Deconstructing Social Media mentorship

In my last post, I mentioned the value of mentorship in the long term success of this now loose conflagration of  “social media” and I felt it appropriate to elaborate a little more on this topic.   After some inspired conversation with some good folks this week, I wanted to crystallize my thoughts just a bit more.  (And, yes, as with all blog posts, these are my opinions, and you’re free to disagree. Cool? Cool.)

First off, it’s important to realize that social media, if it means anything at all, means people.    There’s segmentation among the ranks, but I think we can all agree that the best way to define social media is using tools/services/marketing/apps/fan pages/campaigns to reach people.  And that when we’ve actually reached them, we want to have as much conversation as time/resources/goals/objectives allow.

So, let’s continue down the thread of people.    There’s the “US” and the “THEM”.  Here’s two examples of US vs THEM, both of which, turns out, have very similar relationships.


Now, when I use those labels, I understand the negative connotation there, as if the “THEM” are the enemy, and we are the visitors.  But, in my mind, the “US” vs “THEM” equates to two different struggles.

“US” – typically comfortable with technology, communication and solutions.  We see “social media” as a business.  A communication channel.  A way to build relationships with our company/brand/client.

“THEM” – an ordinary person, who has their own affinity groups, relationships and friends, but thinks social media as “something to do”.  Often, waiting to be given incentive or entre into a world they know little about.   Many are consumers, some want to be heard.   Many are technophobic, and afraid to try new things.  They got pulled into this because their friends pulled them in. At the end of the day, they all want to BELONG.

Our goal, as “US” really is to make people feel important.  Like they belong with our brand/client/product.  Like their feedback is useful and welcome.

How do you make people belong? You listen and understand and the other biggest words here … EMBRACE and CONNECT.   Understanding people for who they really are and accepting that.  We are their mentors.  We should never take this responsibility lightly.  Belonging is a trust equation.  And as we know, trust, when lost or violated is rarely regained.   Mentorship implies a level of caring.


Now, the “US” versus “THEM”, is the knowledge and experiences of how to do it.  Those who know are mentors to those who don’t.

I’ll go on the record by saying this – no one person knows everything in Social Media.  Or, in technology.  Or, in life, for that matter.   Experiences are instant, and daily.  Education is ongoing.  Innovation is ongoing.  We need to continue to band together.   We should welcome those who want to learn intothe fraternity, and continue to push each other to “do the right thing”.

I know, that and a token/swipecard/pass gets you on the bus/subway/ferry.

But, where I think this differs slightly from what has been widely reported, is that social media specialization is starting to really develop.  To me, the skills break out in to three major areas:

  • Customer support/relationship/community management
  • Marketing and advertising
  • Development and implementation
  • Public relations and dialog management

Many organizations have people who wear all of these Social Media hats.   But, as the expected soon in Social Media dollars continues, each one of these will require more custom skills, and individuals to man these jobs.   The “lumping of Social Media” into one bucket needs to end, and the fostering of these skills need to be separated.  Much like the early days of the World Wide Web, specialization allows everyone to win.    Most early websites were static HTML, handcoded to display information with limited standards.   And, that was pretty much about it.

Now you have web designers, front-end developers, back-end developers, user experience designers, analytics specialists, SEO, SEM, Internet Marketing people, AJAX, CSS specialists, etc, etc, etc.

And, in much like the current situation in Social Media, many of these are often performed by one person.   But that doesn’t make best practices any less important.

Here’s where mentors really matter, because defining these specialization needs leaders to light the way for those who are learning the space, but also to communicate this split of form and function.   Right now Social Media is seen as quick fix done by a few people that produces huge results (remember the early days of “we have to have a website”?).

But we can mentor those who don’t know the skills involved, who want to learn, just as much as we can those who don’t understand the impact.  These are the “THEM”.  We should want them to become the “US”.  We should want them to BELONG.  Because they will teach us as much about the craft as we will teach them someday.

How do you make people belong? You listen and understand and the other biggest words here … EMBRACE and CONNECT.   Understanding people for who they really are and accepting that.  (sound familiar?)

I think both sets of relationships are the definition of who we should be as “social media” people.   It’s my hope that you who read this feel the same way.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *