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Why I (sometimes) Don’t Like the Term Social Media (with a side of Men With Pens)


Is it possible to visit iLibrarian and not find something useful for the online writer? Is it possible to visit Men With Pens and not learn something about — social media (and of course laugh at the great domain name).

I’m sure I’m not the only person who hears “social media” and thinks online social life and personal life. It shouldn’t, but that is what many people hear. The word “media” isn’t powerful enough (sorry, talking heads) to overcome that “social” word. And, like it or not, that word “social” has come to mean personal, not professional (as in the phrase “this is business, not personal” that we hate, love, and use).

I’m not sure we need a new term for our personal social mediating, which we love dearly, but for businesses and organizations looking to hire professionals to manage their “social media” (or for freelancers competing for work), I think a new term is called for, if only from a practical point of view: to reduce the number of job applications from people who think that being a consumer of personal-life social media qualifies them for a job as a professional public information creator, facilitator, and manager.

In my small Library World, this is not unlike “I like to read” and “I read a lot” people who believe they can manage libraries, without knowing anything about budgets, contracts, licensing, employee management, politics, etc. There’s also that small matter of aptitude, not to mention experience, education, and training.

Just as “librarians” can now be Digital Asset Managers (DAM Librarians) or Strategic Knowledge Managers, Public Information Officers (PIOs) are now coming up with job titles that describe their unique skills with more specificity.

And then again, maybe, what’s wrong with Public Information Officer? If you maintain an interactive online professional life, you are still a PIO, just as a doctor, or a librarian, who operates (or manages information services) remotely is still a doctor (or a librarian).

From another angle, read Networking for People Who Hate Networking, by Penelope Trunk. (And thanks to Jerry at Oregon Law for the lead.).

Excerpt: “…Here’s a big secret about the blogosphere: The people who are blogging seriously aren’t college kids writing about beer parties. In fact, college kids are generally mystified as to why someone would spend four hours a day writing a blog entry.

That’s because the serious bloggers are professionals, and they’re investing four hours a day on their blog because it’s an incredibly effective and efficient networking tool….” (link to full article)

And for the record, I’m more a Social Networking Pollyanna than a Despairwear networker.

12/24/09 update: re MWP: See the post at My Shingle re “Men” With Pens and always remember the 1993 Peter Steiner cartoon, “On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog.”

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