29 October 2010

Procrastinatory Sciences 101: Social Notworking

by Freddy Tran Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango LLC & Social Media Consultant

Social Media Ancestor

All hail the legendary progenitor of social media! (Photo by Jason “FishSpeaker” Pratt via Wikimedia Commons)

For decades, professional procrastinators relied on communal hydration technologies (i.e. water coolers) to support their best practices. Unfortunately, that particular tool maxed out bladder capacities, and even the dullest middle managers quickly learned that employees chatting while holding little paper cups weren’t exactly doing “work.”

Fortunately, Silicon Valley came to the rescue…

In the early part of this century, our nation’s brightest technologists and venture capitalists invested thousands of hours and millions of dollars to meet the critical global need for mingling. Social media was born, and professional procrastinators could now elevate their indolence to all new levels. In one fell tweet, they could now kill time while engaging in an activity that vaguely looked like work.

This new technology, however, did not come without risks. As some unlucky procrastinators discovered, using social media improperly could accidentally create “value” for their organizations. When improperly applied, social media could develop relationships with customers and even generate revenue. Consequently, some procrastinators were assigned extra hours to maximize returns on social media, which defeated the purpose while making it feel like work.

To prevent further mishaps, the National Association of Professional Procrastinators (NAPP) has issued the following guidelines for Social Notworking… (Note for students and the self-employed: “parents” or “spouse” can be substituted for “boss” below.)

1. Eliminate all professional references from your profile: When you create an account on any social medium, avoid mentioning your company, title, or areas of expertise. Just use your name and an amateur smiling photo of yourself or your dog. This prevents the hassle of receiving actual business contacts.

2. Focus on accumulating fans, friends and followers: The actual number of followers you attract is completely meaningless unless you convert them into customers or collaborators. However, bosses are impressed by numbers, so focus on attracting tens of thousands of followers. On Twitter, that can be achieved by simply buying them. When anyone asks if your social media efforts are effective, proudly boast your follower count, and strategically ignore any critical thinker who responds, “So what?”

3. Follow all the actual experts in your field: If you follow real journalists, executives and specialists, you will look like a serious student of the field. Of course, you don’t need to actually read what they say. For social notworking, the only posts that matter are those telling you where your favorite lunch truck is parked.

4. Permit yourself only small talk: Engage in the kind of chatter that you would never email to a potential customer, employer or business associate. For example, describe what you had for breakfast, complain about the weather, state the errands you plan to run after work, root for your favorite sports teams, and post inspiring quotations. This prevents serious business conversations from arising. Of particular procrastinatory value are unnecessary niceties and empty flattery. Consider the following exchange:

“Thanks for following me!”
“Well, thanks for linking to that great article!”
“You’re welcome! I’m glad you enjoyed it!”
“Of course, it was great!”
“And thank you for sharing my link!”
“The pleasure was mine!”
“U2! Great tweeting you!”

While such exchanges appear vacuous, you can explain to your boss that they constitute “developing relationships.”

5. Participate in trends: In case you run out of small talk, social mediums conveniently provide suggestions known as “trends.” Most of these trends consist of the kind of celebrity gossip and rumor mill grist that you’d find on the cover of a supermarket tabloid. Most people can’t get away with reading a tabloid as “work,” but reading “trends” counts as “keeping up with the market.” On YouTube, trends take the form of the hot videos of the day. On Facebook, they consist of anything anyone posts, particularly if they involve cute animals or crowds of people spontaneously breaking into choreographed dance routines in public.

6. Share several articles per hour: To convey expertise without doing any actual research or analysis, share every article you find that’s even tangentially related to your industry or field. The best faux-expertise articles consist of lists (“Top 10 this” and “5 Ways to do That”). On Twitter, you can easily accomplish this by retweeting the actual experts you’re following. (Retweeting, by the way, also helps build relationships even though it takes less effort than scratching your ear.) In addition, online publications have facilitated professional procrastination by including “share this” or “retweet” buttons below every article. Of course, don’t waste time actually reading these articles — needlessly reading tedious articles is for PhD students.

Given the ever evolving ways to leverage social media for procrastination, we’re only scratching the surface here. Other topics include “Jargon Slinging to Justify Your MBA,” “Repeating Common Sense to Fake Profundity,” and “Klout, Video Games and other Wastes of Time that Unfortunately Look Like Wastes of Time” — but we haven’t gotten around to them yet.

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches graduate-level marketing communication courses at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

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