Social media authorship is mandatory for credibility as an advisor

Tom Foremski strikes a nerve with his post, PR Firms that Don’t Blog Yet Offer New/Social Media Practices . Tom argues:

… I’ve always said that PR firms cannot claim to know anything about new/social media if they aren’t using it themselves.

One way to check out if a PR firm understands blogging, etc, is to see if they have a blog of their own. Many don’t, or if they do, they post very infrequently, and usually after meetings abut what they will blog about. Yet nearly every PR firm offers a new/social media practice to clients and claims that they understand this medium. This is BS imho.

I think that Tom is absolutely right. Usually, I keep my views to myself on this. But Tom’s post and the comments in response to it really hit home.

So, this is a one-time post about this topic. And before I start, please excuse me if this reads as self-congratulatory. It’s not meant to be.

But it is meant to be a challenge to all those companies that are out there peddling social media advice from the safe distance of observers. People who say "you don’t need to be active in social media to be able to advise on how to do it right."

So, to you folks, I say:

You can’t understand the process of creation unless you’ve created something

I’m a big believer that you need to be a creator of social media to truly understand it.

Social media is online communications in which people switch easily from being audience to author – without the need to know coding (thank you social software!)

How can you really understand social media if you restrict yourself to the audience role? You are really only watching one half of social media. You have to experience the work, agony and joy of creation to really know both sides of social media.

Go to next heading if you want to skip the Thornley Fallis story

Have we put our money, time and effort where my mouth is? You betcha we have. Not only me, but all the people I work with.

Back in ’04, we began experimenting with social media behind the firewall – with both a Wiki to replace our traditional intranet and a blog. (I started out with an MSN Spaces account restricted only to the people in my MSN friends list – social media on training wheels.)

In ’05, I came out in public with the Pro PR blog . Shortly after that, Terry Fallis along with David Jones (then a Thornley Fallis employee) launched the Inside PR podcast .

At the same time, we encouraged all of the people in the company to get involved in blogging (that was pre-Facebook, pre-Twitter). And as people began to post, we redeveloped the Thornley Fallis Website so that the most recent posts from each of our employee blogs are front and centre. In this way, we give visitors a chance to know our company through the thoughts of the people who work here, not through "brochureware".

Today, if people come to our Website, they can read the views and insights that our team shares each an every day through: Michael O’Connor Clarke’s Uninstalled , Michael Seaton’s The Client Side , Bob LeDrew’s FlackLife , John Sobol’s The Talking Shop and the collectively authored blogs of the women in our Toronto office, PRGirlz , the folks in our Ottawa office, Capital PR , and our 76design team, shift+control .

Last year, Terry Fallis self-published his novel, the Best Laid Plans, and promoted it by reading it in a podcast series on his blog. Not only did he explore a whole new model of publishing, but his novel was awarded the Leacock Award for Humour . (And now he has a traditional publishing deal which will see his novel published and hit bookstores in the autumn season. Way to go, Terry!)

We also created some apps – FriendsRoll and TopLinks – which we hope will help revitalize the blogroll and bring a greater sense of community to blogs.

And along the way, we’ve played with all the Shiny New Objects. We’ve learned which are simply really neat technology and which have real utility. And we actively participate and generate content in those that we find useful. Twitter, Facebook, Dopplr, del.icio.us and many more.

Oh yes. We also took our social media involvement back into the real world. We’ve helped to organize the Third Tuesday social media meetups to provide a place where we can meet in the real world with others who share our passions for social media.

Bottom Line: Social media authorship is the entry fee for social media credibility.

Where does that leave us? Well, when someone asks me a question about social media, I never have to preface my response with "They say…" or "They believe…" I can always say, "In my experience, I have discovered…" And that gives me real confidence that the advice I am providing is solid.

I listen to people who have never posted to a blog pronouncing their views and presenting themselves as experts in social media. And usually I politely keep my opinion to myself. But I’ll say it here. Very few of the people who aren’t active creators of social media really understand the nuances of the social media culture.

OK. That’s the end of my rant. What do you think?

  • http://www.canuckflack.com Colin McKay

    Good point, Joe.

    The pool of flacks and hacks that have experimented with social media is getting deeper, but that still leaves a lot of people and shops attempting to bolt on the cool new thing.

