At lunchtime today the weekly spectacle of verbal jousting takes place at Prime Minister’s Questions. David Cameron will square up to the new Labour Party Leader, Ed Miliband. Who’s your money on to make the first joke, or get the deepest dig? Prime Minister’s Questions is part of the weekly political fabric – TV and newspaper editors look forward to it as it guarantees something for their audiences. But it is never quite as interesting when the Prime Minister cannot make it and his deputy stands in (sorry Nick..!). Nor was it as eventful when Harriet Harman took on the role of “leader” – we knew she wasn’t the “real one”. And how much fun would it have been for Nero if the gladiators fighting hadn’t been the real ones, but some stand-ins? Would you go to watch England Reserves vs Montenegro Reserves? (OK, don’t answer that one…!). But you get my drift – we want reality, not deputies, copies, stand ins. How disappointed have you been when you have been invited to a party and were told that some celebrity would be there only to find that it is someone from a look-alike agency? It’s not the same.
So, why, oh why, oh why, is there such a massive clamour for the role of “social media manager” online? This is someone who pretends to be you. Fantastic – can’t you do it yourself? Look, let’s be frank – you have spent all your life practising to be you; no-one, not even the best impressionist on the planet with plastic surgery, can do the same as you. Period. The whole concept of a “social media manager” is completely and totally flawed. When people connect with you online they want to connect with YOU – not a replica.
Consider this. You visit your pub and meet someone in the bar. You get on and you agree to meet later in the week. When you arrive, your new found friend has sent a replacement, someone to hold the conversation on their behalf. What’s your reaction? Chances are you are polite, have a drink and forget your new friend forever.
Online, it is no different. Connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook and you connect with ME – not a replica, replacement, stand-in. I do not have a social media manager – and neither should you. Here are three reasons why.
1. It’s not social
Social means connection between people, between individuals. It does not mean connecting between replicas of individuals. If you were Ed Miliband and your connection with David Cameron was through some “Prime Minister’s Questions Manager” what would you think? Online, far too many people have focused on the word “media” in “social media”, forgetting the word “social”. Social media is about connections between individuals. Having a “social media manager” means you simply do not “get” what this is all about. Result? Your “connections” won’t get you either.
2. It’s not media
Having a social media manager misses any real concept of “media”. The words “social media” do not refer to the content – they refer to the channel, the means of distribution. It’s a frank misinterpretation of English. The word “media” as in “mass media” means the circulation of content to a large audience. Businesses have “media buyers” – people who buy adverts in newspapers, for instance. It is about the content. But “media” also means the channel through which information is communicated – it is the “medium”. And in social media that medium is the human to human connection. The people proposing the whole notion of a “social media manager” are clearly focusing on “content” and not “medium”.
3. It’s not management
Social media managers merely offer to take away the “chore” of using social networks – as though connecting at a human level were a chore anyway…! They offer to remove the “time burden” from you, as though connecting with people were a time issue anyway. Surely everything you do in life depends upon connecting with other people. It’s not a burden, it’s a necessity…! Social media management as a concept completely misunderstands the way business is done. Human to human connection is not a “process” that can be “managed”.
You will find several people offering to be your social media manager. There is Steve Jones, Cheryl Creaser, Kelvin White and the anonymous “Jungle“. Take a look at those sites. What do you notice? Oh my goodness they are all largely the same, with much identical copy. Indeed, these people understand the “social” of “social media” so well, some of them even write under the useful name of “Admin”. Gosh, I must connect with them…! Not.
These individuals may well provide a service, but what are their clients getting? At first sight, their clients are getting “time saving” and removal of the “chore” of social media. Ultimately, what their clients could get is reduced connection at the human level, with replicas talking to replicas. It would be like seeing an Ed Miliband look-alike debating with a David Cameron clone; it simply does not bear thinking about.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+