Traveling around the world you are bound to be in a situation where the world as you know it will be challenged. You may be in a situation where you need directions or have an important meeting with a client that requires mastery of local social etiquette. You may not be fluent in the local language or the societal norms associated with that country. What do you do?
For the most part we try to prepare for these kinds of experiences. We try to learn a little about the language and the culture to help us overcome our weaknesses. Traditionally, this has been done through guide books, books and talking to people who have been there. Now, we have more options with the development of real time translation tools, GPS enabled maps, a number of different travel sites and mobile apps covering a variety of every day circumstances. But the bottom line still remains the same if we want to be successful. We have to take time to learn something about the place we are going, the people we will meet, something about their language and about how things work in that culture.
In so many ways, traveling to another country and using social media successfully are very similar. Both challenge us to learn a new way of interacting with people. This means we may need to change how we do things and how we think. Social media and online communities all have their own unique set of societal norms and cultures. There are different rules of engagement that development around each of these communities. This includes how we speak to each other, what kinds of interactions are acceptable and what kinds of topics are considered acceptable content.
When we are new to a community we do feel a bit lost, uncomfortable and perhaps like a fish out of water. We are working to figure out how this community works and interacts with each other. We are trying to learn the language and what’s acceptable in that community. This is where the Community Manager comes into play. This person or people are there to help us learn the culture and language associated with this community. They help us learn the essentials in order to make us comfortable and better able to successfully navigate through this new terrain. They communicate the values of the community to us. They are the ones who grant us access to information and help us connect with others. They are our passports to the community.
Over time, we learn the language of the community and operating in that community becomes second nature. It no longer requires us to think about how to do these things. Just like learning a new language and culture in a country we are visiting. Practice, education and helpful guides assist us in mastering this new world.
If we are to be successful in using social media, no matter what our business is, then we will have to understand what kind of communities we are joining and how to build communities that reflect our values. What kinds of behaviors are we encouraging? What kinds are we considering to be negative? What is acceptable content? All of these things contribute to the culture and language of that community.