Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pressing our noses to the window

I am not, nor have I ever been, an “expert” in social media. By all accounts, I’m a novice to the field. Been on Facebook since it was restricted to @.edu accounts, been on Twitter for 18 months or so, LinkedIn for over a year.

But I could pretend to be an expert. Look, it’s easy:

How to be a social media expert in six “easy” steps

1. Build your audience.

2. Listen to people.

3. Give them valuable content.

4. Listen to people.

5. Ask questions.

6. Listen to people.

Here’s what the real secret is: it’s all a load of shit. And that’s the biggest fault I find with so many social media “experts” out there today: they assume the route I’ll take to utilizing social media will be the same as the route they took.

That’s not possible anymore. The social media universe is hyper-saturated by people just like me, ambitious twenty-somethings who can write a lick and have had a computer at their fingertips since before they knew how many fingertips they had.

The reality is that there was a window during which those lucky few earliest adopters of these technologies realized that common sense should prevail over industry hesitation. Those folks experienced a meteoric and lightning-quick ascendancy to social media stardom. In gratitude for their success, they’ve tried to teach their disciples how to do the same.

But what nobody is willing to say is that we can’t. That window slammed shut when that common concept of do-unto-others became widespread. And the social media influencers that made it through the window before it closed keep beckoning to those of us inside, waving us on to Never Never Land without seeing that there’s a pane of glass in the way.

I don’t need a social media Buddha who’ll tell me the only way to become an expert is to be one. I don’t need crazy analogies to how successful marketing is like a box of business cards. I can’t crowdsource a problem when I can’t develop a crowd. And it’s awful easy for someone with 25,000 followers to tell me to “listen to my audience”, but I struggle to assemble more than 150.

I don't want a pep talk.

The trail is jammed and not enough people make it through, so I must forge my own path with a machete and my own guile. The only way to alleviate hyper-saturation, after all, is to do things completely differently.

1 comment:

  1. Good points, and you're especially right in that many "youngsters" are coming into the game all at the same time. There's not a universal playbook, and the one that exists is like the back of a generic cereal box.

    The question, I think, is where do we go from here? Are we all fighting tooth and nail to become the next Chris Brogan, the next Steve Garfield, the next this and that, or are we just trying to tread water and find about 50 folks who will say interesting things on our blogs? If it's not the former, then the rule book is moot. If it's the later, then who needs a damn rule book when you're talking about what matters? I think the "experts" offer good--if, as you note, generic--advice for businesses seeking to use social media, but you're right in that I'm not sure what "listening, asking questions, and listening more" is supposed to do for me as a personal blogger.