I just had an eye opening experience with one of the people who works on our TV show. My co-producer has asked him to write a blog post for the blog we are launching soon. Thing is, he’s a general contractor. He spends his day on the job site, not on a computer. The concept of writing a blog post is pretty foreign to him. So needless to say, he’s a little unsure about how to go about it. About as unsure as I am about how to build a 2 storey addition.

We live in such a bubble with all this social media stuff. I don’t have to step too far into my circle of friends, family and colleagues to get to a place where social media doesn’t exist beyond Facebook (and only one step beyond that are those I know who only use the web for Googling and email).

Those of us engrossed in social media know the power of this new medium to share, communicate, collaborate. We spend countless hours talking about it. To each other.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of people out there who call themselves “social media consultants”. They are knocking on the doors of businesses and marketers, trying to teach them how to get the most bang for their buck in this online world. That’s all fine and well, but what if we took a different approach?

Start With the Regular Joe
Instead of spending so much time yammering on with a bunch of people who are saying the same things back to us, maybe we should spend a little more time talking to the people who aren’t talking about this stuff (i.e. most people). Look at my contractor buddy. We took the time to explain to him what a blog post is all about in terms that make sense to him. He immediately saw the value in doing it – after all, he runs a business. He knows that people will see his post and that it will help him promote his business. For us, we get to expand the stories of the characters on our show and provide additional, valuable content to our viewers. Everybody wins. We’re not selling him social media…we’re providing him an opportunity to make a connection with his customers. And being a smart businessman, that’s something that he totally gets.

Instead of trying to ram social media down people’s throats, let’s find ways incorporate it as an extension to what already exists. This requires education. The kind of education I’m talking about here is not educating clients. It’s educating the web developers, content developers, designers, PR and marketing specialists of tomorrow.

In the new year I am going to be teaching what is one of the first courses on social media to be taught at the community college level (at least at the college where I’m working). I am going to have the undivided attention of 2nd year web designers and developers for 11 weeks. It’s a tremendous opportunity. These young people (most of them are under the age of 25) going to be working in the Web industry in the very near future. They need to be armed with a knowledge and understanding not only of the tools that exist, but of how to use this medium to build relationships, share information, collaborate, help others, and build communities.

Wouldn’t you rather hire someone who already incorporates social media as a fundamental part of the way they create web sites? Wouldn’t you rather hire someone to whom interacting in online communities comes naturally? Wouldn’t that help you to integrate this medium into your development more easily? I think yes. Educate the Web workers of tomorrow, today. Let them be the ones to help you work the magic.

Get Your Other Networks in the Loop
I’m not talking about telling your Grandma to get on Twitter. I’m talking about showing people the value FOR THEM. What I define as value in social media is entirely different than what my Dad defines as value. He gets his value from being able to subscribe to read a few blogs he likes. He gets value from using WordPress to run his Square Dancing troupe’s web site. He gets value from watching his grandkids in the videos my brother posts on Facebook. I get my value from being part of a bunch of networks to do with my industry and with my interests outside work, from working on my blog, and from being a power user of Twitter. Everyone’s perfect fit is different. The key is, show the people around you where they can find value and they will find their own ways to get engaged.

What about you? Do you think we are living in a social media bubble? How do you intend to help burst it?

9 Responses

  1. Great points – I have been talking to people about it for a while now, and consider myself a bridge between two worlds.

    Like your contractor, I do physical activities for my work – I sew and I dance. But I also am blessed with a tech savvy husband who has been there for me for years as I grew into my own computer use/social media, etc. somewhat self taught existence.

    I have been talking to my family – mainly my mom about setting herself up with a blog, and while she is not there yet, she did just join Facebook, has been selling stuff on Ebay fervently for the past few months, and is really starting to get herself out there! She’ll shoot me for saying, but she’ll be 70 next year!~

    She has always been somewhat self-employed, and is finding new easier ways of using the internet to generate that extra income to help her live on her pension.

    Blogging soon I hope for her as she has such information to share of her life’s experiences, but one step at a time.

    And that’s how I am hoping to help bridge the worlds – or pop some bubbles to let everyone in!

  2. Gosh, I so agree.

    Actually my challenge at present is to stop using the phrase “social media” so much – I can just see people’s eyes glaze over at this increasingly over-used phrase – and talk about the benefits instead!


  3. Excellent post, Suze. As an advocate of s##### m#### (scared to say that phrase now, Welsh!) I tend to launch into over-enthusiastic persuasive speeches of why people and companies should all be using this great new way of communicating.

    It’s very frustrating to see the opportunities they are missing by not being in there …

    … so then I take a breath, slow down and realize that I am in this world every day — others aren’t. it’s time to start educating people.

    I took the time to find an old blog post about this if you’d care to take a look:



  4. You hit on it when you said sell it as an extension of what a company or individual is already doing.

    We launched our new site this week at work. Over the next few weeks and months I’m looking to integrate a lot more of the social media tools we all know and love but our first stop (beyond syndicating the content through RSS) was to do podcasts.

    Why? Because they are a very tangible extension of what we already do for our members.

    Nobody in my office had ever produced a podcast and only a few people had heard of them, let alone subscribed to them. But what they DID understand is that our labour advisors spend a good part of their day on the phone with members, explaining how sections of the collective agreement apply to them.

    I saw the connection to podcasting and it was an easy sell.

    We advocates and evangelists like to talk about SM as though they are a revolution. They shouldn’t be. SM is not about changing the way you do business, SM is about using new technologies to do business better.

  5. Great post, lots of good point.
    I was thinking of the same thing recently, looking at companies trying to define Web 3.0 and sell it to people who didn’t even know there was a version named 1.0…
    I think the main point is that in order to be used, anything, including “social media” in general, needs to solve someone’s issue.
    If your contractor is always looking for new an innovative ways to reach potential customers and he knows other contractors are not doing this, then he has a solution to one of his problems, and the cost of it is just to write a post (or a couple of posts).
    I think we should always look at things that way (what is the problem -> how to solve the problem) instead of building a solution and then try to think who might have some problems that this solution fixes 🙂
    Right now, I agree with you on the fact that “social media” is a pretty active yet small community in the global market. It needs to mature from a research field to finding the real problems to solve!

  6. I too see that social media has become this ‘revered’ and awesome giant of sorts. The average person feels daunted by its’ greatness (I speak here, as the ‘average person’ that I am).

    I feel that connecting with familiar and new friends and business contacts is part of my daily routine now – as I ‘feed’ the desire in myself to make contact with others.

    The way that I choose to make such contacts is dependent on the medium at my disposal, and usually that which is most convenient and is the way to go.

    As part of building any network (business or otherwise) the individual needs to consider their own needs and their audience, I would imagine.

    Have something you need to bounce off of someone – who do you turn to?
    Those with like interests. Your social network.

    Why should the technical aspect interfere?

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