I had a rare opportunity to speak for well over an hour yesterday about anything I wanted!I had a rare opportunity to speak for well over an hour yesterday about anything I wanted! Responding to an invitation by the Virginia Government Communicators to speak at their fall conference was the easy part -- coming up with something relevant to speak about was more challenging. The focus of the conference was social media, and I certainly have stories to tell from a decade of blogging and my full use of social media tools to promote and brand my business. But I also wanted to speak about what I t hink sits at the heart of effective social media -- good communication skills, strong relationships, and a genuine desire to learn from your audience. I used my storied past as a vehicle to frame the conversation -- a job-by-job examination of how social media tools (starting with email in 1992 and continuing onward to today's Era of Twitter) have collided with traditional communication practices. I saw it at the Times-Dispatch as a reporter and at VCU as an editor almost two decades ago, and the collisions continued at Circuit City and at Luck Stone. But the learning in every instance was huge, and that was the point I tried to make. All of that -- along with my experiences with Buttermilk and Molasses and a rampant Twitter presence -- brought me to the heart of my presentation. Yes, another set of Five Lessons: * The conversation is the change. People want to connect with other people. Social media is a conduit to bring your communities closer together. * While we engage and measure our activity in moments, the power of effective social media happens over time. It is effective when it is rooted in narrative and has real context. * Understanding the stories that matter to your community is your most important job. Creating new stories that give your community more connection is your second most important job. * Think of your social media activity like the serial novels of the 1800s -- your most passionate readers should be standing at the docks waiting for each installment. There is an emphasis on the word installment for a reason. * Each moment matters. This takes time. You’ll make mistakes. People won’t understand. You’ll get lazy. Distractions happen. You’ll get bored. Your readers will get bored. Social media is just another way of being in relationship with other people.??Accept the ebb and the flow. Better yet, embrace it. I don't think anything I mapped out was rocket science, and all of it started with strong advice to figure out your organization's strategy (and mission, and values and vision) before you dive into the social media forest. But I think the group valued hearing some common sense perspectives on navigating what can feel like an overwhelming and confusing space to even the most practiced. Yesterday was the third speaking engagement of the month. Next week, I'll be speaking with 100 individuals in the midst of career transition -- we'll focus on our personal beliefs, core values, and the impact of our choices. I'll also meet with a group of nonprofit executives and professionals as a guest speaker for a two-day class on social media that Sarah Milston is delivering for VCU's Nonprofit Learning Point.