I am not a social media professional and when someone refers to me as one, I cringe. I find myself trying to justify what I do, back stepping a stigma of which I want no part. Between you and me, I don’t believe a position called “Social Media Expert” exists.
I believe there are people who wish to be teachers who have found social media to be a short cut into the academic fray, or speakers with a soap box looking for something to say, but I do not find social media to exist on its own as a profession. I know… I am opening myself up for some flack on this, but let me explain. In my mind, social media is no more than a tool, and to call myself a social media person would compare to a carpenter calling him/herself a hammer person.
Consider if you will, in keeping with the carpenter analogy, you want to build a house. You do not hire a person who can hit a hammer really hard, or is who talented with a jigsaw do you? No. You hire someone who has a vision of the completed project, has the experience to avoid pitfalls, knows the building materials, works well with designers and finishers and delivers on time and on budget. That tools are used is a given, and as to what those tools are, no one but the carpenter really cares.
Back to social media: these days, social media maven’s and search engine optimization gurus are a dime a dozen, riding the wave of technology and maximizing their return from the ignorance of the typical techno neophyte (and the way technology keeps changing, we all are to some degree). These “masters” are free to label themselves in a fresh market that has not yet found the credentials to validate or disclaim their skills, and thus, are free to profess their talents and charge whatever the client is willing to pay, and this is why I cringe.
You see I am an old-timer…a survivor of the first dot.bomb explosion in 2000. I was leading a creative department for a company with offices across North America, and I was one of the last to be let go. In fact, you could say I was the last to be let go as I refused to go to the official “pink slip” party (those who lived it, know what I am talking about). I knew it was the day when I arrived in my office to find my desk gone, computer on the floor and the phone ringing. It was Chicago asking if “it was really true.” It is hard not to laugh at such a moment, sitting on the floor, legs crossed in some yogic position, trying to find an answer to a most ridiculous question.
The dot.bomb affected me in that I was surrounded by both brilliance and wannabes. The industry was full of them. Fortunately for me, my company had more brilliance than wannabes, but we were not the norm. It seemed that every second person was part of a web start up, and more often than not, these web companies were purely conceptual plans lacking plan or accountability. However, in the end it didn’t matter if one was brilliant or not, for we all went down, and it was the bad apples that spoiled the fun for everyone.
Facing the future with a burst techno bubble behind me, I turned to traditional media, primarily radio and joined Corus Entertainment as the market research person. I was fortunate in that I had an education in journalism and communications, and could find a path away from the World Wide Web, but I have not forgotten the ferver and false promises of those times. I have become a sceptic.
It was not until 2009 when my dearest friend, Joy, was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) that I took an interest in that world again, seeking out social media, and not because I wanted to create a career for myself, but because it was a tool where I could find others struggling with this disease and I could learn.
Now, three years later I can say I have a good grasp of the social media tools, but I am not married to them. As with any tool, they change, and my goal isn’t to build my purpose around a tool that may be useful today and obsolete tomorrow. My purpose is about taking ideas that promote a better world, and making those ideas available. That is my purpose. So please, call me a social entrepreneur, but not a social media person, and if you would like tips on what I have discovered while using social media, I am more than happy to share.
Drop a note or comment if you like, I do not mind sharing a few tips and tools that I have picked up along the way. If you want to build a house however…that is another matter.