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I believe we can all agree that, in the pantheon of superheroes, Batman is right up there. He is vengeance and the night and a cultural icon that goes back more than half a century. Countless kids grew up wanting their own Batcaves and Batmobiles and Batarangs and, well, you get the idea.
Have you ever considered, though, that Batman wouldn't have been able to fight crime without his faithful butler, friend, and father-figure Alfred? It's true. While Batman was out patrolling the rooftops of Gotham, Alfred kept Stately Wayne Manor running. In the classic television shows, he maintained the Batcave and all the great gadgets therein. In the movies, especially the Christopher Nolan reboots, Alfred also served as Bruce Wayne's confidant and exterior conscience. He even saved Bruce's life. Without Alfred to watch his back, do all the behind-the-scenes work, and pull him back from the brink time after time, he wouldn't have been a hero.
In the social media world, being Batman -- the person who headlines the conferences, publishes books, writes the high-profile articles on the web sites, makes the big speeches, stars in the YouTube videos -- is where the action is. You can find hundreds of books, thousands of web sites that will tell you how to be a social media star, build a small army of followers, and conquer your own Gotham. What those books and articles and videos and seminars don't always tell you is that you don't get to superhero status all by yourself. You need help.
Some folks, and I include myself here, are great at doing the useful but out-of-the-spotlight work that makes other people stars. Maybe you have a few of those folks in your organization or campaign -- the person you call when you have something vital that needs to be done, that staffer your lean on when you're busy and frazzled, the person who makes your schedule work smoothly. You can never get enough of them, but precious few people invest any real time or effort in cultivating or appreciating those people. Here are a few ways to show some love to the invaluable people who help you be the social media superhero you are. (tweetable)
1) Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is: Few things send a louder message than how a group spends its money. We rarely admit that most times, but it's true. (tweetable) You can say nice things about your cherished Alfreds all you want, but if you don't spend money on them from time to time, you don't really appreciate them. If you can pay your assistant, pay him. If you can give your staffer a little raise, give it to her. If that means you have to cut back a little on your own expenses, cut back and do not hesitate. Make sure your Alfreds know you will spend as freely on their needs as you will your own. Actions, the old saying goes, speak louder than words and in the world of activism, spending money is the loudest action there is.
2) Set Them Up for Success: Nothing breeds success like success and confidence is built from victories, even small ones. (tweetable) If you want a confident team of Alfreds at your back, don't always expect them to pull improbable solutions out of thin air to accomplish the tasks you've set for them. Make sure they have the best training you can get them, then set them to tasks that fit their skills. Don't put your introvert in charge of customer service every day and don't make your extrovert sit inside an office without human contact. Set your people up for success and they will surprise you. Remember, they want to do well for you and they want to make you and your organization to look great. Give them a fair chance.
3) Promote Your People Relentlessly: I mean "promote" in both senses of the word here. Not only should you look for ways to give your great behind-the-scenes people more responsibility (and more money -- see Point 1 again!) but also take every opportunity to brag on them. I can't think of a better testament to you than to have your people go on to more prestigious posts in other organizations, where they'll take your "organizational DNA" with them. You can help that happen by promoting your staff, in both ways. Talk up your people. Brag on them. Let the world (and people who might want to come on board with your group) know you appreciate the folks who do the hard, grinding work for you. (tweetable) Be quick with a recommendation or a chance at a more responsible position. it will pay off for you handsomely.
It is not easy to remember your Alfreds, because they very best ones do their best work quietly and out of the spotlight, but you must. Without them, you can't be Batman.