Art versus Science

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The train of thinking that led to this post came from two online articles, first of which was Noah Shachtman’s post Air Force Releases Counter-Blog Marching Orders which had a flow-diagram dictating how USAF personnel should engage in blogger relations.


USAF blogger relations flow diagram

The second was an article from management consultancy McKinsey: How companies make good decisions: McKinsey Global Survey Results written by Massimo Garbuio and Dan Lovallo of the University of Sydney and Patrick Viguerie of McKinsey. Both of these articles tried to codify a lot of the art and judgement that went into decision making and response.

Don’t get me wrong, McKinsey has some good stuff in there and I really like the USAF flow chart as a good starting point; but in the same way that watching Bruce Lee movies hasn’t made me a kung fu expert – following a flow-chart isn’t going to make someone a great social media operative / community manager.

The expertise comes in knowing when to move the rules and understanding the subtle nuances in a community: this is a really big issue. Whilst George Oates, Cal Henderson and the development team’s foresight and skills made Flickr an amazing photo platform, it was the community management by Heather Powazek Champ and Caterina Fake that made the platform the success it is today.

It isn’t only about online brands and services: a flow chart wouldn’t give you the tone-of-voice and decisions that success brands Innocent Drinks and Howies have had in their online and offline dialogue with their customers.