What’s the next professional step for social media “gurus”?
For the past five years, social media gurus have been teaching the uninitiated how to create Facebook campaigns, tweet, leverage LinkedIn, and up their follower counts. More recently, that teaching has shifted from quantity (how many Twitter followers can I attract) to quality (how many of those are real people). But that has also nearly run its course as an opportunity for the average guru.
Social media has gone from mystery to mainstream with lightning speed, and the direction will never reverse. Those of us who have been around since the beginning are about to see an entire generation nourished on social media hit the workforce, even in the slow-moving enterprise.
So. what’s left for the social media consultant to do? IMHO, not much of the old stuff. Not much explaining why brands should be on Twitter, or serving as the voice of a brand in the social media channels. You should never have done that anyway, although we all have.
Social media should never be outsourced by a company or a brand, because it is best as the voice of the authentic self. You can’t hire an agency or a guru to do it, any more than you can hire a personal trainer to do exercises FOR you. At the very most, an expert social media consultant or agency can do those exercises WITH you. So how, as the personal trainer, do you do those exercises with your client?
I believe the role of the social media guru is quickly shifting from teacher and perhaps ghostwriter to partner. A good consultant serves as a guide and a role model and a spotter or adjuster. I used to think “Marketing Sherpa” one of the earliest online marketing sites, was a genius of a name. To strain the personal training metaphor a bit more, the guru- turned- Sherpa becomes the person who helps you decide what muscles to flex today, stands over you as you lift in case of an accident, and watches to see if you are doing it right. She’s also the person who knows the mountain.
Or the guru is like the yoga teacher who makes a minor adjustment in your pose based on her outside perception of how your body appears in space. She doesn’t know how you feel in the pose, but she knows where you may not appear to be aligned correctly.
We have to let our trainees do it themselves if they are ever going to get stronger at transparency, authenticity, and customer service. We have to leave the role of hired gun or consultant and take on the role of partner.
So what do we do in this new role of “social media partner”? Well, for one thing it’s more of a risk-taking role, in which we leverage our own brand and experience on behalf of the brand we work with. Perhaps we write about the company instead of writing for them. Perhaps we “like” their Facebook page, spread their news to our own audiences, tweet about their successes.
This is not a role without danger, and it is not a role that allows us to work for just any client. No more breezing in to impart the word, acting as backstairs arms and legs, taking no responsibility for revenue or share price.
I’ve been working this way since I left the agency business, and I love it. I go to bed every night with a clear conscience, because I never do anything I don’t totally believe in.