While I was unable to make it to Washington, DC to attend the Restore Sanity and/or Fear Rally with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert (Full Disclosure: I have a big nerd-crush on Colbert), I did make a point to read and watch coverage of the rally. Toward the end of the rally, Stewart gave a wonderful speech about the contrasts of life as portrayed by media pundits, particularly cable news pundits, versus what life is really like for most citizens. While some news pundits, who claim to be experts on what “the people” are about and believe, portray life as an unending conflict between “good” and “evil,” life for most of us, according to Stewart, is much more nuanced and complex.
Stewart’s recognition of nuance in life led me to think about social media and social media experts. The advent of social media, much like cable news, was heralded as part of a democratization of information gathering and sharing. With social media smaller and/or less wealthy and/or less traditionally influential organizations could reach the masses and spread information that might not ordinarily be given any air time. Social media, like cable news, was supposed to enrich discourse and make us smarter and savvier due to the broader array and variety of information now available to us. And again like cable news, “experts” and “gurus” began to appear in social media.
In his speech, Stewart stated, “if we amplify everything, we hear nothing,” this sentiment probably rings true for many individuals looking to get a grasp on what social media is and how best to use it. With the number of people calling themselves social media “experts”/ “gurus” wielding the size of their Twitter/Facebook/blog following as proof of their expertise and the amount of, and sometimes, conflicting information available it can be hard to know where to begin.
Each organization’s situation is unique and what will work for one will not work for another. It is wise to be wary of someone claiming that they know what is best for your organization without fully understanding what your organization does, who it serves and how it works. And much like we should approach news and politics, we should open ourselves to different ideas and recommendations to gauge best what fits and also understand what will not and why. Only by not treating the information we find as dogma, can we best map out the approach that is right for us and build communities truly engaged with us and our mission.