  • http://www.ryananderson.ca Ryan Anderson

    Joe, you’re absolutely right. In my day job, I work with a lot of agencies and a lot of PR firms, and about 90% of them claim to be experts in social media. I believe that they read blogs, I believe that they know how to advertise on MySpace, and I believe that they know how to make PowerPoint slides titled “The Changing Mediascape,” but by and large, they’re spectators.

    You don’t become an NHL all-star by watching the game on your couch, and you don’t become a social media “expert” by reading the odd blog.

    I wrote about the same topic a few weeks ago, specifically in regard to Twitter: http://www.ryananderson.ca/2008/04/30/twitter-pr-and-the-amish-electrician/

  • http://bargainista.ca Eden Spodek

    I couldn’t agree with you more.

    I lurked in this space for a long time, started attending events, commenting on other people’s blog posts and started my own blog almost two years ago. Now I am actively involved in many areas of the social media space and have several personal examples upon which I can draw when advising others.

    Anyone can use the tools but using them strategically is something else. The cultural aspects are a huge part of understanding social media and the future of digital communications in general.

  • http://www.livingstonbuzz.com Geoff Livingston

    I totally agree. You can’t coach people on how to do it if you haven’t walked the walk. We’ve been doing it ourselves for two years plus, and I’ve been actively consulting clients on social media for 18 months plus. As a result, we are credible and experienced.

  • http://www.digital-voodoo.com Dave Evans

    Absolutely. My Physics professor, when talking about the importance of actually *doing* the homework, talked of “theoretical piano players” and their minimal value as entertainers. The same thing applies to social media. Yes, there is theory behind it: but if you’re advising clients on what they should *do* with regard to social media your advice is likely to be better (and better received) if you’ve got a few of your own successes (and stumbles) under your belt.

  • http://www.markblevis.com Mark Blevis

    I believe there’s more to it than just being part of the audience and a content creator.

    To truly be a social media advisor, especially a *trustworthy* one, you need to do more than just consume a few blogs and have published a handful of blog posts, podcasts or the like. An advisor needs to be a thoughtful and regular creator of social media content; must actively follow the trends and activities and engage in a variety of conversations, not just initiate their own; and needs to experiment, fail, try again, succeed, refine and improve. Being engaged develops knowledge and expertise and leads to the foundation required by an advisor.

    Consider that, as citizens, we all have opinions and ideas about how our public transportation system should be run (as an example). That makes us interested stakeholders with some insight to offer – not advisors. To truly understand how to advise on the operations of bus and train systems, one must understand the internals of how such an organization is run, how resources are used, how urban growth affects routes and schedules, how financial decisions are made, etc… Someone who uses the system, has worked within the system and understands influencing factors is equipped to be an advisor.

    It’s incredible to see how Thornley Fallis has embraced social media as both a medium and an ethos. You have done this by embracing it internally and encouraging your employees to be engaged and active as well, and supporting the community (sponsorships, tools, content, etc…). This makes Thornley Fallis among a specific set of cutting edge PR and communications companies (I won’t name others here to avoid leaving names out) that are leaders in this space, especially equipped to effectively move their clients into social media.

  • http://www.davefleet.com Dave Fleet

    Joe — you’ve nailed it. Couldn’t agree more.

    An added benefit of getting out there and doing this stuff is that, alongside learning how to use these tactics, you find out what works and what doesn’t work. That’s almost as valuable as the ‘how-to’ knowledge itself.

  • http://jillfoster.name Jill Foster

    Hi-5 from a distance to you.

    Similar to Eden’s experience, I observed and pondered different media and OSN options for a while. After almost 2 years, my experience (& thus guidance to others) is based in confidence.

    You hit it on the head re: creative cycles being apart of social media relations. It’s a key part I believe in developing & owning one’s voice online (…and being able to better recognize honest or fake messaging). Thx for this!

  • http://everdotconnects.com Connie Reece

    I’m with you 100% on this one, Joe. Two years ago I started a personal blog to learn how to do it right before starting one for a company. And who was the very first commenter? Joe Thornley. You left an encouraging comment for a completely unknown blogger, and I became a fan for life. (And then finally had the pleasure of meeting you last year at BlogOrlando.)

    You also set an example for me, and I’m sure many others, by walking the walk. Now I’m in a position to encourage others to do the same. And yet I see agency after agency jumping on the “social media buzzwagon,” thinking that if they can spell blog they can advise someone how to do it.

