Now before i get beat up by my social media peers and experts, let me go to extreme lengths to explain myself - it's certainly not a competence issue (social media people are some of the smarter and more intellectually curious people I know), it's more of a lense issue.
We are coloured by what we do in our regular day lives - how we see ourselves, how we measure ourselves, what information we collect, what people we identify with, how we're rewarded, what professional box we put ourselves in - all this affects how we see the value in social media.
So in nearly every meetup I have with a collection of social media citizens, it often appears that there is no common dictionary or bible on the pillars on which social media operates. The ensuing debate, albeit entertaining, leaves my head shaking with the obstinance and certainty of people's arguments and the lack of empathy for seeing a different angle of the lense.
As far as I'm concerned, five key types of people have a stake in the future of social media and they agree with each other like Democrats agree with Republicans. For Aesopian simplicity, I've defined them as The Fisher, The Farmer, The Sniper, the Hustler and The Surveyor
Motivation - wants to find schools of social media audiences
Common profession - eCommerce
Key driver - "What's my Catch Like?"
Key social media measures - Visitors, Conversions, Sales
Merited Focus - the need for social media to be measurable and ROI-driven
Blindspot - overlooks the fact that social media is relationship-driven and has many benefits beyond sales, are laggards that fail to innovate until somebody else tries it
The Farmer (or Gardener)
Motivation - wants to plant, till, rotate and grow a passionate community of interested people
Common profession - Community owners, Social media experts
Key driver - "What's am I growing/Is this being cared for right?
Key social media measures - Engagement, Interaction, Sentiment
Merited Focus - the need for social media to be about the member's interests and business' needs to open up and be transparent
Blindspot - overlooks the fact that social media is a business-building investment that needs to have some accountability to corporate goals and measures, have drunk too much of the Cluetrain Manifesto KoolAid
Motivation - wants to find and focus on their target of influential players
Common profession - PR
Key driver - "Who is my most important target?"
Key social media measures - Authority ranking, influence, velocity, comments/post
Merited Focus - the recognition that influence is disproportionately spread out and that a small group of users can create an awfully large ripple
Blindspot - can view this as a hunt without a lot of relationship building components, views social media as strictly media and discounts community-building potential
Motivation - wants to connect to a greatest number of people
Common profession - Media planners and buyers, ad agencies
Key driver - "How many people stopped by and paid attention?
Key social media measures - Traffic, Page Views, Time Spent
Merited Focus - the view of social media as a scalable and predictable discipline, comparing efficiency of social media to other media
Blindspot - does not see the value in the quality, passion or offline referral and advocacy stimulated by social media, tries to package it like other broadcast media, sees this as their job not a passion
Motivation - wants to map out and mine the insight from the universe of social media
Common profession - Research, Innovation
Key driver - "What have we learned?"
Key social media measures - Insight, quality of content, relevance
Merited Focus - recognizes the crowdsourcing nature of social media to impact a number of a company's operations, strongest advocates for co-creation and collaboration
Blindspot - can take too academic of a focus and ignore immediate business-building impacts of social media, place too high a weight on fringe /early adopters
The fact that these different 5 tribes exists is a good thing - it points to the multi-faceted nature of social media's benefits. The inability for these social media tribes, particularly the more seasoned ones, to accept that they operate inescapably in the same social media bouillabaisse is a continuing issue that threatens the future financial health of the social media industry.
It's just too bad we don't have some kind of United Nations of social media where people of different tribes could try to understand the other's positions with the help of translators...because right now, we're still talking different languages.