We Need Social Media Interpreters, not more Evangelists

You’ve seen it, I’ve seen it. People who deem themselves “Social Media Evangelists“. But are they? Really? I’m not picking on any one person, but a situation in Social Media that I believe needs to change.

To me, an evangelist is someone who is spreading the word to those who don’t already know about it. Otherwise, you’re just preaching to the choir. I’m not saying there isn’t a place in social media to organize and inform the geekworld, but we’ve got plenty of that.

There are people out there who are actually bringing in fresh meat. Rob Clark brought me in β€” he showed me that the community was more valuable than the technology itself, and how relationships are the glue that hold it all together. We’ve got too many new media douchebags, too many people jockeying to position themselves as experts (I don’t claim to be any of these, far from it), and not enough trying to inform the rest of the world how social media can benefit them. I mean think about it, how much more is the social media community going to monetize itself β€” let’s open it up to the world! A lot of ordinary folk don’t even know what a blog is!

I recognize it’s not an easy task. It’s hard to explain Twitter, and blogs, social bookmarking and other SM tools to your average person who doesn’t spend all day in front of a computer like we do. Thank goodness for CommonCraft, they describe themselves as interpreters. Yes, what we need are Social Media Interpreters, not more “evangelists”, not more “experts” not more new media douchebags.

What Can I Do? (including me)

Just like how we can all be social media marketers, we can all be Social Media Interpreters.

I don’t have all the answers, like I said before, I’m far from being any kind of an expert, but there are a few things I do and will be trying to do to get folks dipping their feet in the social media pool:

  • Explain how being social on del.icio.us and other social bookmarking sites can bring more value than regular bookmarks
  • Show off the interesting conversations you can have on Twitter
  • Direct friends to favourite blog(s) and encourage them to engage in the discussions.

How do you share and explain social media to your peers?

  • I just stopped by your blog and thought I would say hello. I like your site design. Looking forward to reading more down the road.

    Robert Michel

  • Great post Shey!

    Your post puts me in mind with the difference between Apple’s marketing and that of the other MP3 manufacturers at the time of the iPod’s arrival. Everyone else was talking in terms of bitrates and Mbs of storage and decibel range, when along comes Apple who simply say, “it holds 10,000 songs”.

    I mocked the approach at the time, “Since when is a song a unit of measurement?” But they got it. Talk to what people know. Talk to what people understand. Provide solutions to people’s problems or enable them as they’ve never been enabled before.

    We in the thick of it can get caught up in one platform over another. FriendFeed vs SocialThing. facebook or MySpace or Ning. Digg. Mahalo. Flickr. del.icio.us. The individual platforms that are so deeply and hotly contested and debated and discussed to death now are just not going to matter as I guarantee few of them will still be contenders 10 years from now, and any that are will be distant and alien from what we’re playing on today.

    Those are the bit rates and storage capacity. We get off on those things because, well, heck, because we love it so. We’re geeks and nerds and early adopters. But everyone else? Everyone else just want to know they can carry 10k songs in their pocket.

    Rob Clark’s last blog post..Twitter Updates for 2008-03-31

  • That’s a great analogy, it captures the essence of what I’m trying to say.

    The social media community needs to stop playing in the sandbox β€” the beach and ocean are just a few steps away.

    Thanks for stopping by Robs πŸ™‚

  • I just stopped by your blog and thought I would say hello. I like your site design. Looking forward to reading more down the road.

    Robert Michel

  • Great post Shey!

    Your post puts me in mind with the difference between Apple’s marketing and that of the other MP3 manufacturers at the time of the iPod’s arrival. Everyone else was talking in terms of bitrates and Mbs of storage and decibel range, when along comes Apple who simply say, “it holds 10,000 songs”.

    I mocked the approach at the time, “Since when is a song a unit of measurement?” But they got it. Talk to what people know. Talk to what people understand. Provide solutions to people’s problems or enable them as they’ve never been enabled before.

    We in the thick of it can get caught up in one platform over another. FriendFeed vs SocialThing. facebook or MySpace or Ning. Digg. Mahalo. Flickr. del.icio.us. The individual platforms that are so deeply and hotly contested and debated and discussed to death now are just not going to matter as I guarantee few of them will still be contenders 10 years from now, and any that are will be distant and alien from what we’re playing on today.

    Those are the bit rates and storage capacity. We get off on those things because, well, heck, because we love it so. We’re geeks and nerds and early adopters. But everyone else? Everyone else just want to know they can carry 10k songs in their pocket.

    Rob Clark’s last blog post..Twitter Updates for 2008-03-31

  • That’s a great analogy, it captures the essence of what I’m trying to say.

    The social media community needs to stop playing in the sandbox β€” the beach and ocean are just a few steps away.