    Some good news is that PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) is finally beginning to come around. I had the privilege of speaking at their first Digital Impact conference in New York this week, and the attendees were like sponges, soaking up knowledge of how to actually “do” social media.

    Great post — and thanks again for your ongoing example and encouragement.

  • http://flacklife.blogspot.com Bob LeDrew

    I agree totally. Except for that LeDrew guy. His blog’s TERRIBLE.

  • http://prcogitation.com Joseph Wilburn

    I completely agree as well. I would also add that newbies to social media also get themselves up to speed on the “culture” behind the social media movement. Like learning a new language, often one is exposed to the culture as well. It helps you understand the new words (in this case tools) and you learn to use them in context.

    I say this because when I was elected/nominated/thrown into teaching my former classmates how to blog, I learned right away that just knowing how to use the tool isn’t enough and people aren’t always going to clue into the finer points right away. Just saying to the class “today we blog”, IMO, weakened the experience for my classmates because they had no idea why it would be strategically useful in PR. If I had the chance to do it over, I would have had them read something before the unit, such as The Cluetrain Manifesto, to get an overall idea of the context and history of the conversation and the relationship building it entails.

    So, I guess to boil it down, knowing how to use the tools is great. Understanding the online business culture that spawned the tools is a better, more complete understanding and hopefully will add that much more credibility to your name.

    I think we regular users take that understanding for granted but I think it should also be stated openly so new users don’t get sucked into the questionable ethics, black-hat numbers game. I think that hurts everyone when that happens and cheapens social media in process.

    Great post! It got me thinking how best to articulate all this to the “masses.”

  • http://www.daniellerestivo.com Danielle Restivo

    I couldn’t agree more and was just about to blog on this myself. Social media has gotten to be too much of a bandwagon with PR people jumping on and dropping Facebook and blogging into plans without really thinking about the level of engagement needed. I’m a new entrant into this world and know I still have a lot to learn but I’m also reading every day, commenting and talking openly with other PR practitioners to gain a better understanding. That’s what it takes and the real question is – how many PR people will take the time to really engage?

  • http://techprgems.com Todd Van Hoosear

    “Do you have to create social media to be a social media advisor?”

    Absolutely! While Tom may have understated the challenges that some agencies may face in rolling a blog out, and practicing what they preach, it’s an absolute necessity.

    I just got back from the Enterprise 2.0 Conference, and one of the bits of advice when it came to social networking (and wiki) tools was “start and think big”. While there’s some definite truth to that approach, I’d like to append it a bit.

    I say, start small, think big. It is easy to do a proof of concept now. A total neophyte can launch a social networking platform in minutes thanks to sites like Ning. A total hack like me can create a new blog site (plug for http://techprgems.com) in a few hours.

    SHOW people that it can be done, and give them a feel for how it would work. Then tell them what it would look like if it were done professionally. Then do what it takes to make it big.

  • http://3i.wildfirestrategy.com tamera kremer

    Solid post Joe. Kudos for putting it out there.

    To echo the majority of the comments, I agree completely that in order to provide solid and meaningful advice you have to participate and create, find out what works, what doesn’t, and why.

    I’ll add a point you’ve heard me make on many occasions: too many “experts” in the social media space act as if the internet was invented with Blogger and fail to realize how (and why) the technology has evolved and how that impacts the interactions (or conversations) online. I certainly don’t believe you need to be able to code XML in order to be effective, but basic understandings are crucial to not getting stuck on the “shiny new things” and recognizing how the space will evolve.

    May dust off my blog and explore that point further!

    Cheers,
    Tamera

  • http://www.radicaltrust.ca Collin

    Social Media is not another thing to tack on the side of an agency offering. It is a part of everything you are already doing. In my opinion, only the ones who sell social media as part of everything they are already doing can label themselves experts.

    The biggest mistake many are making right now is to think that social media is a tactic. It seems both clients and agencies that take this approach suffer spectacular failures and/or lackluster results. Participation is required in order to earn credibility in this space, credibility is the only way to earn influence.

    Consumption and appreciation are not the same qualifiers as participation and experience. Ryan, Dave and the others are dead on with their take on claiming social media expertise because you read blogs. It’s the same as claiming expertise in film production because you go to the movies, or architecture because you visit European cathedrals.

    In the same vein, (perhaps controversial) unqualified criticism is not contribution. In this space, active participation is the only path to the promised land. :-) It’s all about earning credibility.

