Who’s making a business from social media? Audio and video producers are, for the most part, scraping by, give or take a few notables (several of who are being paid from VC money). Bloggers are making money in varying degrees, depending on their advertising opportunities, or their opportunity for consulting. I’m going to leave the “entertainment” category out of this discussion for that reason (though you’re welcome to argue it back in). So, who’s really making a business out of social media?
Early Adopters: Advertising, PR and Marketing
First to market with actual paying jobs in social media are public relations and marketing firms. Why? Because if you squint your eyes, the tools are the same thing: a means for communicating professionally. Is that wrong? I don’t think so, provided we don’t lose ground with regards to how these new tools re-humanize technology-assisted communication.
Using social media for “viral” advertising is popular, but mostly because it’s low-cost, low-barrier technology that permits folks to get a message across through different channels. Will that last? I can’t see why we’d go back to $100,000 spots, when we can create the media and distribute it for free, especially where the world is shifting to those free methods, too.
I’m not sure what department an internal corporate social media practitioner would fall into. Project management makes sense, because inside the firewall, these tools facilitate collaboration, status messages, data sharing, and other uses that would work well for facilitating projects. Product management and R&D might adopt the tools as well, but there probably wouldn’t be a pre-defined role for someone who simply knows how to use the tools.
Comparing the Two Most Likely Businesses
On one side, we have obvious jobs: PR, marketing, advertising. On the other, we have a potential role for daring companies, or a more likely future of an adoption of the tools by several people after receiving training from a more expert user. So, there are two options.
Which makes more sense? On one side, you have a mountain of communications companies hoping to adapt quickly. On the other side, you have businesses who aren’t as motivated to change their internal processes. But will there be a point where businesses take back their external arms for outreach to their customers? In a world where companies talk directly to their customers, the media, and prospects, will the business of communications go in-house?
Not Necessarily a Primary Business
We’re all jumping up and down and excited about social media and what these tools can do for us. WHAT, exactly, do these tools do for us that translates into a business directly? My answer: for lots of people, they don’t.
Looking for a career in social media would be like seeking a career in email. Instead, use these skills to cultivate another ability of yours. If you’re a salesperson, use social media tools to build leads, understand need, get the word out about your products. If you’re a nonprofit professional, you’ve already figured this out, and use these tools to aid in awareness, fundraising, communication, and more.
Instead of focusing on how these tools will become a career, focus on how you can equip others with these tools. THAT, I believe, is the business, in the short term. But even that will be the short term.
What do you think? Agree? Disagree? What’s your take?
Photo credit, Greg Westfall
The Social Media 100 is a project by Chris Brogan dedicated to writing 100 useful blog posts in a row about the tools, techniques, and strategies behind using social media for your business, your organization, or your own personal interests. Swing by [chrisbrogan.com] for more posts in the series, and if you have topic ideas, feel free to share them, as this is a group project, and your opinion matters.
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