    Thanks for stopping by Robs πŸ™‚

  • Shey

    This is a nice conversation starter and a nice conversation. I suggest that you turn it into a narrative. I’ll start by sharing a link to a complaint of mine which always summed up evangelist to me.

    http://blogometer.com/post/datataggrtv/

    Not that everyone who tells me about their product is so clueless. There are people who are finding ways to support recovery activity in the gulf using web based software, but they are far more engaged.

    The point of this is that, with software, a lucky few will stumble upon a YouTube, Twitter or StumbleUpon. The rest have to either be content to have a small user base and smaller costs, or else they have to support their software. At that point, it’s not evangelism, it’s real work.

    A good Web 2.0 startup will drop the nonsense talk of “evangelization” and realize that software doesn’t grow because of evangelism, it grows because it solves problems. We’re not your evangelists, we’re deploying your your software for you and applying it to problems in our problem domains.

    Alan Gutierrez’s last blog post..Troubleshooting ljubljana.blogometer.com

  • Exactly. I think this also ties it to Rob’s comment β€” we all jump on the latest Web 2.0 app / Social media community because we love the excitement of exploration, discussion, and debating the use brand new technologies and communities.

    But the very nature of the early-adopter mentality means that they move on to the next fad very quickly. This produces a huge problem if you’re trying to a decent product lifetime. The reason why Facebook and Flickr are so successful is because they’ve maintained sustainability by getting the general population hooked β€” early adoption and widespread/general adoption.

    The gen. pop. has adopted because someone told them where the value was β€” how using these tools can help them solve a problem or take advantage of an opportunity. That’s where the real potential lies.

  • Very thought-provoking post. Really solidifies points that have been floating at the back of my mind. Thanks!

  • Shey

    This is a nice conversation starter and a nice conversation. I suggest that you turn it into a narrative. I’ll start by sharing a link to a complaint of mine which always summed up evangelist to me.

    http://blogometer.com/post/datataggrtv/

    Not that everyone who tells me about their product is so clueless. There are people who are finding ways to support recovery activity in the gulf using web based software, but they are far more engaged.

    The point of this is that, with software, a lucky few will stumble upon a YouTube, Twitter or StumbleUpon. The rest have to either be content to have a small user base and smaller costs, or else they have to support their software. At that point, it’s not evangelism, it’s real work.

    A good Web 2.0 startup will drop the nonsense talk of “evangelization” and realize that software doesn’t grow because of evangelism, it grows because it solves problems. We’re not your evangelists, we’re deploying your your software for you and applying it to problems in our problem domains.

    Alan Gutierrez’s last blog post..Troubleshooting ljubljana.blogometer.com

  • Exactly. I think this also ties it to Rob’s comment β€” we all jump on the latest Web 2.0 app / Social media community because we love the excitement of exploration, discussion, and debating the use brand new technologies and communities.

    But the very nature of the early-adopter mentality means that they move on to the next fad very quickly. This produces a huge problem if you’re trying to a decent product lifetime. The reason why Facebook and Flickr are so successful is because they’ve maintained sustainability by getting the general population hooked β€” early adoption and widespread/general adoption.

    The gen. pop. has adopted because someone told them where the value was β€” how using these tools can help them solve a problem or take advantage of an opportunity. That’s where the real potential lies.

  • lisa rokusek

    Good stuff. Your point resonates with me – someone who has long tried to build real community with technology and actually apply it to my work/life journey. Actually using this stuff for more than just talking about this stuff is where it gets exciting.

    lisa rokusek’s last blog post..Recruiters on Safari

  • Very thought-provoking post. Really solidifies points that have been floating at the back of my mind. Thanks!

  • lisa rokusek

    Good stuff. Your point resonates with me – someone who has long tried to build real community with technology and actually apply it to my work/life journey. Actually using this stuff for more than just talking about this stuff is where it gets exciting.

    lisa rokusek’s last blog post..Recruiters on Safari

  • found your site on del.icio.us today and really liked it.. i bookmarked it and will be back to check it out some more later ..

  • found your site on del.icio.us today and really liked it.. i bookmarked it and will be back to check it out some more later ..

  • Shey, this is a great post. Like Lisa and Derek, this topic has been on my mind for some time and I’ve been wondering how to explain the technologies and concepts to others. It’s at the core of what I’m trying to move into from a pure “IT” guy for a number of years.

    Regards,
    Rick Mahn

    Rick Mahn’s last blog post..Happiness CXLIX

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  • Shey, this is a great post. Like Lisa and Derek, this topic has been on my mind for some time and I’ve been wondering how to explain the technologies and concepts to others. It’s at the core of what I’m trying to move into from a pure “IT” guy for a number of years.

    Regards,
    Rick Mahn
    Rick Mahn’s last blog post..Happiness CXLIX

  • Thanks guys, glad to hear others are thinking along the same lines.

    Rick, it’s definitely hard to get to “non-technical” folks to understand our techie stuff. I have an upcoming post that should make that a little easier, stay tuned.

