This post probably won’t make much sense unless you read “Social Media, Put Some Damn Pants On” and the comment stream, so start there, then come back here. We’ll wait.
In the post and comments, there was a spirited debate on how social media practitioners should present themselves, in general, but also specifically during presentations to fellow experts. Both sides made fantastic points. (For the record, my stance shifted [softened?] a bit after listening to the other side – wear whatever the heck you want, but prepare for praise, backlash, or a little bit of both.) The most interesting comment, in my opinion, came here:
When we were all blogging, podcasting and otherwise inventing web media in the first half of the ’00s, wardrobe wasn’t a concern because *no one* was paying attention. Now that businesses are involved, there’s an obvious concern that paying customers won’t take a practitioner — or, by extension, an entire field — seriously if we don’t resemble “traditional” business models. – Justin Kownacki
Other commenters also referenced a possible division between the tech side and the marketing side of social media. Let’s examine the two major groups the commenters identified: 1) “Techies” - The whiz kids with the foresight, creativity and knowledge to create the infrastructure and programming behind social media. There are probably a lot of successful entrepreneurs in this group. These are the innovators that create the sandbox. 2) “Marketers” – Advertising, marketing and PR professionals integrating social media into communications plans. These folks most likely work for agencies, small businesses and corporate communications departments. This group doesn’t get the “back-end” development, but focuses on linking clients/brands with people. [For full disclosure, I am clearly part of this group.] As Justin outlined, the “Techies” were more than just early adopters – they created the movement! When they pioneered the industry, they wrote the rules and answered only to themselves. Once us “Marketers” saw the potential of social media, we started using it in an existing professional setting, with boardrooms, monthly reports, and attention to appearance. Obviously, there are bound to be disagreements here, no? Just looking at the Dress Code Debate of 2010, there is palpable passion on both sides. One side wants to be judged solely on accomplishments, not appearance, while the other needs to “sell” their unplugged bosses and clients on the value of social media. One side feels justifiably invaded by “communicators,” while the other is jumping on a marketing bonanza. Without a doubt, these two groups discussed here are over-generalized. There are hundreds of combinations of tech-savvy and marketing-consciousness, but, the fact remains that an apparent culture clash is going on in the social media world. My questions for you: Do you see a split in social media? How can we unite all sides of the industry? Can we all work together…or are the philosophical differences just too great to overcome?
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