Social media pundits: Introspection or public navel-gazing?

Amber Naslund wrote a piece today about why she believes the social media “industry” has a credibility problem. In it, she decries four basic failures of people who claim to be experts in social media (direct quotes):

  • We talk too much about the value of our time rather than putting it to good use
  • We cannibalize our own
  • We’re intolerant of missteps
  • We talk about conversation, but we focus a great deal on the tools. And, on ourselves

I don’t disagree with any of these statements, nor her analysis. I think she’s pretty much spot on in her assessments, as she almost always is. She’s a great writer and a voice worth following closely in the social media space. But there’s one thing missing for me, and it’s a bit ironic: the fact that she had to write this post at all. Or rather, the fact that she did.

In a nutshell, I think people in the social media business spend way too much time exposing their inner thoughts and concerns about this nascent domain of expertise. They justify it. They extol its virtues, or discuss its failures. They decry those who don’t understand, as if to say, “We are important! Pay attention to us!” Instead of spending their time on introspection (a private activity), they spend their time sharing their thoughts about the discipline with the world (a public one). In my mind, this is public introspection, aka navel-gazing by the side of the pool.

It reminds me of a bygone era. The days of Web 1.0. When consultants and experts in the “business” talked about Web sites (with a capital W), and how important they were, and how they, as Web consultants, would help businesses succeed. Ultimately, it came down to a pretty simple thing: did those consultants make a change in the bottom line of the businesses they helped.

I think social media experts need to stop talking about themselves and about the social media consulting business entirely. Just talk about how social media can help businesses. Because that’s what you’re supposed to do.

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