Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I am not a social media guru

I am not a social media guru. Period.

I do, however, claim to know a lot about things like collaboration, information management, findability, online retailing, communication theory, user experience design, and technology and Internet-based business development in general. During recent years, I have also learned a lot about the principles and mechanisms behind the phenomena we call social media, and applied those to the things I already knew a lot about.

A few years ago, I came to realize that we are in the midst of a paradigm shift when it comes to communication; anyone with access to a device with an Internet connection can now communicate with anyone around the globe almost for free, with a reach, immediacy and ease of use never seen before. Most people see of this paradigm shift materialize in the form as social media tools or platforms such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter.

Looking back at previous revolutions in communication technology such as the printing press, the telegraph, the telephone and email (yes, I actually believe email was/is revolutionary), I also knew that the current paradigm shift would have an immense impact on everything from society and industries  to our daily lives as individuals, employees, consumers and citizens. We are right in the middle of this transformation, which makes it somewhat hard to see it. It will be easier to see this revolution when we look back at it in a decade or two from now.

I also realized that, considering the fact I am working in the IT industry and using IT to help customers to improve communication and collaboration, I am standing in the eye of the storm. Considering that the paradigm shift would affect everything in my work, the only feasible strategy was to try to understand and get to know all about it that is relevant for my work. How else could I help my customers to use the full potential of their people and information technology to become better at collaboration, information management and findability?

Some people still see social media as a phenomenon in its own right, and not as the materialization of a paradigm shift in communications that is currently affecting every aspect of work and business in one way or another. This view is used as an excuse for not actively trying to understand it themselves and learn how it affects their own work. When they encounter something relating to social media in their work, they either ignore it or turn to "the social media guy" for advice.

Since I have come to know a lot about the principles and mechanics behind social media and also share the results from my own learning process, I am often approached as "the social media guy", or even "the social media guru". I try to be as helpful as I can, but I also try to be clear on two things:
  1. I am not a social media guru. I don't claim to know everything about social media and every tool or application that is out there.  I have only tried to understand the principles and mechanics behind it and apply it on the things I work with.
  2. You should try to do the same, upgrading your own knowledge and know-how. If you don’t, someone else will, and eventually replaces you. 
I really believe that you have to understand the human and technological principles and mechanics behind social media (i.e. understanding the paradigm shift) AND the domain to which you want to apply these in order to create business improvements.

Everyone, no matter which domain they work in, need to actively increase their own understanding and knowledge about the paradigm shift which we are now experiencing. They need to actively seek to increase their understanding and knowledge of it. The knowledge is right there, just one or a few clicks away. Lots of people are active on the social web and eager to share what they know with anyone who is interested. I am one of them. But I won't invest a lot of time and effort to educate or train anyone who passively waits to be educated or trained. I prefer to help self-motivated people who actively look for relevant input to their own learning processes.

I am right here, at your service.