  • Thanks guys, glad to hear others are thinking along the same lines.

    Rick, it’s definitely hard to get to “non-technical” folks to understand our techie stuff. I have an upcoming post that should make that a little easier, stay tuned.

  • Great post. You’ve really hit the nail on the head.

    The real value is in the discussion, one post or tought may start it but it’s what comes after that counts. The old saying goes that two heads are better than one but what about 10, 1000, 1000000. The more people that can be engaged the better and if those people are from different walks of life, cultures, etc. then better still. The geek echo chamber will normally just go round in circles but when you get someone in from the outside with a totally different view it can get people thinking in ways that hadn’t previously considered.

    Thanks for getting me thinking.

    Colin Walker’s last blog post..Social bookmarking for social media.

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  • Great post. You’ve really hit the nail on the head.

    The real value is in the discussion, one post or tought may start it but it’s what comes after that counts. The old saying goes that two heads are better than one but what about 10, 1000, 1000000. The more people that can be engaged the better and if those people are from different walks of life, cultures, etc. then better still. The geek echo chamber will normally just go round in circles but when you get someone in from the outside with a totally different view it can get people thinking in ways that hadn’t previously considered.

    Thanks for getting me thinking.

    Colin Walker’s last blog post..Social bookmarking for social media.

  • Hi Shey,

    Great article. I know what you are saying! In fact, that’s what my blog is all about! I even wrote an article on social bookmarking with an emphasis on del.icio.us.

    I’m really not trying to self-promote too much, but I wanted to let you know there are people like me and Corvida out there that are trying to break down social media software and review the best of what’s out there.

    Phil’s last blog post..What Do You Call A Twitter Spam Account?

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  • Hi Shey,

    Great article. I know what you are saying! In fact, that’s what my blog is all about! I even wrote an article on social bookmarking with an emphasis on del.icio.us.

    I’m really not trying to self-promote too much, but I wanted to let you know there are people like me and Corvida out there that are trying to break down social media software and review the best of what’s out there.

    Phil’s last blog post..What Do You Call A Twitter Spam Account?

  • gReader Comments…

    Great article! Thanks!…

  • Thanks for a thought provoking post. I like your term “interpreters.” Many factors spawn new media d-bags:

    * Insane quest for novelty. The idea that everyone is TechCrunch or Valleywag and needs to “scoop” everyone else
    * In-your-faceness. The need to be controversial to stimulate blog traffic/ Totally inconsistent with altruistic virtues like “helping people”
    * Fear of appearing uncool. Everything that happened over 10 days ago is passe, so don’t talk about it.

    joel’s last blog post..I LOVE people who β€œdon’t get it”

  • Joel

    Lately, I’ve been thinking about some of the writers I read in social media that have that edge, like Seth Godin and Hugh McLeod, or more importantly, I’ve been thinking about capturing your realizations.

    Lately, I’ve had a flood of realizations about my work in New Orleans. Many of them feel great to me, but come out sounding bitter. Basically, it’s a conviction that I can’t quite articulate, and furthermore, the conventional wisdom I keep hearing is rubbish, but I can’t articulate that either, so you end up saying very contrarian things.

    If you are thinking new thoughts, and you eventually get yourself sorted out and you can express your new understanding, then all you’re doing is feeling your way in the dark in public.

    But, there are authors out there who, like you say, can’t get past the backlash stage, or maybe they are just mimicking and don’t really have a place to take it.

    Alan Gutierrez’s last blog post..No Justice for Dinneral Shavers, No Justice for New Orleans

  • Thanks for a thought provoking post. I like your term “interpreters.” Many factors spawn new media d-bags:

    * Insane quest for novelty. The idea that everyone is TechCrunch or Valleywag and needs to “scoop” everyone else
    * In-your-faceness. The need to be controversial to stimulate blog traffic/ Totally inconsistent with altruistic virtues like “helping people”
    * Fear of appearing uncool. Everything that happened over 10 days ago is passe, so don’t talk about it.

    joel’s last blog post..I LOVE people who β€œdon’t get it”

  • Joel

    Lately, I’ve been thinking about some of the writers I read in social media that have that edge, like Seth Godin and Hugh McLeod, or more importantly, I’ve been thinking about capturing your realizations.

    Lately, I’ve had a flood of realizations about my work in New Orleans. Many of them feel great to me, but come out sounding bitter. Basically, it’s a conviction that I can’t quite articulate, and furthermore, the conventional wisdom I keep hearing is rubbish, but I can’t articulate that either, so you end up saying very contrarian things.

    If you are thinking new thoughts, and you eventually get yourself sorted out and you can express your new understanding, then all you’re doing is feeling your way in the dark in public.

    But, there are authors out there who, like you say, can’t get past the backlash stage, or maybe they are just mimicking and don’t really have a place to take it.

    Alan Gutierrez’s last blog post..No Justice for Dinneral Shavers, No Justice for New Orleans

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