As much fun as I had at Blog World & New Media Expo last weekend, I came away thinking I was talking to the wrong audience. Not that the people who took the time to attend the panels on which I spoke didn’t energize me, or that I didn’t serve as a valid speaker for what they were hoping to explore or learn, but blogging (read: “Social Media”) conferences, to a degree, are a bit of an echo chamber. A bunch of social media folks got together to yuck it up about how social media is cool and, “here’s how I do it … how do you do it?” Yes, some new to the game learn a good bit. Yes, we challenge each other with some critical thinking and feedback, but we’re essentially selling snake oil to the snake oil industry.

No, social media isn’t snake oil. It’s an expression. Bear with me.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved Blog World. I love SXSW. I’ve been to a few other social media industry conferences and have enjoyed them immensely. But the future of successful social media hinges upon us escaping the echo chamber and taking our knowledge and understanding of the social web to the people who don’t get it.

At the end of the month, I’m speaking at my second Public Relations Society of America conference this year. As you’re probably aware, I think public relations professionals are severely lacking in social media savvy and way behind in understanding and implementing best practices in something they should own. Social media, in my mind, is an online extension of public relations and soon will be considered simply a part of good PR. Yet PR pros everywhere are vomiting crappy press releases and irrelevant pitches and acting like social media is something the IT guys should do.

I was recently part of a Social Media Club Louisville educational event where 80 business men and women showed up to learn the basics of social media. Michelle Jones, Nick Huhn, Brendan Jackson, Aaron Marshall and I were proud to pull back the curtain a bit and introduce these folks to what social media is and how they should start thinking about it. On Oct. 14, I’ll present a similar talk to the Master of Business Online boot camp in Indianapolis, a seminar aimed at traditional businesses looking to understand more about online marketing and communications.

But I’m not doing enough. And neither are many of you.

I exchanged emails recently with Drew McLellan of Drew’s Marketing Minute and expressed my thought that we should stop talking to ourselves and start talking to the rest of the world. It’s no surprise that Drew’s ahead of the game. Last week he presented to a group of economic planners for cities. This week he hits rural electric co-op presidents. Yet more reason if you’re not following him on Twitter or subscribing to his blog, you should.

So consider this a challenge, both to you and to myself. As we move forward as social media practitioners, thinkers or whatever you want to call us, let us take pause with our outreach, stop contributing to the echo chamber and start teaching the rest of the marketplace how the social web can compliment their communications efforts. (Notice I didn’t say, “how the social web can revolutionize their business,” or, “miraculously help you kick your competition’s ass,” or some other such fallacy. Don’t set them up to fail. Set them up to embrace and utilize social media effectively.)

I’ll certainly continue to attend SXSW and Blog World & New Media Expo because coming together as an industry to share and learn together has inherent value. But I’m going to try to focus more of my conference and speaking opportunities on those beyond our little bubble. If you do the same, social media has a chance of growing beyond it, too.

Now let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work. What industries, conferences, events and professions should we target? Feel free to add links to events and dates in the comments and we’ll start reaching out in hopes of introducing social media to them soon.

IMAGE: “Soap Bubble 3″ by Lena01 on Stock.Xchng.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://icantkeepup.blogspot.com Deb Robison

    Sure Jason! I thought of one more thing. I think helping PR staff learn about social media, but also help them learn how to express the need for it to decision makers in the organization. I know a lot of PR people who want to learn about social media, but their organization doesn't understand the importance of social media to their organization. Also helping them explain what are the appropriate PR avenues on social media apps is key too. I have seen executives telling their staff- we need a Facebook page, but the staff either not understanding that it's not appropriate for their organization, or, the staff does know it's not appropriate, but doesn't have the language to move the decision maker. I realize their is some personal responsibility necessary on both parties sides.

  • http://icantkeepup.blogspot.com Deb Robison

    Sure Jason! I thought of one more thing. I think helping PR staff learn about social media, but also help them learn how to express the need for it to decision makers in the organization. I know a lot of PR people who want to learn about social media, but their organization doesn't understand the importance of social media to their organization. Also helping them explain what are the appropriate PR avenues on social media apps is key too. I have seen executives telling their staff- we need a Facebook page, but the staff either not understanding that it's not appropriate for their organization, or, the staff does know it's not appropriate, but doesn't have the language to move the decision maker. I realize their is some personal responsibility necessary on both parties sides.

  • http://www.copywriteink.blogspot.com Rich Becker

    It's almost as if you were in my class on Friday, Jason.

    I warned off public relations professionals and communicators from becoming so entrenched in field associations that they forget to participate in industry associations representing their clients and employers. And I reminded them that as much as the “social media” experts sometimes believe they are driving the industry, I continually learn that we represent only a fraction of a fraction that makes up business employing social media.

    Great observations and it was good to see you in Vegas.

    Best,
    Rich

  • http://www.copywriteink.blogspot.com Rich Becker

    It's almost as if you were in my class on Friday, Jason.

    I warned off public relations professionals and communicators from becoming so entrenched in field associations that they forget to participate in industry associations representing their clients and employers. And I reminded them that as much as the “social media” experts sometimes believe they are driving the industry, I continually learn that we represent only a fraction of a fraction that makes up business employing social media.

    Great observations and it was good to see you in Vegas.

    Best,
    Rich

  • http://www.copywriteink.blogspot.com Rich Becker

    It's almost as if you were in my class on Friday, Jason.

    I warned off public relations professionals and communicators from becoming so entrenched in field associations that they forget to participate in industry associations representing their clients and employers. And I reminded them that as much as the “social media” experts sometimes believe they are driving the industry, I continually learn that we represent only a fraction of a fraction that makes up business employing social media.

