I’ve put a lot of thought into the future of “social media experts,” which typically includes consultants and corporate employees who dawn the “social media specialist“, “social media manager” and other titles. Jeremiah Owyang has the entire list.
The truth is that these titles will be non-existent in the future. Social media is not just an advancement in technology, but it’s a movement, in which we have transitioned our behaviors and interactions. A similar instance of this occurred in 1965 with email. Although email hasn’t disappeared, it will slowly be manipulated and drained by the likes of social networks like Facebook.
The history of email
Before email, people used regular phones (not cell phones) and in-person meetings to hold conversations. Around 1961, people’s behaviors began to change, as the internet was born and MIT first demonstrated the “Compatible Time-Sharing System (CTSS)“, which allowed multiple users to log into the IBM 7094. The IBM 7094 was the fastest computer of it’s time (IBM sold it’s computer business a while ago). In 1965, CTSS allowed multiple users to login and encouraged users to share information in new ways. From email came network email, which allowed users to send messages from one computer to the next.
The history of social media
Before social media brightened all of our worlds, web 2.0 was coined, which symbolized the transformation of the internet. Web 2.0 aims to enhance creativity, information sharing and collaboration among users. Although this is nothing new to you, after reading this blog, in combination with others, it’s important because social media became a set of tools that facilitates web 2.0 behaviors. A lot of people get “social media” and “social networking” confused because they are unsure what the difference really is. Basically, social networking is an instance of social media. The main movement comes from the openness of communication, human interaction and an integration of words built to share-meaning.
What defines an expert?
I never used to brand myself as an expert in personal branding and social media. It came about almost unexpectedly when I proved the concept that I replaced. For the first 6 months of my blog I felt comfortable calling myself a “spokesman” or “personal branding spokesman” until Fast Company wrote about me and was recruited based on my passion at the same company I applied to a year before. This was my transition to expert and the reasoning is simple.
To be labeled as an expert you need PROVEN results, with an associated endorsement to back it up.
Although I brand myself as a personal branding expert, I’m hired by EMC to be their social media expert and there is a big difference. Social media is just 1 of 8 tentacles of personal branding (see Octopus Model of Relevancy).
A comparison and explanation
Both email and social media have a lot in common. First, I don’t believe anyone was ever called an “email expert” but they were possibly referred to as such in the workplace, when few understood the concept. If you Google “email expert” you will get approximately 40,000 results, of which, none are relevant. Second, social media and email both stem from the art of communication and interaction, accept social media is more advanced and new.
So why do we have “social media experts” today? Well, it’s taken our culture just as much time to understand the ramifications of social media and because of generation differences, some are adopting it faster than others.
Will we all be using and have proficiency in social media 2-4 years from now? The answer is yes.
When everyone is an expert on a topic and has the same level of competency, the expertise becomes a standard.
Basically, you can’t stand out, thus your personal brand suffers. This is a reminder to us all that we must constantly diversify our skill set and remain relevant to our audiences. It’s like the stock market, where, if you invest all your money on a single stock, and the stock loses value, you suffer. If you purchase multiple stocks in various industries they can counter each other.
In 2-4 years if you claim to be an expert in this field, you will be laughed at. If I walked into work today and screamed “hey if anyone needs help with email let me know,” I would hope people thought i was joking.
The future of social media experts (SME 2.0)
I couldn’t leave this post open ended because it’s too important. I am currently a social media specialist, but I’ve figured out how to apply my knowledge to various business functions, which creates value. Since there is an apparent intersection between social media and business functions like PR, HR and marketing, it’s almost obvious to apply your “skills” to these areas, but not just one. You must learn how social media impacts them all and this blog will help you bridge that knowledge gap. I’ve made the obvious connection between social media and personal branding, which is yet another application.
Apply your social media knowledge to business functions for survival.
If your interests lie in working for a corporation, then you MUST apply social media to those business functions, but also learn traditional approaches and look to the future. At the same time, there is NO job security anymore. When your colleagues preach about “job security,” it’s a load of crap! The only way to have job security is to become indispensable.
On another note, the other popular title in this regime is “community manager,” which my friend Connie Bensen dawns. I have confidence in this title because it’s similar to having customer service representatives. You need individuals to monitor communities, encourage participation and be creative.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this and hope to hear your opinion. From social media experts, to community managers, to independents and those who don’t have a bias, please share your thoughts. Part of my message in the past few months has been to protect yourself and by finding new ways to apply your skills, your future will be bright.