The Greeks had the Oracle at Delphi; we have consultants. A recent comment on Twitter suggested that the Apocalypse would be heralded by everyone on Twitter being a ‘Social Media Expert’ – sometimes this is how Twitter feels, with everyone who starts following me appearing to be the online equivalent of those guys who clean your car windows when you stop at junctions…
It set me thinking – is the whole Social Media field (that part of the media / Internet that deals with interactive and group based applications and developments, like Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, etc.) too young to have real experts?
Years ago I worked with a guy who hated the word ‘expert’. His take was that an ‘ex’ was a has been and a ‘spurt’ was a drip under pressure. Which sort of summed it up… A more widely heard belief in IT is that an expert is someone who’s read 3 pages further in the manual than you have….
Whilst I wouldn’t go that far, I think that at this stage in the social media game it’s too soon to tell what is true expertise and what isn’t. It’s similar to the many people who thought they were successful property developers during the UK housing boom; the market added value; they did nothing, and when the market slipped the dilettantes got whacked.
At this stage in the game I believe the best policy to be to encourage the client to adopt the generally stated ‘best practice’. This may be a conservative approach, but it allows the client to develop their social media expertise organically and as part of their normal marketing strategy. Having said that, a recent discussion with a practitioner in the field suggested that we may not yet even have the maturity needed for ‘best practice’ to have evolved, so that approach may not yet be of value.
So, what is the answer? Perhaps it’s time to stop going on about Social media as a separate discipline and start looking at the technologies and techniques it encapsulates as being just different aspects of existing business practices. For example, a company may use Facebook to establish brand awareness and communicate with customers. OK – that’s a new approach for both Marketing and Customer Care to learn. Someone else may be using a blog; that Public Relations / the Press Office. Twittering to announce special offers? Sales, anyone?
The technology is new, and there will be a steep learning curve, but the business processes being supported are the same as we have seen in businesses for the last 60 years. Any technology or technique applied to a business must surely have one objective; to ultimately increases the value of the company or organisation to it’s stakeholders. We’re just using new methods, which means that we’re going to have to learn them. Most of these technologies are so cheap to implement (and are usually pretty straight forward to set up in the first instance) that perhaps we just need to try a few different approaches out and take note of what works for us, and then implement what works, rather than expect ‘expert’ guidance to solve all our problems.
In the classic comedy series, The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ the only guidance offered to cultures that hadn’t yet mastered the new technology of fire was ‘Keep banging the rocks together’.