This is not going to be a post about whether the business ventures that Ted Murphy and his gang are getting into are right or wrong. It’s not going to be a post about what Mashable or anyone else in the social mediaverse thinks about it. If you want to hear the opinions of the greater Web, the comments on Mashable’s post above will definitely give you that, and it’s recommended reading for anyone interested in the subject.
This is a post about social media and how we’re all doing it wrong. It’s not this post, though. Chris already did that post. And he’s right about lots of the things we’re doing wrong, so listen to him. Or not.
What we’re doing wrong is not entirely about the “how” we’re doing it. It’s also a big part about the “what” we’re doing.
We’re building entire businesses around social media. Social media is not a business model. Just like television, or radio, or newspapers aren’t in and of themselves business models. Social media is a medium, just like those other things. It adds a new dimension to the word “media”. The social part. It’s different from those traditional mediums because it’s not just me listening, or watching, or reading. It’s me conversing, creating, and teaching. It’s you, doing the same. Social media is not THEM and US. It’s US and US. And because it’s about us, we can build opportunities. But we can’t make the medium itself the opportunity. Guess McLuhan was right. Want to make a living in social media? Stop trying to make the medium work for you. Instead, work within the medium.
We’re telling others how they should do things. Even though some of us have been messing around with this stuff for what seems like years, social media is still in its infancy. (Ok, well maybe it’s a toddler now.) The point is, it’s all still very new to many people. I talked to someone the other day who had never heard of Twitter (gasp!). As media and communications professionals, we are up to our necks in this stuff every day, because it’s our business to understand it. Or, perhaps we just like it because it interests us, you know, like knitting is an interest.
We sit up here on our pedestals and we tell others that they must do it this way or that way if they want to be successful. That the only way to do it right is to be constantly connecting with people; that just listening is not acceptable. That using this tool or that tool will give you an advantage over others in terms of getting your message heard. Like it’s some kind of big contest.
What I love about social media is that it’s a “choose your own adventure” medium. You can use it however you like. You can have purely social interactions. You can do business. You can help the greater good. You can just listen if you like. Are there techniques you can implement to maximize your efficiency, and better meet the goals you have? Absolutely. But it’s YOUR experience. So make what you want of it.
We’re forgetting why we’re doing this. Ironically, I first learned about social media at an in-person event – a Podcamp. I already had an idea about some of the tools, but I mostly showed up out of curiosity as to what all these people were doing talking about podcasting and social networks and blogging and such. The in-person experience I had there guided my online experience. The friends I made that first time I still have today. I’ve made many, many more since then.
People – it’s about the people. We are all here together, sharing this space, having experiences, learning, growing, and connecting. We’re using technology as an interface to our interaction. The tools are here to make it easier, but they are not why we’re here. Too often we get caught up in the tools, and too often others get left out because they are made to believe that one has to be a computer whiz or have the guidance of an “expert” in order to participate. It’s simply not true.
So repeat after me: It’s not about the tools. It’s not about the tools. It’s not about the tools.
So what this post isn’t about is what you aren’t doing right (huh?).
It’s about what we keep trying. And how we keep making it work. And forgetting about all the other stuff.
But wait – maybe me, and Ted Murphy from IZEA, and Pete Cashmore from Mashable – we’re just doing it wrong. Or we’re doing it right – in our own ways.