I was watching the other day as some folks inside the social media fishbowl were poking fun at a company’s somewhat ham-handed attempts at using Twitter. Phrases like “clueless” and “they just don’t get it” were bandied around and it occurred to me that this judgement was overly severe. Yes, the people executing on a campaign did so with less than the quality or integration into the community that you’d like to see, but it was a start.

Here’s the reason why bad social media efforts aren’t all that bad. Clay Shirky pointed out in an excellent TED talk at TED@State that LOLcats were a vital and important sign that the gap between being a content consumer and a content creator had been bridged. A LOLcat picture may be the bottom of the barrel as far as creative and artistic expression goes, but it’s a significant jump to go from never creating to taking that first, tentative step of content creation.

For everyone railing against social media efforts that are less than well thought out or less than flawlessly executed, try taking a step back and seeing the larger picture. A poor attempt at using social media means that someone at the company at least understands a little of the value of being social. A poorly executed social campaign means that they need more practice, to be sure, but they’ve made the transition from non-socially aware company to at least minimally socially aware, and that’s a huge first step to make.

Our responsibility, the folks who are active, experienced practitioners, is to help show new folks the path to the extent that we can and that the new folks on the path are willing to accept a guide or suggestions. Instead of greeting less than perfect efforts with derision, help educate and you might not only help someone understand the social space, but in a few years’ time, you might have yourself a powerful ally and partner.

For those interested in Clay’s original talk, you can watch the video below.

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