Can we put down the pitchforks?
For most of the past year, there’s been a barrage of blog posts bemoaning the social media gold rush, and the number of self-proclaimed experts that seem to propagate like pink eye in a kindergarten class.
In fact, there was much hand-wringing a couple weeks ago when Mashable breathlessly announced that there were 15,000+ people on Twitter that professed to be some sort of social media consultant in their bio.
“They don’t know what they are doing. They are just selling snake oil!” is the typical complaint. To which I say, so what?
I believe I can help companies and agencies with social media, and it’s of course gratifying that other people seem to think I know what I’m doing enough to hire me, book me to speak and so forth.
But, who am I, who are you, or who is anybody to paint someone else with the “snake oil salesman” brush? Just because someone takes a more tactical approach to social media, just because they don’t measure ROI the way you do, just because they focus on small business and you don’t, does not mean they are charlatans.
Suckiness Doesn’t Equal Robbery
Even if they aren’t particularly good at social media, it doesn’t give you the right to call them a phony or an opportunist. I’ve hired plenty of crappy accountants, lawyers, landscapers, roofers, etc. but I certainly don’t consider them to be snake oil salesmen, just less good at their profession than I would have preferred.
Let’s remember that the commercial Web is really only 15 years old. Best practices on components as old school as Web sites, email and SEO aren’t fully established, much less social media.
And that’s the issue I have with this debate. Do I think companies should have a comprehensive social media strategy that’s multi-faceted and thoughtful? Of course. But, not every company is ready for that. So if there are consultants out there that want to help companies do just one part of social media – like set up and manage a Twitter account – is that snake oil or is that an appropriately striated marketplace?
And this notion that you can’t be good at social media unless you’ve been doing it for years is utter crap. Talent and ability does not have a born on or expiration date, and to bray that your wisdom automatically sets you apart sounds like French nobility when the guillotine is being sharpened. `
Different Isn’t Inherently Wrong
Will some companies have poor experiences with social media consultants that are inexperienced or purely tactical in their thinking? Of course. The same way people have poor experiences with Web designers, chiropractors, and chimney sweeps. But that doesn’t mean the client got robbed, it just means they’ll come to better understand the difference between okay and excellent. McDonald’s doesn’t make the best burger. SuperCuts doesn’t provide the best coiffe.
When I owned a Web design and online marketing agency, the vast majority of our work came from companies that had a less than ideal relationship with a prior vendor. The result wasn’t that they abandoned the medium, the result was that they made a more thoughtful choice of partner the next time.
And that’s what will happen here. People that aren’t very good at social media consulting won’t be successful, and that will generate more (not less) business for those who are effective providers of social media ideas and counsel.
Cream always rises. Until it does, my advice is to play your own game and quit worrying about the presumed inadequacies of others trying to make a living in social media. There’s plenty of cookies in the jar.
Remember that in social media, everyone’s a teacher and everyone’s a student.
(photo by Robert Couse-Baker)