Something occurred to me out of the blue today: during my last few months as editor of Interweave Crochet, as the company was beginning to focus more on the possibilities presented by online tools and social media, I wanted nothing to do with any of it in my work as editor. Crazy, hey?

As you might have noticed, the whole print publishing industry is struggling to make sense of online media in much the same way the yarn industry is struggling.

In my final months at IC, there was a lot more talk around the office about online stuff: blogs, forums, Twitter. And even though I had my own blog and still kept up a bit at the CrochetMe.com blog and I was on Twitter, I really bristled at being pressured to do more online stuff for the magazine. Even though I was certain we needed to be online more and better than we were.

That’s really very odd.

Why, as I sit here going on and on and on and on about how important online media are to businesses big and small, online and off-, was I so resistant to practice then what I preach now (even though I practiced it then, only on my own time)?

It could be that I don’t much like being told what to do. It could be that I’d been online for so long, relatively speaking, that I didn’t entirely agree with the approach that was being taken.

But mostly I think it might have been that I didn’t think I could do it right. Where “right” means as myself. With my voice. In my own time. Saying what I wanted to say. Where what I would have wanted to say was sometimes not so shiny-happy-positive, and where some of the positive things I would have said would have been about other companies and not mine.

My whole love affair with online media is in good part because of the spontaneity and honesty of it. To be a cog in a larger social media strategy just didn’t remotely turn me on. (To be clear: I was never asked to be a cog. I’m just super bristly.)

And so I’m left now to figure out how to amend the stuff I spout off about to accommodate this experience I’d forgotten. Here’s my first shot:

If you run a company, you should be online. You should have a blog where you engage with anyone who wants to chat with you. You should be on Twitter and you should use it very little for broadcasting and very much for sharing and conversing. Same with Facebook. And any other site. If you yourself aren’t going to be the person doing the online stuff, you should make sure the person you have do it has the following resources:

  1. Time. It takes time to write blog posts and to tweet. It doesn’t have to take a huge amount of time, but it takes some time. Give the person some time.
  2. Freedom. Pick someone you trust enough to represent your business and your brand that you can give them a very long leash to say what they need to say how they need to say it. If they mess up, let them clean it up. If they mess up horribly, find someone else to do it. But don’t do anything to prevent the spontaneity, fun and impromptu conversation that are integral parts of successful online media campaigns.
  3. Trust. See #2.
  4. Time from you. Things online move fast. In all likelihood – regardless of what kind of business you’re in – they move way faster than they do in the rest of your business. So when your person comes to you and says they need to deal with something, STAT, believe them. If they come to you because some convergence of thinking in your online community presents an opportunity for a big promo next week, see if you can make it happen. Try hard to make it happen.

Does any of this make sense? Or have I blathered myself into an atrocious contradiction?

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