Spent the day yesterday at the Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose and got some input that make s a fitting conclusion to my three parter on what social media does.
As I said before, social media, in itself, does nothing. Its components are just mediums like a piece of paper is a medium. You decide what to do with it. That confuses a lot of people because newspapers, radio, TV and even the internet to some degree just seems to "magically" appear with information and little or no cost to us, 24 hours a day. We're used to getting our information however we want it. What is happening, though, is that magical, free flow of real information is being overtaken by poorly produced marketing crap and we are losing the ability to parse what is real and what is hype.
In talking with a dozen media people yesterday, I see a definite trend. Those who continue to work in advertising-supported media are depressed and worried. Those who are trying to break the mold are optimistic and excited about the time. I ran across the eternally optimistic Alix Paultre of Advantage Media in the first part of the day and he stated, categorically, "No one knows what media is going to look like in two years. No one. The only people that will survive are the ones keeping moving, like you and me, Lou."
That conversation, and several others during the course of the day galvanized a thought I had a couple of weeks ago. It's time for communication professionals to take back our livelihoods from the incompetent marketers that have been running the show.
I've been trying to tell people for a couple of years that the media they were used to working with is going away. Events yesterday made that so clear. I sat with Mike Santarini, formerly of EE Times and EDN, during the ESC keynote. Mike is now working internally in Xilinx. Richard Goering, formerly of SCD Source and EE Times, just announced he got a job in Cadence. Dave Bursky, formerly of EE Times and Electronic Design, is now working in Maxim. Mike Markowitz, formerly Editorial Director of EDN, was in the ST Micro booth. These are great journalists, forced into the position of advocate within a single corporation because of the traditional media's addiction to advertising and the budgets controlled by engineers cum marketers with no training in communication or media. That's not a good thing.
On the other hand, you have people like Alix, Paul Miller at Techinsights, John Blyler and Ed Sperling at Extension Media, Jason McDonald at Eg3 and the now free-lance Brian Fuller experimenting, reorganizing, re-visioning how information is gathered, distributed and funded. Are any of them the right way to do it? Who knows? But at least they are trying something different. Something is going to stick and it's going to be done by people who understand how people communicated, not by people who make electronics products.
I've been trying to teach engineers how to communicate for almost three decades now. I don't think it can be done. There are a few that get it, but most still get bogged down in the mechanisms of communications, not the process, because the mechanism is what they are good at. They really don't want to learn to communicate. They need someone to do that for them.
So let's bring it all back to the question: What does social media do? It is a mechanism developed by engineers for a purpose they don't understand, but that real communicators do. The engineers have created the mechanism we need. Their job is done. It's time for all journalist, public relations professionals and media mavens to take back our profession and not let the amateurs run the show. It's time for the engineers to back off and let us do our jobs ... and pay us for what we know how to do.