Remember when you were a teenager and a new girl (or guy) started coming to your school? We guys would practically drool all over ourselves just because there was a new female face in the crowd. We wanted to know all about her and show her how good we were at figuring her out — fast — so that all the other guys would be in awe of us. When we found out she was pretty much like all the other girls, our fascination faded and we were on to the next cutie. (Girls exhibited similar behavior over new guys, but I’m speaking here from my perspective.)
The same is happening with communicators and social media.
Communicators are still drooling over social media. We want to know everything about it — everything, it seems — and we want to figure it out fast so all our peers will be in awe of us.
And before long, we’ll realize that social media are pretty much like all the other communication vehicles out there and we’ll move on to the next thing. For now, however, we’re still in the high hormone stage.
Here’s the thing about hormones, though. Sometimes they cause us to lose our sense of judgment and to lose sight of what really matters. The fundamentals, the things on which everything else rests, sometimes become overwhelmed by the passion of the moment.
That’s what I’m afraid is happening in the communication professions today. Too many of us have become obsessed with social media, treating them as if they’re the last cute girl (or guy) that will ever come our way. It’s clouding our judgment and we’re losing our grasp of the fundamentals.
I get that social media have changed communication forever. I get that social media have caused a significant shift in how organizations engage and interact with their stakeholders. I get that it’s important for communicators to have a working knowledge of social media including some technical skill. I understand social media’s impact and importance. Last summer I told my public relations students that the change in communication brought about by social media was like that of the Gutenberg press.
But come on! You would think social media had solved global warming or cured cancer.
I’ve been on Twitter for about six weeks now and I’ve gained great insight into the strutting and posing over social media that’s going on out there among communicators. I only follow a few more than 30 people so far (I’m choosy), but every day my Tweetdeck is filled with tweets promising everything from a formula for social media success to the worst mistakes you can make on Facebook to the latest apps. It’s just too much.
As I said, I only follow a few more than 30 people. I’ve seen others list thousands of people they follow. Even with the best content management tools, they must spend every waking hour monitoring their Tweetdecks.
Meanwhile, the things that really matter are left unattended. In my next post I’m going to throw out for your consideration the fundamental skills that I believe are most important for people working in the communication professions. For now, though, I’m interested in your thoughts about what I’ve said so far. Are communicators acting like starry-eyed kids when it comes to social media? Or is all the fawning justified?