    Social Media is an attitude, not a technology. You can’t buy your way in like most did with the web in the 90′s. That’s the difference between that “bubble” and this one. This bubble has substance. It’s sad to see the eagerness of some to fill it with hot air again.

    Either way, I’m in it for the long haul :-)

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  • http://nextcommunication.wordpress.com/ Richie Escovedo

    Joe,

    What a great post. How’s this? Don’t trust a skinny cook. Be skeptical of a coach who has never played the game. And watch out for social media advise from someone who sits on the sidelines.

    I hope more Communications/PR people who are interested follow the simple advise: jump in, the water’s fine.

    Thanks again.

  • http://www.sequentia.net jen evans

    Joe – I love the polemic nature of this post. But I think your position walks a fine line. There are a lot of unskilled practitioners out there trying to offer counsel to organizations on how to engage, and lots of mistakes being made. This is also the nature of a relatively new lucrative field that is getting a lot of ink in the mainstream media, and with ad budgets shrinking and the potential of social media to engage audiences, lots of people are jumping on board.

    But I also think much of this dialogue misses the point. I attended an INC conference on customer communications and engagement in Orlando in 1998. We spent two days looking at amazing case studies of companies who excelled in customer satisfaction by – guess what – engaging with their customers in the ways that were available at the time. The web was just starting to hit mainstream then and most of the tactics we looked at were old style communications. But they were customer engagement programs nonetheless that resulted in tangible, measurable business benefits.

    We’ve lost the focus of what we are really trying to do with social media, and what it actually can do for forward-thinking companies, and become caught up in conversations around tools and what I refer to as ‘street cred’ – are you using the latest widgets, social networks and sites etc – vs analyzing and understanding HOW these tools really fit. How are you structuring your communications with your customers to get their input in a managed, disciplined way that helps both customers and company? What tools are right for the people you’re looking to engage with? Are your customers actually using them, first of all? If so, for what? How do THEY prefer to communicate? And most importantly for business, what are the actual outcomes?

    For many organizations who are using social media as the lever to get into customer-facing dialogue, just the fact of the dialogue is enough at first. But measurement and ROI against other tactics will have to be there as well, and soon, especially in these economic conditions. How well does your ‘social media program’ perform in the larger customer communications context: product development, cost reduction, demand generation, co-marketing and brand? If your agency doesn’t have answers to THOSE questions, I’d say their credibility is much more in question.

  • http://www.dooleycommunications.ca Adam Dooley

    Great post. I totally agree. It’s like saying you’re a media relations expert without having written a news release or pitched a story.

  • http://michaelocc.com Michael O’Connor Clarke

    You know, it might seem a little lame for me to jump in here and add my enthusiastic, high five-ing “you da man” to the chorus of support above – but I can’t help myself.

    Amen, Joe. Amen.

    Given the sheer volume of noise out there from so many of the self-styled “leaders” in social media consulting, it’s extraordinarily difficult for those clients who have little experience of the social media universe to figure out who they can trust their brand to.

    But I firmly believe a good reputation in this space is something you receive, not something you can just claim.

    In the internetworked, social media world of empowered communities, corporate reputation is – more than ever – a kind of gift. It’s something the market gives to a firm in return for the way it behaves, the quality of its products and services, and the opinion “the people formerly known as the audience” form.

    As a consultant in this space, you can take the approach of trumpeting your leadership and expertise – claiming you understand social media just because you’ve figured out how to subscribe to an RSS feed, and you once emailed a blogger about a client’s product. (It sounds like Tom Foremski has run into a lot of these – as have we all.)

    Or you can try to genuinely lead – be the pioneer (risking the almost inevitable arrows in your back); experiment enthusiastically in the space you’re seeking to understand and interpret for your clients. And then, when clients ask, you can point to true experience and expertise.

    I’m proud to work for a firm that has always followed this latter, quieter, more clueful path – I’m convinced it’s the right long-term approach.

    At the same time, it warms me ol’ heart to see the CEO getting up there and shouting it from the rooftops. You go, Joe.

    You’ve earned the right to do it and, dammit, it feels good.

  • http://dailygrind.brandinfiltration.com Jacquelyn

    Agh! This is my biggest complaint about the field these days. So much lip service, so little real engagement.

