Wednesday, November 23

Thanksgiving: How Social Media Is Like A Turkey

Sometimes social media is real time communication, which means the timing of the message is just as important as the message itself. I was reminded of that yesterday as I was finishing up a 1,200-word column that I was going to title Occupy Thanksgiving.

The piece is decent, and perhaps more personal than I usually post on this blog. The topic was just a little reminder that keeping your focus on scarcity can be detrimental whereas being grateful for the little things in life can help you wake up happy every day, even in the face of tragedy. I know. Despite many tragedies and near tragedies, I have a lot to be grateful for. And I hope you do too.

I still think it's an important topic, but the timing isn't right. Nobody needs too much food for thought before a long weekend. So I shelved the column for another day and set to work on something light — a slow burn satire of sorts for all those claims that social media is like one thing or another.

So, in honor of Thanksgiving in America, why not make social media like a turkey? It's not all that different when you really think about it. And in some ways, it's even better because I can chuckle at the absurdity of it and you won't leave feeling bloated.

How Social Media Is Like A Turkey. 

• Decide On A Recipe. There are hundreds of different recipes to make a successful turkey, ranging from maple roast with gravy to honey-brined smoked. It doesn't really matter which one you decide to make, but it's always a good idea to know what else you plan to serve and if your guests have any preferences. Right. Your turkey is part of a bigger plan.

• Defrost Before Cooking. Even if you know what kind of turkey you want to cook, part of your plan requires a defrost period. If you start too cold, your turkey will never be fit for consumption. Slow down, put the bird in the refrigerator, and let it thaw, about 24 hours for every five pounds. For social media, this phase is listening.

• Stuff With Contents. Start combining some of the ingredients you plan to stuff your turkey with, whatever it might be. Maybe you like onions, mushrooms, celery, green pepper, and bread crumbs. Some people like vegetable stuffing, other people like cornbread stuffing. The important part is to pick the contents that complement your turkey.

• Roast Your Turkey. Roasting a turkey takes time. You cannot expect a 20-pound turkey to cook in half an hour, not even if you try to rush it. It takes time and constant care, basting so that neither the turkey nor the contents dry out or, worse, are served undercooked. It's true. Undercooked turkey makes people sick.

• Prep The Meal. It used to be easy because all anyone had to do was take care of the turkey. But nowadays, people want a little bit more. You have to cook the rest of the meal. When the turkey is roasting and just starting to attract attention it is the best time to add corn, cranberry sauce, potatoes, and dinner rolls. You don't have to serve everything. Focus on what other social sides they really enjoy (e.g., if nobody eats cranberry sauce, don't serve it).

• Serve It Hot. Serve everything at precisely the right temperature, usually warm and steamy. In cold weather climates, people will look forward to the meal all the more. Just don't expect everyone to come to the table at the same time. Even though everyone will eat the turkey, it really is the least important part of Thanksgiving. Family members are busy catching up and many people enjoy watching the game.

• Say Grace. When many people hear the word "grace," they immediately think it implies faith. For many people, it does. For other people, not so much. You make the call as appropriate to you and your guests, but the general idea is still valid. If you are lucky enough to have people interested in your turkey dinner (as opposed to all those other turkey dinners out there), be grateful not expectant.

• Enjoy The Company. The bigger the party, the more distractions. There are bound to be tiffs, spills, splatters, and complaints at some Thanksgiving dinners. Take it all in stride. For the moment, these are your people — your family, friends, and acquaintances — and they deserve your respect. Despite the way some experts feel, it's not polite to have people show up for dinner but exclude them from pie.

• Reward The Heroes. While every host takes the time to treat every guest as equals, there are always those times when there just isn't enough of something to go around. Do the best you can. One drumstick might go to grandpa because it's the only part he eats, but giving one to someone under ten can make an impression for life. There are lots of these moments, right down to breaking the wishbone.

• Cleanup And Feedback. Ask your guests how they liked the meal and take notes for next time while cleaning up the mess and pushing a few leftovers out the door. Thanksgiving is just like that. There are always some links to be fixed, comments to approve, and people to thank. You have to love every minute of it because you invited them, remember?

Oh, and one more thing. Measure success based on how well you served everyone who attended and not by the number of footprints you have to vacuum off the carpet. Social media is about quality more than quantity, and some days it's hard enough to just keep up with everyone.

But more important than measurement, smile and be thankful. If you can't remember that, then sooner or later, you're likely to be the only turkey left. Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy the long weekend. We'll have something up on Monday.
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