The received wisdom of social media

Not for the first time since social media changed my professional world forever I am feeling out of step with the ‘received wisdom’ of the majority of the commentators I come across in the space.

I’ve written before about the fact I think the entire obsession with ‘following back‘ is a massive red herring. Nothing anyone has said has convinced me to change my mind – I might get someone to write a plug-in that either hides or randomises the following/follower numbers and see what people say.

Another common theme I keep reading is that there is no need for social media teams or specialists. I see where people are coming from on this one but I think a major point or two gets missed. I often hear things like “social media is just like using the phone and we don’t need a team for that..”. Except don’t we almost all have them? I can’t think of many places with some kind of public remit that doesn’t still have a call centre of some kind and that is for the same reason we need social media teams. Not everyone has the time, inclination or confidence to speak on behalf of an organisation. Social media can (and absolutely should) open up channels and empower (terrible word) staff from all over the organisations to speak up but it doesn’t do away with the need for ensuring that there isn’t duplication of effort, that people are not contradicting each other, that someone is tracking to make sure things are followed through with (offers of help only count if someone sees it through), work with teams to ensure that social media appropriate content is produced, that someone is looking at the big picture not to mention the fact that increasingly someone needs to report on all this activity. Is everyone at the organisation with a Twitter account going to take all that on?

If all your Social Media team does is update statuses on behalf of the organisation then they are doing it wrong anyway – it seems to me if that is the case you have a bigger problem.

I believe people should you social media to humanize organisations and I think it can be hugely successful. I also believe that corporate accounts can never be as engaging as individual accounts – however neither of these things changes the fact I think there is a role for specialists.

I think we do ourselves a dis-service in this space by constantly by reinforcing the idea anyone can do this work. I can follow a recipe but that doesn’t make me Gordon Ramsey (though I swear like him) and updating your Facebook doesn’t mean you can do my job. If we want to make the kind of cultural changes needed to prepare so many organisations for this ‘digital by default’ near future we need to convince them of our expertise not water it down.

[this post was influenced by very bad toothache and a worse mood!]

3 thoughts on “The received wisdom of social media

  1. Dan Slee says:

    Well said.

    It’s often the digital natives who argue that we don’t need a social media team or specialist.

    I just don’t agree after working in a large organisation with few digital natives and a feeling of risk aversion. There’s abbsolutely a need for someone who will horizon scan, share the sweets and be an enabling gatekeeper.

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