not out to just “crank” this project out with all the bells and whistles-well maybe we were, but what we got caught up in, was creating a site that fit our “needs”. The development fit my needs of what I thought the client needed. Me and the developer were on the same page. High five’s everybody! I thought I had a good handle on what the client wanted or needed, I just neglected to educate, provide options and offer suggestions.
So while we were creating this kick ass solution for us, I failed to remember that my client was just getting started with social media; and more importantly their customers might not be very social either.
Luckily, the client, in a stern but understanding way explained to me what was happening. At first my gut reaction was, “What are they talking about”? But then it hit home. My comfort levels were not theirs. My expectations were not theirs. Their level of understanding and comprehension was not mine. I failed as a consultant. I was an ally but I was keeping them in the dark and not listening. I wasn’t asking questions as we were going along.
I was collaborative but assumptive.
The good news? I realized it, thanks to them pointing it out. I backtracked and caught myself and was able to understand what I was doing. I apologized profusely and went back to the developer and we were able to make some things right and simplify some other things. I still have to get them to a level where they understand the thinking, the tools and the platforms that revolve around social media-but the lesson this time, the learning, it was all on my part. Next time, I might not be so lucky.