I’ve spoken before about the social media “bubble”. You know, this warm and cozy place where all us Twitter-loving, high tech super early adopting thirty and forty somethings spend a good chunk of our lives. We have our own gurus, our special buzzwords, and our own geek-a-paloooza assortment of Dungeons and Dragons inside jokes and bad 80′s references written on t-shirts. Even though we pride ourselves on “openness” and “transparency”, you have to admit, it’s kind of a secret club. Oh sure, anyone can join, but they have to know the secret password (it’s “social media d-bag”).
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
You see, the whole POINT of social media is to create online communities of people with common interests. It just so happens that the common interest many of us have happens to be social media.
We sit inside the bubble, but it’s only one of thousands of bubbles. It just so happens that what goes on inside our bubble isn’t dog breeding, or photography, or banjo playing..it’s social media. And ironically, we’re using the very tools and strategies we love, to talk about the tools and strategies we love.
To an outsider, that must look pretty weird, eh?
There are a lot of people outside the bubble looking at us sort of cock-eyed, I think. They wonder why we yammer on all day about ROI, community building, and measuring sentiment. They visit our blogs to try to understand more, but the backstory isn’t there. It’s on 15 other web sites we’ve linked to, and if they haven’t been head-down reading Mashable and Gizmodo for the past three days, then the point is lost on them. Back to dog breeding, then.
The thing is, do the people outside the bubble care? Not as much as we think (and maybe hope) they do.
While we sit around discussing the merits of having a Fan Page on Facebook, they are probably opening up their flower shop for the day. While we have blogchats and webinars, they are building a house. While we debate iPads and Androids, they are creating policies for health care reform. See what I mean?
We live this stuff, because for many of us, it’s part of our job. My clients come to me because I know a lot about video, web design, and online marketing/social media/whatever you call it. They pay me to help them understand this stuff, just like I’d pay a contractor to build me a new fence when I need one.
There is one problem I have with the bubble, though. Some people are treating it like Fort Knox. They are doing this because they think that by keeping the walls high and inaccessible and staying inside of them, they get to have easier access to the money. And they figure, if they can keep their clients in the dark long enough, about “mysterious” things like Search Engine Optimization, RSS and WordPress, then they can milk more cash out of the wallets of the unsuspecting neophytes. It’s shameful behaviour and it needs to stop.
As my friend Kneale would say, social media ain’t rocket surgery. Yes, it’s a new way of communicating. Indeed, there’s a sea of information to wade through. There are myriad tools and new things to learn. But ultimately, the whole point of social media tools is that the tools are supposed to be easy to use. And they are. Just ask my Mom. She teaches me stuff about Facebook.
If you want to really help your clients, don’t try to convince them that this stuff is complicated. It’s not. Your clients shouldn’t be hiring you to teach them how to use LinkedIN. Nobody needs a $1000 weekend retreat to learn how to tweet. Social media consultants are a passing fancy. Your clients need your expertise in how to use all media to more effectively tell their stories. That’s it.
As for us bubble-dwellers, the best way for us to understand more what our clients need is to step out of the bubble once in a while. There are a lot of cool people doing a lot of neat stuff online, and many of them don’t even know that what they are doing is “social media”. They are just doing it. Social Media isn’t an industry. Social media are a way of communicating.
The bubble is a valuable place for us. It’s where we hone our craft, learn from each other, and geek out. That’s a good thing, my friends. But remember, there’s a whole other world out there. We should try to be part of that one once in a while, too.
[photo credit: Jeff Kubina on Flickr]