The qualities that make me a good social media consultant are things I learned from Fred Rogers — how to treat people with respect, how to both communicate and listen openly, how to equally and genuinely give and receive.
But, when you look around at many of the people who do what I do for a living (there are over 600,000 people with “social media consultant” as their job title on LinkedIn) the lessons of Mr. Rogers are probably not the first thing that comes to mind.
A common complaint about social media consultants today is that most of us are not the people you want in your neighborhood. Many think social media consultants are just out to make a quick buck and that our passion for social is fueled not by our client’s business objectives, but by our own egos.
Quite frankly, social media consultants, (or gurus, ninjas, rock stars and whatever other silly title you want to stick on the job) have a PR problem. And it’s a problem that hurts us all.
I, alone, cannot fix this problem. But perhaps some of the lessons I learned from Mr. Rogers can…
1. “Fame is a four letter word.”
I’m pretty sure Mr. Rogers would have dug social media. (I’m also pretty sure he wouldn’t have given a rat’s ass what his Klout score was.)
As a television celebrity, Mr. Rogers was well aware of the power of broadcast media to both help and harm society.
“Fame is a four letter word,” he counseled his peers, “What ultimately matters is what we do with it.”
As professionals who live in the public eye, social media consultants set an important example for both the people who aspire to work in this industry, as well as our clients who look to us to gauge their own best practices.
When we use the power of social media to fuel our own lust for fame and prestige, it does a disservice to the profession and, quite frankly, to ourselves.
2. It’s not all about you.
Mr. Rogers was focused on community. He understood that you don’t get anywhere in life without help — whether it’s from your parents, partner, teachers or mentors.
In fact, often when he received awards he turned the tables and asked his audience to recognize and thank the supporters in their lives…
It’s a waste of time, energy and resources for social media consultants to invest so much focus into creating little universes to revolve around themselves.
According to Mr. Rogers, the world is big enough for all of us to get what we want and need. (In fact, it’s because there is an “all of us” that any of us become successful in the first place.)
Being gracious and giving back are the things that make us influential — not our followers or our content or our reach. Those are the reasons why we’re still talking about Mr. Rogers years after his death.
3. Empathy is important.
Instead of judging or shaming people for being human and making mistakes, Mr. Rogers empathized with them and used his position as a thought-leader to help people understand their feelings and work through them.
Social media consultants could learn a thing or two from his approach.
So often, instead of acknowledging that we too have flaws and respectfully helping companies tackle their own, we resort to name calling, finger pointing and the gratuitous sprinkling of the word “#fail.”
We put as much distance between ourselves and failure as possible, instead of admitting – which I’ll happily admit right now – that, in a business that moves as fast as this one does, at one time or another ALL social media consultants have had at least one big failure.
4. Words have power.
The words we use to communicate are powerful and can have a profound affect on our relationships. We need to choose them very carefully — especially when we work in a space where those words are so loudly amplified.
While discourse on the web often devolves into crassness, personal attacks and slander, as social media consultants, it is imperative that we set an example for both our clients and the socialverse as a whole.
It is possible to express our opinions, strengthen our brand and promote our ideas without devaluing, attacking or squelching those presented by someone else.
We must set an example for other adults online on how to constructively express the mad they feel.
Please, won’t you be my neighbor?
Mr. Rogers believed that people who are in the public eye through any media are chosen to be servants, “We are chosen to help meet the deeper needs of those who watch and listen, day and night.”
So, my message (and Mr. Roger’s) to today’s social media consultants is this…
You and I have made the very important choice to brand ourselves across a multitude of mediums, to deem ourselves thought-leaders, to command that people pay attention to us and respect us.
But, I believe that in return, we must serve.
Not because it will make us more money. Not because it will make us more famous. But, because it is our right and our privilege and the best way that we can support the greater good.
Social media has made it possible for all of us to truly be neighbors – even when we live far apart. Now our challenge is to be good ones.