IAN GREENLEIGH

Author | Marketer | Speaker

I help companies turn data, ideas and relationships into reach and influence. 

The Social Media Resentment Factor

Hang around others in my line of work long enough, and you’ll notice they aren’t chomping at the bit to tell people they work in social media. I’m beginning to understand why. It’s kind of like telling people you’re a sommelier—many do not know the work exists; those that do don’t comprehend what it can entail.

“Isn’t that the guy that picks out wine for you in a restaurant?”

“Isn’t that, like, doing Facebook and Twitter?”

Can you understand why I’ve started to just say “marketing” unless people inquire further? It’s not that the two questions above have it all wrong; they don’t, really. Sommeliers do, in fact, help patrons pick wines in restaurants. Social media managers do, in fact “do” Facebook and Twitter. It’s the thinking behind the question that gets tiresome. The thinking, most of the time, is this:

This person doesn’t have a real job.

-or-

What’s so special about this person that they have this job? It’s not rocket science.

It’s not. Neither is accounting, or estate law or inside sales. But don’t tell me that I don’t have a real job. And don’t tell me that I don’t deserve my job, or that you could do it better.

There is a need for expertise in social media. This is not to say that every company needs to hire a social media expert. Nor is it to say that the vast majority of those calling themselves “social media experts” aren’t simply opportunists who lack the acumen needed in this space. Social media is young and constantly evolving, devolving, changing, defining itself. Expertise can’t be static, or handed out via college degree. But don’t tell me there aren’t experts out there that should be respected as such.

I understand that whatever is on top will be maligned by those that can’t grasp it or don’t have it in them anymore to get there. Social media is on top, it’s hot, it’s all the rage and everyone’s doing it. Like any professional space with low barriers to entry—real estate, the arts, etc.—the successful 10% will outshine the unsuccessful 90%, creating just enough light to attract eager hopefuls, but, inevitably, a shadow large enough to hide a lot of hard realities about what exactly it takes to “make it”. Social media isn’t there yet, but it will be, for better or for worse. So there will always be suspicion of success, comparative resentment, frustration and underhanded remarks like, “We can’t all get paid to play on Facebook.”

If that was truly all I did—play around on Facebook—to make a living, would you blame me for doing it? Forget the fact that I don’t personally even enjoy Facebook, or that thinking about or studying Facebook makes up perhaps a quarter of one percent of my average work week. These inconvenient facts don’t matter to the person that has already decided you don’t work hard or have it easy. They have already decided not to respect the way you make a living, and it has a lot more to do with them than you. And I can understand this, and I can forgive this.

But until someone takes what I do seriously, I have no reason to take them seriously.

© 2016 Ian Greenleigh