How did we get here?
Professionals are the worst predictors of technology. It’s understandable. We go to university, we study what is put in front of us, there is little original research that takes place as an undergraduate, and for the most part we don’t care to venture beyond the boundaries of our specialised expertise. Business people are far more likely to look beyond the horizon, it’s where their fortunes lie.
Business is inherently entrepreneurial – professions are more the reiteration of a hard-earned expertise. Business people will often be interested in technology that offers the opportunity to expand their customer base, professionals love technology for its straightforward contribution to the office bottom line.Word processing? Great. Automated billing? Wonderful.
That doesn’t mean that there are no entrepreneurial professionals – there are, and some are stunningly original thinkers – but on the whole we prefer to follow in the well worn tracks of others, especially those who are our “seniors”. Perhaps that’s why entrepreneurial activity rewards all ages, while successful professionals climb sturdy and durable ladders.
Professionals don’t like branding
Yes, professionals like to have a strong brand, but disavow the shenanigans that are often associated with “branding”. But as Technorati founder David Sifry explains:
The people formerly known as your audience, or the people formerly known as consumers, are now participants in the process of building your brand.
That goes equally for professionals as any other business. In fact it’s already happened. But this is complicated, because plenty of professionals, especially those from smaller firms (and that’s the vast majority), don’t see themselves in “business” with an “audience” or a “brand”. It’s not just a generational problem, although that is part of it, but is more an aspect of a skewed elitism in which professionals prefer to see themselves as apart from the business herd. Well, if that’s the truth, then sometime in the near future many professionals are going to wander so far from the herd that they will disappear altogether.
What is social media anyway?
Social media is an umbrella term that includes blogs, social networking programs such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+, and professional networks like LinkedIn. Some might argue with this classification, but abstract debates are unhelpful in the real world of professionals. Just look for an online activity that’s interactive (though it doesn’t have to be), allows for collaboration between users and content providers, and promotes the ongoing delivery of information to others. This description happily encompasses hundreds of internet applications, but you only need to learn the basics of a few to begin your online adventure.
That’s the “what” – the “what it does” is summed up by Scott Monty, the head of social marketing at the Ford Motor Company:
Social media humanizes…creating a bond within and between employees and customers and helps to improve our reputation by putting our message in the hands of the people who are most likely to be trusted.
Are you one of those professionals who thinks this is hooey? I’ll make a deal with you. Read a solid explanation of the business case – yes, business – then see what you think. You may discover that in part you have a problem with the high-tech gurus of social media, not the medium itself, and so you ignore what is relevant in the message. I agree with this, by the way. As I write in my online bio:
As a result of a joint venture with a multinational service provider, a product to be delivered on the internet, I found myself sitting at conference tables opposite (mostly) twenty-something IT consultants who knew plenty about social media but little about the real world needs of our ultimate customer.
They don’t know much about your clients, either.
So I understand every part of your anxieties. Really. My best advice is to undertake some reading and then do what professionals do best, assess the situation in the light of objective research. You may be surprised where it takes you.
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