“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” — Robert Heinlein
This idea of moribund specialisation was particularly timely given a recent conversation I had at the Geekdom; the kind that sometimes crops up when people are feeling the pressure. Essentially it was a matter of semantics; what we label this activity or that and where the responsibilities lie.
You’ve been there too, I’m sure. I know I’m not alone; at Tuesday’s The Digital Tipping Point a couple of speakers touched upon the issue of who is responsible for social media within an organisation. Joel Postman talks about it in his new book SocialCorp which I’m reading at present (so far so fabulous – review coming very soon, when I have time to give it the critical appraisal it deserves). It’s understandable; of all the disciplines of the new digital age, social media in particular is an unknown quantity for many corporates, and that means in all likelihood it will have to squeeze into an existing space, but which one?
Keep going along this path and you can find yourself embroiled in some serious squabbling: blogging vs copywriting; where marketing begins and social media ends; whether responding to a comment on your corporate Facebook page is PR, sales or social media; what’s purely in the hands of a developer and what constitutes search engine optimisation….
But the reality is that we don’t have the luxury of isolationism; a hesitancy to engage with all facets of new media or an attempt to silo these activities just tells me you’re not on the bus.
It’s not complicated: if you’re a web designer or developer, you need to ensure that people can easily get to your beautiful website; user experience and search engine accessibility are paramount.
If you’re writing copy for the web, why aren’t you talking to your SEO team to find out what terms to integrate into your text at the start, not the end of the process? If you’re running SEO, do you consider social media optimisation someone else’s job?
When you post your press release online, do you consider how the back links could benefit your business?
If you’re in advertising, are you talking to your social media specialist to get insights into your target market – a real life focus group is talking about your brand every day; how can you possibly afford not to be paying attention?
While I’m certainly not advocating a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ approach, I do know that the people I love working with are the ones who embrace ideas from other disciplines; who make collaboration a delight and grok the big picture. It’s always a pleasure to work with forward thinking, agile, flexible people, and I think it’s everyone’s responsibility to be part of the solution. Adapt or die…
So, since none of the skills I’m concerned with made it to Heinlein’s list, maybe we need a new set of competencies for the Web 3.0 human? Incidentally, I can handle thirteen out of Heinlein’s twenty one. Some of them I simply haven’t had the opportunity to try yet..and some I hope I never have occasion to.