Social Media Graduates to the "How?" Era

In recent months, I’ve seen a lot of chatter about “How?” As in, “You’ve convinced me I need to start using social media…how do I do that?”

Most of the chatter isn’t coming from clients, per se, but from other marketing and social media thinkers. There seem’s to be a growing restlessness to graduate from the “Why?” era of social media into the “How” era.

The transition from “You should…” to “Here’s how…” has been observed by others. Here’s Jason Falls:

Could this be a sign that the on-line marketing world is actually headed in the right direction? People are moving past talking incessantly for three days about content being king and now teaching brands how to make it so (emphasis added)?

And here’s how Chris Brogan summarizes the book Tactical Transparency from Shel Holtz and John Havens:

Holtz and Havens have written a book that goes beyond the “Kumbaya and Kool-Aid” of social media and gives leaders insight into which steps to take and when…We’re done just talking about social media. It’s time to translate it to actions for business. 

Observations like these and others hint at the progression from an era of convincing companies to embrace social media to an era of teaching them how. 

What Does the “How?” Era of Social Media Look Like?

So what does the evolution from “You should use social media” to “Here’s how to use social media” look like? Are how-to tutorials really the leap forward? Maybe. Take a look at what the big names are blogging about these days:

Of course, these are only hand-picked examples — hardly proof of a shift. And “how to” posts have always been popular. But each day brings more signs that our tone is changing: We’re focused on being more instructive than persuasive.

But at least one blogger (Peter Kim, whom I respect deeply) says we already spend too much time teaching a man to fish (“Do we really need any more posts on how to use Twitter?” he asks). Peter suggests that we need to set our sights higher (Become the fish?). It’s time to transform, he says. I see Peter’s point — we do tend to rehash and regurgitate — but there are still a lot of folks who have yet to learn about social media, and they need teachers.

Here, Mack Collier talks about his role in the “How?” era…the role of teacher:

As I’ve blogged about before, I prefer to speak at events where there is a premium placed on teaching and learning. I don’t want to stand behind a podium and no one wants to see me do that either.

Mack is a huge advocate of social media expert as teacher. If we have, in fact, reached a tipping point, I suspect Mack will be a busy (and prosperous) man. But what will the teachers teach? Will it be all about the mechanics? Or will we teach the finer arts of strategy? And do we risk giving away the shop?

What’s a Social Media Mentor to Do in the “How?” Era?

Now that our collective endorsement of social media has heads nodding, what will we do when the brands ask for help?

Beth Harte points out that some companies, sold on the concept of social media, will skip right past “How?” and jump into the deep end — for better or worse:

In 2009 companies will begin implementing social media, but with a traditional marketing mindset. Meaning, they will start to embrace the tools but will do as one-way communication because it’s what they are most comfortable with.

Blindfolded plungers notwithstanding, there will be plenty of companies in need of mentors. And as Beth points out, charlatans of every ilk will line up to bamboozle the uninitiated.

Others will look to us for the rules of the road. Lisa Hoffmann, my PRstore colleague, says people want rules for social media because they want it to be easy. And as Lisa says, “Success in social media does not come easily. There is no algorithm, no secret formula, no magic ratio of posts to comments that is going to guarantee results.”

Funny. I was just gonna say the same thing about being a mentor in the social media “How?” era.

  • http://www.silverspider.com Alex

    Your post kicked off a bunch of different ideas Scott, and once I realized the length of my comment was growing very quickly, I decided to post my thoughts on my site. Thanks for kickstarting the subject and sharing your ideas with the community. We're at a pivotal time and the more people who recognize the state of our nascent industry and work to set us on the right path, the better off we all are.

  • http://newmedialisa.com Lisa Hoffmann

    I arrived later on the social media scene than many of the people I discuss it with, yet even I get the sense that it's time to stop talking endlessly about it and start actually using it more often. Until we get our hands dirty and observe and analyze successes and failures, this is all theory. Let's put the theory into practice and see what comes out the other end.

    Then, of course, we can come back and talk about it!

  • Pingback: Social Media? Why? How? When? » Alex Jones

  • http://www.silverspider.com Alex (@BaldMan)

    Your post kicked off a bunch of different ideas Scott, and once I realized the length of my comment was growing very quickly, I decided to post my thoughts on my site. Thanks for kickstarting the subject and sharing your ideas with the community. We're at a pivotal time and the more people who recognize the state of our nascent industry and work to set us on the right path, the better off we all are.

  • http://www.silverspider.com Alex (@BaldMan)

    Your post kicked off a bunch of different ideas Scott, and once I realized the length of my comment was growing very quickly, I decided to post my thoughts on my site. Thanks for kickstarting the subject and sharing your ideas with the community. We're at a pivotal time and the more people who recognize the state of our nascent industry and work to set us on the right path, the better off we all are.

  • http://newmedialisa.com Lisa Hoffmann

    I arrived later on the social media scene than many of the people I discuss it with, yet even I get the sense that it's time to stop talking endlessly about it and start actually using it more often. Until we get our hands dirty and observe and analyze successes and failures, this is all theory. Let's put the theory into practice and see what comes out the other end.

    Then, of course, we can come back and talk about it!

  • http://newmedialisa.com Lisa Hoffmann

    I arrived later on the social media scene than many of the people I discuss it with, yet even I get the sense that it's time to stop talking endlessly about it and start actually using it more often. Until we get our hands dirty and observe and analyze successes and failures, this is all theory. Let's put the theory into practice and see what comes out the other end.

    Then, of course, we can come back and talk about it!