Browsed by
Tag: social media strategist

What Do We Call Ourselves? [en]

What Do We Call Ourselves? [en]

[fr] Un article de plus dans la longue série "Stephanie se demande comment appeler ce qu'elle fait". Si "social media expert" a été usé jusqu'à la corde, que reste-t-il à une "spécialiste généraliste" des nouveaux médias comme moi?

This morning I read 6 Reasons You Shouldn’t Brand Yourself as a Social Media Expert. It echoes with a piece I wrote earlier this year: To Be or Not to Be a New Media Strategist, in which I (a) explain that I have finally understood that the core of my work is strategy and (b) wonder what to call myself.

I pride myself in being one of these “early generation” people, not a “me too”. This year the blog you’re reading will celebrate its 9th birthday, which means that although I’m not the oldest dinosaur out there, I was already blogging when many who are now considered respected old-timers wrote their first post. I’ve been earning money in the field of what we now call social media since early 2005 — and this is Europe, little Switzerland, not the US of Silicon Valley. And without wanting to blame all my failures on being too innovative, I like to think that at least some of them have to do with trying to do things too soon, before the market was ready for them.

The facts above are not just to toot my own horn (a little, I’ll admit) but to drive in the point that I have a very different profile from people who discovered social media, noted that it was (or was going to be) hot, and decided to jump in and make money out of it. Not that there’s anything wrong with that… I think. I’m somebody who has always been driven more by my interest in things than by “earning money” — my somewhat mediocre business skills (monetizing, marketing, sales). What “title” can I find to differentiate myself from all the other people who are now in the field?

When I was reading Dan’s article, I kept thinking “yes, but what if I really am a social media expert?” I’m not a “had a blog for 18 months” or “I know what Twitter is” kind of expert. And I’m also not somebody who sticks to one kind of activity or domain of expertise (e.g. “teenagers and the net” or “blogging for internal communications”).

A few days ago I came upon this diagram by Budd Caddell, which has had me thinking:

Venn diagram for happiness as a freelancer.

I’m aware that part of my ongoing struggle to define myself for others has to do with my internal struggle to figure out what it is exactly that I do, want to do, can get paid to do. I know what I have been paid to do during the last three years. I have more insight into what I don’t like doing and others want me to do, and am learning to say no. “What I do well” is a bigger problem, because part of me keeps thinking that I suck at more or less everything I do, and though I know it’s not true, it makes self-assessment tricky.

I also think I have a bit of a “generalist” profile: I’m good at a lot of things, but probably, for each thing that I do, you can find somebody who is a bigger “expert” — but who will have a more limited field of expertise. I view myself as a kind of “generalist specialist”, or “generalist expert” in my field.

Many years ago, I wrote a rant in French about so-called “blogging specialists”. (For the sake of the discussion here, let’s consider that specialist = expert.) At the time, I was concerned about the need of the press to be able to quote “specialists”, and they were labeling bloggers “specialists” left, right, and centre, me included. At the time, I felt anything like a specialist, and resented the misattribution.

I guess the same thing bugs me today. People labeling themselves “experts” when, in all honesty, they’re not that much of an expert (see reason #1 in Dan’s article). It’s easy to be somebody else’s expert when you know more than them: au royaume des aveugles, les borgnes sont rois. I see it a lot. It annoys me for two reasons: first, there is sometimes a certain amount of dishonesty or deception (conscious or not) involved; second, if everybody is an expert (reason #6), how do you distinguish between the experts? How do I label myself to make it clear that I am not the same breed as the buzzing crowd of “me too” web2.0 or social media “experts”?

Dan offers a solution in his article, but I’m only half-convinced:

The pioneers of new media are still successful today, but they don’t even brand themselves as “social media experts.”  Think about experts such as David Meerman Scott, Paul Gillan, Chris Brogan, Charlene Li, Steve Rubel, and Robert Scoble.  David is an author who has successfully blended social media with PR and marketing before everyone else.  Chris Brogan focuses more on social media’s impact on community building and he’s been blogging religiously before the medium became mainstream.  Don’t try and brand yourself as one of them because you’ll fail trying.

I guess this works if you really have an area of specialisation in social media, but that’s just not the type of personality I am. I see it in other areas too, take judo, for example: most judo practitioners have one “special”, a move that stands out — I have at least 3 that could be my “special”; how about studies? I spent my career switching between arts and science.

So when it comes to my work, what am I good at? I’m good at a lot of things:

But in none of these areas am I “the most extraordinary person out there”. My strength is that I do all these things, and pretty well too — but there is nothing I can put forward to say “I’m the ultimate expert on X”.

How do I market myself? What do I call myself, if I can’t call myself a social media expert?

Update: Prompted by the same blog post, and written as I was writing this one, do read Suw’s excellent article about the necessity of keeping the E-word around: Hi, my name is Suw and I’m a social media expert.