  • http://www.bluelimemedia.com Christine

    I think that the same goes for a lot of professions. Would you eat at a restaurant if you knew the chef didn’t eat there?
    As a web developer I decided to sell people the idea of blogging three years ago. I knew that in order to do this I needed to blog also. So I started my company blog and now I can answer many questions about the pros and cons of blogging and know a lot about WordPress but can’t offer much advice on Movable Type.
    I think that being honest is the only way to go…

  • http://propellercomm.blogspot.com Terry Morawski

    Great post. You really got me thinking this morning, and led me to post a thought that has been bouncing around in my head for a while – http://snurl.com/2g76s.
    Thanks for the inspiration.

  • http://www.auburnmedia.com/ Robert French

    Hey, Joe. Good post. As a proponent of experiential education, I have to agree that practicing is an excellent way to learn.

    Still, I know a few people that have rarely, if ever, posted online. Yet, they understand and can opine at length with great wisdom. That being said, I’ve read a lot of blogs by supposed ‘gurus’ that are still – after years of blogging – quite clueless. Ya’ know, there may be more of those than there are of the clued-in variety. Just sayin’.

    So, I agree that clients should likely run, not walk, away if they see no actual practice at the agency approaching them. But, look at their results, even absent public participation in blogs and social networks. I’ll grant you that the successful number of non-participants is likely minuscule, but can still exist.

    For us, the participation has been the key to gaining visibility, awareness and appreciation. So, I’m a strong advocate for your position, Joe. Thanks.

  • http://www.gypsybandito.com CT Moore

    “In my experience,” Google loves longer posts. Also “in my experience,” the average user doesn’t. So I guess it’s a good thing that you’re not going after the “average user” — as demonstrated by the number of responses. ;)

    I’ll remind you, however, that there are exceptions to every rule: http://stresslimitdesign.com/

    I hear that these guys do great work, but have been “coming soon” for years now. But I think you know that already.

  • http://blog.techrigy.com Martin Edic

    I don’t see how anyone can legitimately advise about something as immersive as social media unless they’ve been immersed in it- and I’m using the word ‘immerse’ very deliberately. The people out there conversing in social media have their BS radar turned up to 11 and if they detect something phony they’ll send an alarm. A lack of familiarity with protocols can not only create a problem, it can actually do damage to a client brand or reputation.
    Besides familiarity, frequent, active participation is absolutely necessary- and it can be time consuming.
    Good post Joe.

  • http://melle.ca Melanie Baker

    I had an ex-housemate who’s a published poet and an English teacher, and his most consistent advice for “how to be/become a writer” was “see what’s being done out there now”. Find out who the publishing players are and who they publish. Find out who the writers are and what they’re writing/publishing. Learn about the current styles that’re in vogue, etc. (“Writewritewrite” was right up there, too, but was so ubiquitous that it didn’t necessarily bear repeating.)

    I think those apply here as well. If you don’t know what’s going on out there, and how it works, and what effects it can have, I don’t think you’re truly qualified (i.e. got the cred) to preach/sell it well. (“Well” being the qualifier; there are people who can sell anything, even if they only learned it existed five minutes ago.)

    The process of creation also gives you a better understanding of what it takes to be good or effective at something. This will help you accurately explain to clients what it’s going to take to develop a presence, or explain time and money needs for completing a project to management. (Those in addition to supporting your own learning and improvement.)

    At the same time, though, aside from a high level examination of whatever the next big thing is to get a handle on what it does and how and for whom, I don’t think investing massive amounts of time and energy fully porting your online existence into every new site/tool/app is worth the effort. Many of them won’t make it, and even fewer will be game-changing.

    Plus, not every platform “feels” like you (or your clients). For some people, blogging may be your best and most effective form of expression. For others, video. For others, the immediacy and brevity challenges of Twitter.

    Forcing yourself to deeply participate in environments and communities that aren’t the right fit probably won’t produce the most successful results, even if “u r doin it rite”. Square pegs, round holes, etc. The same goes for products and services. Not every avenue of connection is going to have your target demographics or user base at the end of it.

    In the end, though, the best way to be able to credibly speak about or sell social media (or any product/service/industry) is to be there because you wanna be there. Becoming knowledgeable, credible, and skilled follow from that.

  • http://www.willpate.org Will Pate

    There needs to be a social media reputation system for PR people. If I was building it, the algorithm would take into account:

    * Ratings from other people
    * How long they have had a blog
    * Mentions on blog search tools
    * How many times they spoke at events on the subject

    Force PR people to register through a whitelist of PR company domains. Discount votes on people from the same company to prevent gaming of the system.

