Three Traits Social Media and Foreign Exchange Students Have in Common

Social media strategist and foreign exchange students have a lot in common surprisingly. Both speak and act differently than your usual run-of-the-mill communications or marketing professional.

The best part about working on social media projects is you get the chance to work with cool people both externally and internally. Last week, I had the opportunity to meet Liz Bullock, former Dell Social Media Director, to discuss all things social media.  Liz and I were chatting about some of the great and perhaps not so-awesome things that occur when you are moving your business from 1.0 to social.

It was great to speak with someone who, like me, had built a case for social media by stressing the importance of training and how it is key in adoption. Amen!  (If you haven’t heard me beat that drum loud and clear, training is vitally important to the business of social)

While these conversations were awesome, who doesn’t relish in the opportunity to commensurate. I expressed to Liz that I often feel like an anomaly; the only one who gets what social media is about. She laughed and said, “Not an anomaly, more like a foreign exchange student.” Intrigued, I asked her to explain. So here’s the gist of our conversation:

1)    Social media people speak another language. If tweets, shares, or retweets are in your vernacular, then you speak a foreign language. To be honest, social media strategists and their marketing counterparts could have done themselves a favor by speaking in business terms or outcomes right from the beginning.

Artwork originally found on

Artwork originally found on

Think about this in terms of explaining why a social program was successful to your manager or senior executive. It generally doesn’t work.

Solution: Don’t talk in terms of jargon, talk in business terms.  When I shared how we improved the customer experience by taking care of customer support issues via social media – that’s when executives started to listen. It wasn’t about the transactional metrics of “we have XX followers;” it was about mitigating risks and taking care of the customer. Taking care of your customers will equal in better relationships and ultimately more revenue opportunities.

2)   Not only do we speak a foreign language, but we also see the business world differently. Folks who truly understand the power of using social for business approach problems and invent solutions differently than most of their contemporaries. It is easy to understand why many companies run to the next shiny object (Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr) and create pages but grow disappointed when their expectations don’t match reality. Social media strategists understand that it is possible to build a social media nirvana, but it can’t be done without a plan.  Not planning is planning to fail- Hillary Clinton.

3)   People are nice, at first. Remember when you were in middle school or high school and you met the foreign exchange student? Everyone on the first day is so nice and accommodating. By week two, all those friendly faces forget that coming to the States is a hard transition and resort to calling their habits “strange.” When you introduce a new concept everyone is nice, but when it comes to implementation, the gloves are off. Change is hard folks, especially when it comes to changing your perception of what social is and how it can be applied to your day job.

Bonus: You’re different. Just like European tourists who rock fanny packs. It has been my experience that folks who work in social media tend to be the disruptive type. We question the status quo, we like to try new things, which is why we tend to adopt things earlier than everyone else.  The social role is changing, but it can only change for the better if you’re up to the challenge.


2 responses to “Three Traits Social Media and Foreign Exchange Students Have in Common

  1. Wow that was odd. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I
    clicked submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
    Anyways, just wanted to say excellent blog!

  2. Pingback: URL

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