Similar Posts:

To Be or Not to Be a New Media Strategist [en]

To Be or Not to Be a New Media Strategist [en]

For years now (since I became self-employed, and maybe even before) I’ve been struggling to define myself and what I do. There are two main components to this problem, as I see it:

  • working in a fast-moving, cutting-edge field, where I’m creating my job and job description as I go along, and boldly going where none have gone before (haha)
  • inside that field, having a bit of a “generalist specialist” profile, which means that I do tons of different things which don’t always seem to go together (talk about teenager/education issues online; give strategic advice to startups; install blogs and teach people how to use them; etc)

Now, along my freelancing career, I’ve called myself a bunch of things (non-exhaustive list following):

  • blogging consultant
  • social sofware consultant
  • social media consultant
  • web consultant and commentator
  • 2.0 consultant

More recently, I more or less dropped the whole title thing, going for taglines like “I help you understand the internet better” and even giving up almost entirely before Lift09 and having “Online Person” written on my badge.

So, again: part of the problem is me (and my issues with defining myself) and another is the field in which I am. High tech and social media is a bubbly field. An expression is hot one day and cold the other. Hot in some circles, passé in others.

Take “blogging consultant”: when I started out, there were hardly any blogging consultants around. A year or so later, everybody and his dog who knew how to set up WordPress suddenly started calling themselves that. I remember talking to a friend some years ago: his company had hired a “blogging consultant” and we were both appalled at the kind of advice he was giving and things he was doing.

So at some point, to distance myself from such people (newcomers clearly more intent in blinding their clients with buzzwords), I stopped calling myself a “blogging consultant”.

Basically, it’s been more or less the same problem for all the titles I’ve tried to wear (like clothes).

Now, back to my own issue: the trouble I have explaining and defining what I do. I had a breakthrough conversation with Florian Egger at the Lift09 party (despite the dreadfully loud music during what was supposed to be a “networking lounge” time slot).

Here’s the image I like to use to explain this breakthrough: what I do could be represented by a tree. There are many branches and leaves, and a trunk. Until then, when I was asked what I did, I would talk about the leaves and the branches, but I never managed to pinpoint what the trunk was. It left an impression that what I was doing was ill-defined, scattered.

I have now understood that the trunk of what I do is new media-related strategic consulting, thanks to Florian who made me go through example after example of what I did, concluding each one with “well, that’s strategy too, if you think of it” — and I’d go “no, it’s not strategy… oh, actually, yes, I see what you mean… it is!”

So, that would make me a New Media Strategist. It sounds nice. And it fits. You know, like when you finally find a pair of trousers that seems to have been stitched for you?

And clearly, being able to say “I do strategic consulting” sounds way better than “well, I know a helluvalot of a stuff about the internet, and all this so-called web2.0 stuff, and I’m really good at explaining it and helping people and companies figure out what the hell they’re going to do with it, and how they can use it, and why it’s interesting for them, and I can give talks, do training, help set blogs up, promote stuff online, coach people on more or less anything social-media related, oh, and give advice, of course, people keep coming to me for advice, you know, and a whole lot of other things…”

See what I mean?

I also realised that until then, the services that I had advertised were my “side-services” — my branches. In a way, I’ve always tried to do the strategic/advisory stuff undercover. Not very satisfying!

So now, the question this post is leading to: is “New Media Strategist” already old and loaded? What does it sound like? Is “everybody” calling themselves that nowadays? (I hope I don’t come across as pretentious because I consider I have a tad more expertise on the subject than newcomers in the field who have been blogging for 18 months and tweeting for 6…)

One could argue that titles don’t mean much, specially in today’s hypernetworked world, where connections are the most important thing in life (aside from drinking water… and even that could be subject to debate). Reputation, that’s what counts.

I disagree. I may be well-known and respected amongst my peers, but given the nature of my job, my clients are usually outside (even very far outside) the social media bubble. A title of some sort gives people a starting-point to figure you out.

“Social Media Consultant”, in my opinion, is dead from overuse and abuse. “New Media Strategist” seems better to me (because I “came up” with it during that discussion — of course I’d probably heard or seen it somewhere before, but it didn’t sound like something that is being thrown all over the place on Twitter et al these days). Or “Social Media Strategist”? What about “Social Media” itself… does that sound too much like an empty buzzword today (just like “Web 2.0”, which I never liked and honestly, was a media/marketing buzzword from the start). And then, for me, is the added issue of translating things in French. “New Media Strategist” doesn’t translate well — neither does “Social Media”, actually.

Lots of questions, as you can see.

Do you have trouble defining what you do? What do you put on your business card? What do you do? I’d love to exchange stories. And, of course, hear what you think about “New Media Strategist” — as a title in general, and to describe me… if you know me, of course. 🙂

Similar Posts: