There’s no time (or room) for social media labels

This industry practitioner would rather worry about keeping up with the industry than putting ‘guru’ or ‘ninja’ on his business card. Do you agree?

There are people who use words like “guru” or “ninja” to describe themselves or other social media pros, and there are other people who hate those labels and reject them both for themselves and the “snake oil salesmen” who abuse them.

I don’t judge either side. I just feel there’s no time or room for this argument. Let me explain why, but first, a little context.

Social media constantly changes

I’ve been in tech PR for 18 years, but the traditional tech PR game changed in 2001 after the dot com bubble burst and Sept. 11 happened. Advertising dollars evaporated and editorial pages and staff disappeared. In early 2004 it was clear that PR as we knew it would not return.

At the time I managed Sun Microsystems’ product reviews program. Seemingly overnight there were fewer opportunities to land reviews. Publications shuttered test labs not only to cut costs because advertising was down, but because IT buyers started to blog about their experiences with Sun’s products. These peer reviews slowly became more valuable than editorial product reviews.

I recognized this and quickly evolved the product reviews program to incorporate a robust blogger relations element. It became a hybrid program and we were able to take advantage of the fact that Sun Microsystems already was a social media pioneer.

I worked with our team to build the program from scratch and monitor social media before there were tools like Radian6 and Sysomos. I learned the difference between bloggers, community relations, and media relations.

New rules and new energy

This was a serendipitous introduction to social media. It was reinvigorating. I had the opportunity to build my agency’s social media practice.

I’ve embraced new tools and gained visibility by contributing articles and taking speaking opportunities, but I always quickly correct colleagues and other professional friends that call me a social media guru. I know they mean it as a compliment, but I’m not comfortable with that label. Social media has moved and changed so quickly that no one can truly be an expert.

Social media enthusiasts still kvetch over labels. A few months ago I noticed a client and friend chime in on a Twitter thread started by Valeria Maltoni to react to someone who used the label “social media savant.” This prompted others to jokingly offer up other new labels.

I like being in the trenches with clients and executing award-winning programs that combine social media with not only marketing and communications, but also with important functions like business development and customer support. This keeps me plenty busy. There’s no time or place to worry about personal labels.

Ted Weismann founded and leads Lois Paul and Partner’s digital practice. He blogs at TedWeismann.com, where a version of this article originally ran.

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