I love social media. I love it almost to a fault. I love it so much that I often forget how many people have no idea what you are talking about. Despite the immense popularity of Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms, the vast majority of the human population has no idea what social media is, or what it does. Compounding this problem is the fact that we, the social media users, have no idea how to explain what social media is, and how it works to our non-tweep brethren.
If it is difficult to explain how Twitter works to your parents, imagine the nightmare of pitching social media to a business. I’ve been working in the digital marketing/social media field professionally for the past year and a half, and by far the biggest obstacle I face is the lack of communication and understanding between service provider and client. I don’t mean this in a “these ungrateful people don’t understand what we do” sort of way. Instead, I believe this problem stems from a lack of explanation and education on the part of the social media community.
We often forget in the online community that most of what we do seems like sorcery to a vast majority of the world. We approach potential clients, filling their head with the stories of fabulous gains possible through the magic of social media, but never explain how social media works in plain english. We build up walls of jargon, and rattle off the number of impressions and retweets, further cementing an aura of mystique and suspicion.
So often in the professional social media world, a client relationship degenerates into paying money for a service they don’t understand. If someone does not understand something, how can they know if it’s helping? Eventually, the client leaves, angry and confused, damaging the reputation of social media as a viable industry.
But it does not have to be this way.
If we are to be successful social media professionally, we must not only be masters of our craft, but we must master the art of communicating what social media is, and how it works. By helping clients master and understand the services they have entrusted to us, they begin to think of social media not as something you tack on, but as something that can revolutionize every aspect of a business. Social media does not need to be just marketing, or advertising, or a sales tool. Social Media is a new form of communication, and communication has boundless potential, only limited by the demarkation lines of our imaginations.
Instead of people “finding out” how easy social media is, I think teaching people what we do pays massive dividends of respect, and would show how complex professional social media really is. Once people are masters of social media themselves, the “we can pull anyone off the street to do what you do” attitude evaporates, replaced by the same respect given to other professions. The responsibility to educate the world lies with those of us who want to pursue this professionally. We must be the evangelical spokesmen of our own salvation.
If we train the world in the social media, imagine how much more willing they will be to incorporate all the great ideas we create for them. Integrate twitter tech support, Google Hangout product demos, use social media monitoring for product development. The potential applications are endless.
The future of social media is astoundingly bright and beautiful, but we must be the bearers of illumination to the rest of the world. People fear that which they do not understand, so it’s up to us to help them step into a larger world.
Plus, we all get more followers. Who doesn’t want that?
Mr. David Benson is a social media analyst and coffeephile. He currently lives in New York City and works as an analyst for Mashwork, a social media analytics company.