How not to be a social media trainspotter

Are we, in the PR and marketing professions, becoming more obsessed by the minutiae of social media than we are with the possibilities of where they can take our businesses and clients?

In an episode of Michael Portillo’s excellent Great British Railway Journeys (am I an anorak in the making?), he recalled the early days of the rail networks. In the Victorian era, people could now breakfast in Brighton in the morning, travel up to the Ascot races in the afternoon and be home the same day.

It occurred to me how there were probably people who were fascinated by – and talked a lot about – the physical aspects of the rail networks. They perhaps enthused over the gauge of track laid, the signal boxes, level crossings and the trains themselves, rather than the possibilities the new connections opened up.

I think it was Peter Shankman who drew the distinction recently between those who talked about being social media experts and social media marketing experts. He likened the first to the guys who knows how to put the bread in and out of the oven and the second to those who know how to create a satisfying meal.

A few questions to give you further food for thought and, who knows, help expel the trainspotter within:

  1. What do our own twitter feeds, blog posts and LinkedIn updates say about our own social realm focus?
  2. Do we bamboozle ourselves too much with the techie side and the minutiae of social media? I don’t talk very much about how printing presses or multimedia production work, but that doesn’t hold me back from creating a great annual report or presentation.
  3. Can we serve up more social media ‘creative cookery’ that satisfies clients and their businesses, while keeping the ovens and bread paddles consigned to the kitchen?
  4. How can we focus more on how social media offer delivery channels to fit it with the bigger picture of integrated campaigns and business and communications goals?

If we can shift the focus away from the trainspotting on social media matters and look to the destinations they can take us to, then I believe we stand a chance of being ‘at the races in the afternoon’ as professionals as digital PR and marketing mature.