Monday, September 5, 2011

Social Media Devolution

It is over.  The dinosaurs may not know it yet, but the “Social Media Revolution” is over, and many of the dinosaurs (aka Social Media Experts, Gurus, etc.) apparently didn’t get the message.  That may be because there was no comet, no dust cloud, no global cooling.  The “revolution” suffered the most humiliating defeat possible- it won, and it became mundane.


The “experts” are still out there, screaming about how you should and should not use social media.  They are increasingly doing this alone, or in little clusters here and there, and many think SXSWi is still about them.  Every new platform sparks a new round of hue and cry and fewer people listen with each iteration. Their problem is hundreds of millions of people have discovered everything from Flickr to Facebook to Google+ and Twitter- then they figured out how they worked for them, and are using them the way they want.  That means when the experts tell others how to use Twitter or whatever they are ignoring the way many people already use the services.

There is no longer a need for “the social media person” at a company who is “The Voice” of the organization on social media, and there is a rapidly diminishing need for experts or consultants in this area.  A lot of these folks really need to get to work on their great American novels and become baristas, or find some other way to be contributing members of society.  Their very “special” skills are becoming commonplace, and they need to shut up and move on.Fotolia_30196881_XS

To be sure, there is still a need for the “official” voice of the organization, and there is certainly a need for policies covering what is and is not appropriate use of social media in the workplace, and as it relates to work.  But instead of a single voice, smart organizations are letting employees participate in social media to amplify their message.  This doesn’t mean turning everyone into company shills, but it does mean that it is good to show the world that your organization is full of competent and engaged people.  If social media is simply a part of many people’s lives it should also simply be part of your organization.  Someone has to be responsible for the official messaging, managing groups, monitoring policy compliance and related administrative details, but that’s not magic, that’s management.

“But Jack, what about the special audio and video skills needed for podcasts and videocasts?”  I hate to break it to you, but those were rarely very “social” in the past, and it is increasingly rare now.  Some developed real communities and continue to engage and interact.  Not many, though.  There were and still are plenty of what I’ll call “engaged fans”, but that has been true of any media.  Few people or organizations really took advantage of the “social” potential of podcasting and videocasting.  As far as the skills required, anyone can handle the basics, but if you want high quality content, you will need the right people.  These would be Audio/Video pros though, not “social media experts”.

There is also an ongoing need for people to champion security and privacy issues in social media.  We are a long way from solving those problems- but the Experts and Gurus rarely addressed these issues anyway, that has always been up to those interested in privacy and security.

There are people doing interesting things in “social media”, but they are really just doing things like advertising, community relations, marketing, customer support, and PR in a modern context.  So let’s call it what it is.

And wait for all the Social Media Gurus to serve us our coffee.