    Great observations and it was good to see you in Vegas.

    Best,
    Rich

  • http://blog.clearcastdigitalmedia.com/ mchamberlin

    I've been rolling a response around in my head for a few days and came up with more of an echo to your thoughts on the echo chamber. Chris Brogan had a similar post the other day, too, likening SM tools to the telephone. http://www.chrisbrogan.com/social-media-tools-a

    I had a similar observation after returning from the New Media Expo last year. Seems like two things happen: we all get sucked into all the cool tools and lost sight of what they're supposed to do and, 2) we forget to let the rest of the world know why this is important. My post: http://blog.clearcastdigitalmedia.com/2008/10/e

  • http://blog.clearcastdigitalmedia.com/ mchamberlin

    I've been rolling a response around in my head for a few days and came up with more of an echo to your thoughts on the echo chamber. Chris Brogan had a similar post the other day, too, likening SM tools to the telephone. http://www.chrisbrogan.com/social-media-tools-a

    I had a similar observation after returning from the New Media Expo last year. Seems like two things happen: we all get sucked into all the cool tools and lost sight of what they're supposed to do and, 2) we forget to let the rest of the world know why this is important. My post: http://blog.clearcastdigitalmedia.com/2008/10/e

  • http://blog.clearcastdigitalmedia.com/ mchamberlin

    I've been rolling a response around in my head for a few days and came up with more of an echo to your thoughts on the echo chamber. Chris Brogan had a similar post the other day, too, likening SM tools to the telephone. http://www.chrisbrogan.com/social-media-tools-a

    I had a similar observation after returning from the New Media Expo last year. Seems like two things happen: we all get sucked into all the cool tools and lost sight of what they're supposed to do and, 2) we forget to let the rest of the world know why this is important. My post: http://blog.clearcastdigitalmedia.com/2008/10/e

  • http://www.ribeezie.com Ricardo Bueno

    Hey Jason!

    Well, I've recently reached out to several of the campus groups at my alma mater (UCLA) to talk to them about social media and how they might improve their communication and outreach efforts to the student population and their members. I didn't approach them on a “hire me” basis (though speaking to them and engaging them will help me out in my own endeavors). Frankly, I think that there's A LOT that they can do if they started to use some of these social media tools in their communication efforts.

    Anyway, just sharing some of what I'm doing to evangelize social media for what I hope to be the greater good…

  • http://www.ribeezie.com Ricardo Bueno

    Hey Jason!

    Well, I've recently reached out to several of the campus groups at my alma mater (UCLA) to talk to them about social media and how they might improve their communication and outreach efforts to the student population and their members. I didn't approach them on a “hire me” basis (though speaking to them and engaging them will help me out in my own endeavors). Frankly, I think that there's A LOT that they can do if they started to use some of these social media tools in their communication efforts.

    Anyway, just sharing some of what I'm doing to evangelize social media for what I hope to be the greater good…

  • http://www.ribeezie.com Ricardo Bueno

    Hey Jason!

    Well, I've recently reached out to several of the campus groups at my alma mater (UCLA) to talk to them about social media and how they might improve their communication and outreach efforts to the student population and their members. I didn't approach them on a “hire me” basis (though speaking to them and engaging them will help me out in my own endeavors). Frankly, I think that there's A LOT that they can do if they started to use some of these social media tools in their communication efforts.

    Anyway, just sharing some of what I'm doing to evangelize social media for what I hope to be the greater good…

  • http://www.copydiva.com/blog RobinSeidner

    Jason,

    I really agree with you. Its one of the reasons I chose to not go to BlogWorld this year. I went to WOMM-u expecting more, but frankly the gap in knowledge between the snakes and, as they say in this election cycle “Main Street,” makes it hard to do conferences that well. Though, like you, I very much enjoyed meeting and hanging out with people I don't get to see often.

    This is exactly why I did the two 101 programs this month for the Colorado Business Marketing Association. I think that more needs to be done at a local level to share knowledge and ideas.

  • http://www.copydiva.com/blog RobinSeidner

    Jason,

    I really agree with you. Its one of the reasons I chose to not go to BlogWorld this year. I went to WOMM-u expecting more, but frankly the gap in knowledge between the snakes and, as they say in this election cycle “Main Street,” makes it hard to do conferences that well. Though, like you, I very much enjoyed meeting and hanging out with people I don't get to see often.

    This is exactly why I did the two 101 programs this month for the Colorado Business Marketing Association. I think that more needs to be done at a local level to share knowledge and ideas.

  • http://www.copydiva.com/blog RobinSeidner

    Jason,

    I really agree with you. Its one of the reasons I chose to not go to BlogWorld this year. I went to WOMM-u expecting more, but frankly the gap in knowledge between the snakes and, as they say in this election cycle “Main Street,” makes it hard to do conferences that well. Though, like you, I very much enjoyed meeting and hanging out with people I don't get to see often.

    This is exactly why I did the two 101 programs this month for the Colorado Business Marketing Association. I think that more needs to be done at a local level to share knowledge and ideas.

  • http://www.copydiva.com/blog RobinSeidner

    Jason,

    I really agree with you. Its one of the reasons I chose to not go to BlogWorld this year. I went to WOMM-u expecting more, but frankly the gap in knowledge between the snakes and, as they say in this election cycle “Main Street,” makes it hard to do conferences that well. Though, like you, I very much enjoyed meeting and hanging out with people I don't get to see often.

    This is exactly why I did the two 101 programs this month for the Colorado Business Marketing Association. I think that more needs to be done at a local level to share knowledge and ideas.

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