After we finished the show, we were talking, and I told Jeffrey that I envy him.
I bet when he meets people for the first time, the conversation goes something like this…
- Person: “Hi Jeffrey. What do you do for a living?”
- Jeffrey: “I’m a lawyer.”
- Person: “Cool.”
(They might not really think it’s cool, but in the Midwest we’d never admit that to someone’s face.)
This is what happens when I meet people…
- Person: “Hi Jen. What do you do for a living?”
- Me: “I’m a social media consultant.”
- Person: “Awesome! I’m on Facebook too.”
The problem here isn’t that Jeffrey has a cooler job than I do, (cause my job is pretty stinkin’ cool) it’s that Jeffrey’s job is one that people know you need extensive training to be able to do.
People don’t practice law as a hobby.
Social media, on the other hand, is something that a lot of people do in their free time. And, if they do it a lot and have been doing it for a while, in their brains, it has likely become synonymous with other activities they do that don’t require a deep degree of education or specialization.
You post something. Someone responds. You comment back. What else is there to “learn?”
For those of us who work in social media, this means that we often hear the same refrain when we approach businesses to talk about their social plans:
“No thanks, we’ve got this covered.”
- “No thanks, I’m on Facebook, so I get how this Fan thing works.”
- “No thanks, I can access free tools like socialmention.com, so I have plenty of intel on how my social media is working.”
- “No thanks, I have a web team, and they can take care of this for us.”
And, all of these things are usually true…to a certain extent.
The problem isn’t that people have no resources at their disposal to do their own social media. The problem is that people have no idea what lies beyond what their resources are able to support them in doing.
In short, people don’t know what they don’t know.
- Sure, Facebook is pretty easy to get the hang of, but are you up-to-date on its functionality (which is being adjusted on a daily basis)? Do you know how to navigate and understand the differences between Fan Pages (oh, I’m sorry, “Like” pages), Community Pages and Groups? Are you giving thought to how Facebook Places could benefit your business and playing around with that feature?
- Sure, free social search and measurement tools can give you some nice data…but they are free for a reason. Are you able to mine data across all social channels, filter thousands of mentions for relevancy and assess share of voice and sentiment? Do you know your key performance indicators for measuring your engagement and are you using the right metrics and combination of tools to determine whether you’ve addressed them?
- Sure, most interactive folks know quite a bit about social media. But does your staff have time to master web analytics, web content strategy, SEO, SEM, and information architecture AND social analytics, social content, social media optimization, and socialCRM? (Those of us who have chosen to specialize in social media do this all day long, every day, and we can barely keep on top of all of the developments surrounding these topics.)
We’ve seen this phenomenon happen before, of course…
- When desktop publishing software came out, everyone was a graphic designer. (Somewhere out there, a designer just read that sentence and cringed…it’s STILL that raw of an issue.)
- When web editors came out, everyone was a website designer and developer.
- When PowerPoint came out, everyone was a public speaker. (Usually a really damn boring one…with ugly slides – see point number one.)
It stands to reason, then, that the adoption of social media into regular business communication has made everyone a social media consultant.
So, what can we learn from history here?
In the examples listed above, people eventually realized that if you want a striking logo, a well-built site, or compelling presentation deck, you should hire someone who does those things for a living to help you make one.
Problem is, that turnaround in thinking often took years — and in some circles, never occurred at all.
Is this the same road we’re on with social media?
I think, likely, (and sadly) yes. These things take time to evolve.
But I also think someday people WILL know what they don’t know about social media, and instead of feeling covered, that knowledge might make them feel a little naked.
And when that happens, we’ll be over here waiting to help them…holding a blanket.