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!]

The Jay-Z school of social media

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So after I wrote my recent post about Hova and his adventures in Twitter etc I got stuck on one of his lyrics and how I had always thought of it in terms of how to interact with the world of social media – and then a couple of other lines popped in to my head so here we are – the start of the Jay-Z school of social media (Zak – I’ll be expecting you to contribute!)

A wise man told me don’t argue with fools
Cause people from a distance can’t tell who is who

Takeover, The Blue Print

This has always been the line that stuck with me – particularly in relation to Twitter. It has been a long time since I got involved in any kind of social media feud or argument. The reality is that even with the best of intentions you inevitably immediately get drawn to the lowest common denominator and end up looking just as stupid as the person you are trying to call out. Especially on Twitter. I don’t jump in to arguments where I don’t know all the facts and even then if I do feel strongly enough about the topic I write about it here or elsewhere – where I can take my time to make my point.

“I’m not a businessman, I’m a business.. man.”

Diamonds from Sierra Leone Remix, Late Registration

Now clearly I ain’t no Jay-Z but the reality is that increasingly your entire online persona is your business. People I have never met judge my professionalism and knowledge (or lack of it) based on my social media activity. This blog and my Twitter is my calling card to a much wider community than I could have ever expected to be a part of. I have never been someone who believed in the ‘dual personality’ thing of having personal and professional Twitter accounts but I can see why people do it. My reality is that I am more comfortable with a single voice out in the world (which isn’t much different than me in person – just a little more confident) and I’ll live and die (professionally) by that.

Treat my first like my last, and my last like my first
And my thirst is the same as – when I came.

My 1st Song, The Black Album

I’ve always taken this as saying that you should never stop learning and trying to get better than you are. It is easy once you have being doing something for a long time (six years on Twitter for instance) to get complacent and just think your way is the only way while all around you things are changing and moving on. I believe you have to really embrace this world to get the best out of it and as soon as you find it a chore – or lose the ‘thirst’ then you start to lose out on the insights that makes it so valuable.

So here endeth the lesson. Well the first one anyway – we’ll see if I can loosely frame a blogpost around anymore lyrics in the future 🙂