From time to time I get the opportunity to introduce my online self to the people of Twitter in the real world. No matter where you are in the country there is almost certainly some sort of incarnation of Tuttle Club – bringing online users together for business deals, local networking and eventful pleasures.
As time goes on it has become clear that the validity of social media has become a business communication method which is in dire need of industry regulation.
It also comes down to the term ‘Social Media Expert’, a self-proclaimed title which can mean a lot to a Twitter profile. This title is only 19 Characters long (spaces are counted) but proposes a massive misrepresentation for the sharp growth of social media. To become a Social Media Expert it is only necessary for a user to write it in their profile. No more, no less. Once written that is your new title. You can be referred to as a Social Media Expert, or any variation thereof. You would think that to be justified as an expert would mean some sort of qualification in Social Media, perhaps a degree in Marketing, Public Relations or Advertising. A back catalog of experiences ranging from local to multinational campaigns.
Nope – Social Media Expert stands alone as one of those titles which just doesn’t make any sense…
Yet there are those who are worthy of such a title. Some individuals really do understand communication theory and traditional marketing technics to take full advantage of Social Media. I fear most just siphon information from Mashable to fuel their imaginary expert status. For those who are worthy of being a Social Media Expert, their image is tainted by those who are not up to scratch.
Essentially Social Media is a field of online communication which, in my view, stands as a direct evolution of traditional Public Relations. The cynical may call Public Relations spin, an industry which certainly isn’t flattered by the lights of its past. Social media makes up for the industries past shortfall.
Traditional Public Relations incorporates a mediator into the line of communication, mostly a one-way affair:
Modern Public Relations (ePR, Social Media, Digital Communication, PR 2.0, etc) removes the mediator and allows a platform for two-way communication:
I understand these models are basic in every sense of the phrase “communication theory 101”. What the models show though is a basic evolution of Public Relations. The fact that Social Media is Traditional Public Relations but in Web 2.0 form. It is therefore critical that the CIPR (Chartered Institute of Public Relations) introduces a qualification for a practitioner which gives reassurance to organisations that the person they have hired truly is a Social Media Expert. If a Social Media Campaign is run by a cowboy then the negative impact could be disastrous.
Make no mistake. Social Media is a two-way form of communication, often balanced in the user’s favour. Social Media isn’t just about playing with follower/following amounts, the given amount of likes on a certain Facebook Page or even the levels of engagement (if such a thing can truly be measured). Instead Social Media Practitioners are given direct access to a user’s heart and can affect their relationship with a brand directly. You wouldn’t let a builder perform a surgical operation, don’t give your social media campaign to a cowboy.
So how can we sort out the pros from those who are better titled ‘Expert in Bullshit’? The answer is regulation.