Who To Listen To About Social Media
I've been puzzling over why there is so much bad information and so little critical thinking among the people who post about social media, and who purport to make their living in the social media consultant business. I think I have part of the answer...but one can only speculate at this time. There is a profound confusion about the roles that people take on when they talk on the subject.
Three Different Roles
There are three basic roles one can take when writing about a topic. First there's the consumer. The consumer uses social media as a simple user. Their perceptions come from a strictly limited perspective as a user, and that's a valid and valuable perspective. Consumers, whether they write on customer service issues, or social media topics, don't have access to the decision making that goes on in business, for example, and neither are they interested in the viewpoint on the other side of the coin. Consequently, their views are important if one wants to know about what customers and users think, but are worthless in terms of business practices, because they lack that perspective.
Advocates are like evangelists. They BELIEVE. They want to see more use of social media. They want better customer service. They want others to view the world like they do, but they also tend to overlook the business aspects of the topics. They START by assuming the value of social media, then go about looking for things it might be able to do. Most of the time, it's a tool looking for a problem to solve, and it never does.
Finally, there's the reporter role, something that used to have meaning in journalism, where reporters REPORTED the news, without expressing opinions or coloring the reporting. In journalism, at least traditionally, opinions ended up on the oped pages or were expressed by columnists.
The large majority of posts on social media are from advocates and customers. They have little interest in objectivity, and neither is their content vetted through any process to verify the facts or the interpretations. Again, that's fine. Each role has an important place, provided the writers and the readers know which role they are interacting with.
The problem is that the writers from these two categories do not recognize that they are NOT operating as reporters, but as biased columnists, BUT, they present their content as reporting. This gives it a patina of objectivity.
The writers don't realize what they are doing, because they are confusing their roles. The readers, believing that the writers are reporting facts, rather than very biased opinions and interpretations, give credence to what is written.
There's often not an effective feedback loop to the writers, and I suspect it doesn't work anyway. Advocates cannot "hear" opinions that differ, any more than the evangelist can hear criticisms of the "one true way". Consumers don't realize their own limitations about the larger picture. Reporters who don't express strong opinions are drowned out.
Take a look at the more influential among the social media writers, and you will find the most influential are those that are advocates and not those that report. Their writing is no more a reflection of the facts, or critical thinking than my cats' views.
So long as readers don't use their critical thinking faculties and comment on the nonsense that comes out as objective reporting, we're in trouble. As with all media, the influential are feeding a need in the market place, and while it's not clear why loud opinons are given more credence than balanced reporting, it seems that's the reality.
...and yes, if you are wondeirng, I'm posting this as an advocate of intelligent, fact based information, and critical thinking. A little less opinion pretending to be fact would be really really nice.