Last week, I wrote about the plague that was sweeping social media. From automated following to a lack of conversation, I looked at the problems and emphasized the need for professionals to look at the industry and themselves and know that there must be change in order for social media to survive. Without a careful reflection, the industry will become a joke, and for those who have always seen social media as a knee-jerk reactionary tool instead of an empowerment agent will finally find themselves absolved of any customer or audience critique.
The future of social media can take a negative route, or we as social media professionals can make a conscious effort to make sure the route is positive. Here’s what I think:
1. We stop calling ourselves experts. Or anyone that, frankly: One of the problems today in social media is the abuse of the word “expert”. Linguists are experts, social media professionals are not. Not even Guy Kawasaki or Mari Smith with their audiences of thousands upon millions can be considered experts, even with all the press time and comments we give them. Because the industry is constantly changing, to even call yourself an expert implies that you already know what there is to know and in this industry there is still much to be uncovered.
2. We call out those who abuse the system: Those who abuse the system need to be called out. TrueTwit users are a perfect example of this, requiring new followers to confirm their existence in order to be welcomed into something comparable to a lair. Social media was always meant to be open, not a closed system. If you are not interested in being social, then why even bother in the first place?
3. We educate: One of my biggest passions is teaching social media to someone who is new and wants to learn. I always emphasize the need to engage with your audience, the need to have a goal and the need to have a content strategy. If they ask about automation, I point them towards the right tools but always emphasize that in social media, automation comes second to conversation. As professionals, we must take learners under our wings and show them that social media is not about your following or your Klout score, but that social media is about the great conversations and networking opportunities created.
4. We emphasize analysis: Too often do I hear that Twitter is useless, or that social media is a fad. Both instances lack critical analysis and thought, and on a greater level, the education of social media lacks analysis and numbers-driven storytelling. The story of social media is not just being able to blog, tweet, post, share, and at-mention people in your network, but rather being able to explain why each and every one of those events happened. In addition to writing skills, the next generation of social media learners MUST be able to use tools like Google Analytics, Omniture SiteCatalyst, Facebook Insights and other crucial tools.
5. We emphasize social and networking: One of the flaws of modern day social media is that it’s an industry built by social networking companies run largely by engineers who in most likelihoods have not comprehended the industry that they themselves have created. Tucked away in their nice enclaves making double or more the national per family average on an individual basis for their salaries (think $90,000-120,000/year), the need to network for them is very low. As social media professionals, it’s important that we build networks and company ideas that draw upon the basis of the creation of these networks in the first place.
In closing, the change of social media begins with you, the professional. To take back an industry, we need to demonstrate our passion to those who want to learn, and show the folks who are trying to steal it from us that this is something we simply will not tolerate. If you’re on board, I welcome you to help. If you’re not, then I am sorely disappointed.
In all, there is much to gain, and not much left to lose.
Albert Qian blogs for Albert Qian: The Social Media Dude