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.
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.