    Provide a widget so anyone who claims to be an expert can show what their peers say. Anyone who doesn’t can just be assumed to be full of it.

  • http://blogpipe-pipesdrums.com/ Andrew Berthoff

    Interesting argument, and I agree with both sides. However, an emerging and troubling trend is that of the social media consultant who knows little about public relations.

    Yes, one can gain an understanding of social media through direct participation and immersion. But that alone does not qualify a person to provide sound strategic counsel.

    Much the same fundamental tenets that are applied to “traditional” PR should be applied to social media.

    Then again, one doesn’t need to have been a beat reporter for a daily newspaper to practice traditional media relations, right? Sure, it might help, but, as a client, if I had to choose I would probably prefer to have a proven intelligent, strategic and creative PR counselor than a former-journalist working on my business.

    Lastly, one shouldn’t assume that because someone isn’t blogging about social media or public relations that he/she isn’t participating in social media.

  • http://eminencegrisemontreal.blogspot.com Michelle Sullivan

    It’ll be particularly interesting to see who comments on this post – I think it’ll be hard to resist wading in if you’re an english-speaking Canadian PR professional watching the space – either you’ll have caught this post because Joe invited you to comment (and therefore you are known by a top Canadian PR blogger), because you’ve subscribed to this blog’s RSS feed or because you’re otherwise watching the space and investing time in building conversations with others in your niche (PR and social media).

    I’m always thrilled when a ‘competitor’ launches a blog or in any other ways decides to wade in as an active participant, not only because it means I’m no longer preaching in the desert (which the Quebec pr space was for so long I have the bruises from hitting my head against the wall to prove it) but also because I know that there are that many more professionals out there offering social media options to their clients and making it more mainstream. Makes my own selling job easier, frankly.

    But I am concerned when agencies or consultants improvise. I’m led to believe that they think this is just another version of other options available in the PR toolbox, when in reality it’s its own beast.

    Problem is, when the beast bites back, it hurts not only the improvising PR practitioner, but the credibility of the industry as a whole.

    This is precisely the reason we need to be ambassadors, promoting best practices through events like Third Tuesdays, YULbiz etc.

  • http://overtonecomm.blogspot.com/2008/06/five-things-companies-should-consider.html Kami Huyse

    I am not surprised that you have inspired this thread. You have been the model of building relationships.

    You also inspired a post of my own. Just a few things people might want to consider when picking an agency or consultant to help them with social media strategy.

    In the end that is our value, not the tools we use, but the brains that are applied to those tools.

  • http://trafcom.typepad.com Donna Papacosta

    As Kami says in her comment, Joe, you and the team at TF are truly leaders in this space. You’re not just talking about social media; you’re living it.

    I agree with your post 100% and would like to offer a story… Early in my career I wrote for parenting magazines. There is no way I could have penned articles about colicky infants, teething toddlers, pre-schoolers who ate only elbow macaroni, and so on, had I not been a parent. Sure, I interviewed all the experts (including many other parents) and read every book out there, but I could not have understood parenting without being a mom.

    In my own little niche today, I cringe when I meet podcasting “experts” who are totally clueless. Don’t get me started! ;-)

  • http://www.canuckflack.com Colin McKay

    Oh God. I HAVE to react to Will’s comment.

    While there are valuable elements hidden in the formula he proposes, a lot of the metrics he proposes are a measurement of your volume in the SM echo chamber.

    And an echo chamber doesn’t necessarily produce excellent work. It drives an average.

    In the end, it’s your impact as an adviser affecting business results that matters the most.

  • http://blog.holtz.com Shel Holtz

    One more “I agree” from Concord, CA, Joe. Let me add something, too. Not only do you have to do it, you have to do it right. I remember being astonished when a global PR firm announced its social media practice without a single blog from among its ranks of leaders and employees. (No names, but it starts with a K and ends with an M.) Today, they still have no blogs that I can find, but they do have podcasts, but the podcasts are not housed on blogs and there’s no way to comment on them. So simply entering the space without learning how to engage in the space is barely better than not entering at all.

  • http://www.willpate.org Will Pate

    Colin, I’m sure you could also track metrics around a professional’s clients, even during a specific time period or related to a campaign, etc. You could also do verified testimonials through tracking client email domains too (ex @pepsi.com).

