Social Media is a Secondary Competence

Summary : Digital, social media and networks…businesses are looking for people mastering these new concepts and tools. But we need to be careful toward excesses we can see emerging today : knowing tools has no value per se. Using them in a business context or applying their principles to existing business activities to transform practices instead of adding a new tool or channel is the real challenge. A deep understanding of business functions will always be a prerequisite that will prevail on technology savviness.

The least we can say is that social media spread panic in the business sphere before, maybe one day, revolutionize it. It’s incredible to see to what extent businesses struggle for finding the profiles they need to move forward, frame or reframe what’s they’re doing. Their mistake ? Focusing on the visible part of the iceberg and searching for the famous “social media expert”.

As a matter of fact, by doing so, their make the knowledge and use of tools prevail. What is, at first sight, a prerequisites. But it appears quickly that knowing how to use a tool does not means understanding the machinery, sometimes vicious, that hides behind the tool. We can only see that the usage of such tools in a personal context does not always lead to relevancy in a business context. Sharing a LoL Cat has nothing to do with dealing with a crisis or managing a community of practices.

In short, … your nephew is not a social media exper.

Why I am saying that ? If I have a look at my current business environment, I can see that, and that’s normal regarding to our age, social media has been something we learned on top of a more common set of business competences. Some in marketing, others in HR, others in management etc… We discovered these tools and media when they emerged and try to figure out how they could help us to do better, differently, how they could support new approaches to our mission. In short, despite of the transformations they cause, social media has been something applied to an existing business practice to make it evolve.

Now, with time, and the arrival of new generations, we can see people with a native usage of these tools coming to the market, what is holy bread for businesses that expect them to be the solution to all their problems. What reminds me a little of the discussions about “digital” that happened during the last presidential election in France. Will we create degrees in “digital”, have “digital” classes ? I’m sorry but digital has no value as long as it’s not applied to something. Digital and economy, digital and philosophy, social networks and Hr, social networks and marketing. Moreover, rather than social media or networks I’d prefer “applied social principles” in order to avoid the limiting shackles of a tool oriented vision.

It’s easy to understand that by having a look at some critical situations : it’s easier to teach customer service professionals how to use twitter than to teach complex business rules to a compulsive twitterer and make him understand a new kind of engagement policy. Easier…and much less risky.

The risk ? Making a whole generation believe that their native use of tools is a sufficient set of skills to enter the workforce. Make businesses believe that knowing how to use Facebook is enough to solve what is, at the beginning, a pile of strategic, organizational and business issues.

Social media and networks, digital, are only secondary (but necessary) skills that are valueless if not used jointly with the experience and practice and skills related to a “real” business activity. Tomorrow they’ll disappear and be replaced by something else while the basics will remain and we’ll start learning to apply new principes once again. Business functions are transforming but their goal and a part of their constraints will stay for long.

So, newcomers on the job market should make sure their “social media competence” is coupled together with a business field they master. And professionals who are already in the place should not rest on their laurels and always remember where they come from.