Social Media Knowledge Gaps Still Not A Thing of the Past

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by Jody Krasner Gladstein 

This week, Facebook CEO and Founder Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of a US Senate joint committee hearing to answer questions about Facebook’s mounting scandals, including the misappropriation of up to 87 million users’ profile data by Cambridge Analytica and Russia’s use of the platform to spread fallacies and propaganda. I, for one, did not subject myself to listening to all five hours of testimony. However, what I did watch, and what I found most fascinating about the whole event, was not the grilling over Facebook’s abuse of user data, but what can only be described as Congress’ display of Facebook illiteracy, and of social media in general.

The late night comedians, like Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah, right along with the likes of CNN and Business Insider journalists, had a field day with several of the Senators’ confused questions to Zuckerberg, such as:

  1. “How do you sustain a business model in which users don’t pay for your service?”
  2. “How many data categories do you store, does Facebook store, on the categories that you collect?”
  3. “Are you willing to go back and work on giving me a greater right to erase my data?”

Sadly, it’s not just Congress who is in the dark when it comes to lack of knowledge about Facebook or for that matter, any other social media platform (e.g., Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc…). I can count on both hands, friends of mine (mostly Gen Xers) who have said things to me like, “What do you “Twit” about?”or “I don’t “get” Snapchat.” It’s not just the older generations who have these knowledge gaps.

Four years ago, when I launched my social media consulting business and began teaching adult education classes in Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn, I assumed my average client or student would have basic familiarity on how to use the platforms, and at the very least, had opened their own accounts prior to our meeting. What I found was the complete opposite of this. I would spend a good 75% of my time (not exaggerating) helping to set up their accounts, teaching how to upload images, helping to find their email addresses and passwords, and even in some cases, instructing them on how to use their smartphones (unrelated to social media apps). I am not telling you this to disparage or make fun of these people. Having been focused on social media marketing and technology for so many years, I realized that I was in a minority of people above the age of 40 years old who knew how and why to use social media and even other basic modern technology. And, now, four years later, unfortunately, I don’t really find that much has changed.

So, what’s my point here? My point is that there is still a great need for social media education and instruction within the workplace (both small and large businesses, non-profit to for-profit, etc.) in order to meet the demands and ongoing evolution of technology, digital marketing and communication around the world. This even applies out of the workplace and within homes where parents/grandparents need/want to keep up with their tech savvy children. Those of us who work with social media day-to-day cannot assume that everyone else knows what we are doing or even why we are doing it in the first place.

From day one of my current contract position as a Digital Marketing Manager for a small non-profit, I have stressed social media training of fellow employees on best practices and instruction. At first, it was met with reluctance, but as the year has moved on, I have been able to convince a good few on the power and benefits of social media engagement on behalf of the organization.

In my experience, businesses I have worked with know they “need” social media accounts, but, really, they more often than not don’t know why they need them or what would be the first thing they should do to even get started. How is this possible in 2018? I believe it is imperative that those of us with the social media knowledge and experience need to train our fellow co-workers and team members. Social media needs to be part of every company’s overall strategy (marketing, branding, operations) and its company culture. If your company doesn’t leverage social media resources, it will always be behind the eight ball. It’s time to get out of the mindset that social media is too hard or that their isn’t time or money available for it.

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