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The Social Media Pitfall of Assumptive Collaboration

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.

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4 Responses to “The Social Media Pitfall of Assumptive Collaboration”


  1. 1 Jason Peck August 10, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    I have definitely fallen into this trap before. It’s really interesting how we think a certain feature should be done a certain way just because other sites have it and/or because there are other tools already available that have similar functionality.

    I actually had a similar issue recently with Disqus. We want to open our community platform up so that even people who haven’t joined yet can comment. My first thought was to use Disqus, since it’s pretty easy to use, has a lot of options, etc. However, it doesn’t enable us to have access to some of the data that we’d like (is the person who comments a customer, need to see how many comments they leave before they join, need to see if commenting multiple times (but not joining) has any effect on spending, etc).

    Someone that was very non-social pointed this out to me; sometimes it’s best to have someone that is not so close to the technology point out flaws and provide input on how to simplify things.

  2. 2 marc meyer August 11, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    @Jason Amazing what people who are not intimate with this “thing” we call social media can sometimes bring to the table of perspective and reasoning no?

  3. 3 Jason Peck August 11, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    Definitely. The argument “do it this way because that’s how Facebook or XYZ social platform does it” isn’t valid in many cases.

  4. 4 marc meyer August 13, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    @Jason ironically, some of the biggest advancements were to people who got tired of doing it “that” way…


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Marc Meyer is a Digital and Social Media Strategist at DRMG. This is my personal blog where I share observations, thoughts and opinions that are all my own.

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