There is a lot of talk, some of it sensible and much of it not, about social media marketing.
Predictably, there’s no shortage of “How To” literature starting to accumulate. This comes mainly in the form of free factsheets/datasheets/tip sheets (delete as applicable), all of which ping around my inbox courtesy of consultants (sic) trying to sell me their “expert” services. And “business books”, mainly designed to feed the eternal search for the next buzzword.
But I rather think, as TS Eliot put it far more gracefully than anyone blogging on the Tech ‘Net these days (let alone me), that mankind only responds to this stuff because it can’t bear too much reality. Reality, as always, provides a slap in the face. It asks, “does social media marketing expertise actually exist?” Does it even need to exist?” Or more accurately, should it exist right now? (Note, I’m not denying that at some future point it undoubtedly WILL exist).
To be clear, I am not denying either the existence or the influence of social media on marketers. It is certainly a medium we need to understand because of its obvious importance as a tool for reaching and influencing our various constituencies. Hell, I even have Pinterest pages set up for that reason, so much am I in Social Media’s thrall as much as anyone (not that that puts me right on the cutting edge, but it must mean I’m thereabouts. I think. For today.)
The trouble is, Social Media Marketing is a subject that, to state the bleeding obvious (as Monty Python would have put), is presently surrounded by many more questions than answers. This is NOT a reason to freeze in the headlights and do nothing about it, but it does mean the self-proclaimed experts tend to be easily hoist by their own petard. As anyone who’s read the mainly ridiculous “how to” tip sheets that I've seen will quickly recognize.
In today’s world, where everyone is an expert (albeit usually of the self-proclaimed variety), and absolutely everyone, but everyone, has the right to have their 15 minutes of fame (whether they’ve had the nous to actually do something to earn it or not), I guess we marketers all want to think we can buy (or deliver) social media expertise -- right along with our weekly dose of snake oil. It strikes me that this is ironic, considering marketing is supposed to be a creative process. When I started out many years ago, we used to be encouraged to just "test, test, test".
I think that as on all new frontiers, the social media standard bearers these days are probably out there actually bearing standards rather than standing around listening to the sound of their own voices. When Mallory started up the North ridge of Everest, after all, he didn’t reach for expert insights or offer climbing tips to others…he just headed uphill, “because it was there”. Similarly, Social Media Marketing today is about knowing how to break trail creatively in order to find new ways of doing things.
Personally, I’m sure of this: the emergent social media guru of the future (i.e. the guy who’ll be worth listening to for social media tips tomorrow, when there are some tips worth giving) is today actually working somewhere way out in left field, and he isn’t offering to tell you what he’s up to or how he’s doing it. He’s too busy breaking trail. With social media marketing, the time has come for us all to jump in and make fools of ourselves. Which should be fun. Instead of looking to marketing blogs for tips, you can post your war story below and provide some real value… Social Media Marketing - one opportunity to actively learn from each other. Hopefully, watch this space.