    Like Amazon recommendations, the trick is to capture all the data you can. You can always weight and slice and dice it later.

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  • http://www.contextcreative.com Andy Strote

    Everyone,

    Love the post, love the comments, but I’m a brat, so I can’t resist….

    Scotty Bowman never played a game in the major leagues. Yet according to Wikipedia:

    He holds the record for most wins in league history, with 1,244 wins in the regular season and 223 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. As head coach, Bowman has won a record nine Stanley Cups with the Canadiens (1973, 1976, 1977, 1978, and 1979), Penguins (1992) and Red Wings (1997, 1998, and 2002). No other head coach in the history of the NHL, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, or the National Basketball Association has won championships with three different teams.

    Don Cherry played just one game in the majors…. yet went on to coach arguably the greatest player in the game, Bobby Orr, and now makes millions as a hockey expert.
    He was also voted as the seventh greatest Canadian on the CBC’s The Greatest Canadian.

    Someone mentioned in passing about not trusting a skinny chef. Like Susur Lee?

    None of the major consulting companies have ever run companies like the ones they consult to. Hasn’t prevented them from offering advice at the highest levels and making a very handsome living.

    What about a consultant trying something new? You’re advising on something you’ve never done, but past related experience tells you it may work. How direct does your experience need to be?

    Is it necessary to participate in social media in the exact field you consult in? What if you wrote a blog about sports cars, but consulted in social media to clients like banks etc. Does that count?

    Anyway, I’m just playing devil’s advocate here, but it is all a bit self-congratulatory. Lot of sore backs around today…..

  • http://www.socialcapitalvalueadd.com Michael Cayley

    I agree participating in the conversation is an important part of social media strategy. So here it goes … for your Friday afternoon entertainment pleasure.

    I am with Andy on this one …

    And I would add that many clients who need advice with respect to social media do not blog or tweet or whatever …

    Nevertheless, they are advisors to their CEOs and Boards and they are trusted to help their companies navigate the social media environment.

    They have earned that respect and trust for many good reasons and we who blog, develop or use social network services, tweet, etc should value very much their advisory capacities.

    They link us to “cliques” or “small worlds”, using social network analysis parlance, that are very important to the credibility of social media.

    How many mothers out there have created something and think the experience gives them some widely applicable insight into social dynamics? Anyone? Anyone?

  • http://blogcampaigning.com Parker

    Sorry getting involved in this earlier, but I’ve been away from the social mediascape for a few days enjoying some beautiful weather and doing some off-line socializing.

    Generally, I agree with the comments and Joe’s original points.

    However, I also really like Andy Strote’s comment about how you don’t necessarily have to have a social media blog in order to be a social media expert.

    In fact, most of my learning about blogging and social media has come from a side project that has nothing to do with endless talks about blogging and conferences and the next best thing (be it Twitter, Plurk or what).

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  • http://www.consolationchamps.com/ James McNally

    Looks like I’m the last fly to the picnic, but I just wanted to chip in with my perspective from outside the PR social media “echo chamber.” I first found out about Thornley Fallis back in late 2007 and was incredibly heartened to see that the PR profession seemed to be embracing social media in a way that the larger corporate world wasn’t.

    Since then, I’ve become a little less naive. While Joe and the good people at Thornley Fallis are the real deal, there are a lot of charlatans out there, as well as the well-meaning passionate folks who are going gaga over all the new tools and gadgets. It can be difficult to sort out the wisdom from the wankery. There is potentially a lot of money to be made in this new world, so, to reuse my opening metaphor, there are a lot of flies buzzing around this picnic.

    If social media is really all about authenticity and transparency, then not using the tools you’re promoting doesn’t cut it. You don’t have to be the best player on the ice (to reference Andy Strote’s hockey example), but you should be able to skate and hold your stick.

    Social media is meant to be a leveller anyway, to bring people down off their “professional” pedestals to join conversations with their clients, customers, employees. Advice can come from anywhere and should be shared and refined by conversation. Sometimes the idea of selling our expertise seems a bit dishonest to me. These are not big secrets. It’s just that some of us have spent more time figuring out this landscape than others.

    Sorry for the rambling response. But glad to participate!

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  • http://buzzerbeeser.blogspot.com Buzzerbeeser

    So, how does this affect me? If the advice makes sense to me, I don’t give too much fuss about who said it. On the other hand, if the advice sounds wrong, the most highly regarded experts would not be enough to convince me.

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