Social Media and the Myth of the Master

Update: 01/17/11 IRONY ALERT! After posting this article I was followed by several”Social Media Experts” via automated keyword Bots. They obviously never read the article;) Don’t Be like them! Learn a better way to use Social Media Marketing! Also I’ve added a new book to the recommended reading list at the end of this article by @grattongirl & @grattonboy. Got any “Must Read” Social Media book recommendations? Any books especially helpful for creatives and filmmakers? Tell us about them in the comment section below so we can check em out and add them to the list!

Filmmakers, musicians, and artists of all kinds are embracing Social Media Marketing, (many with great success) but the SPAM I get in my email and feeds suggests that some folks are still stuck in the 20th century. Are you getting your advice and methods from a reliable source? It could make all the difference.

As an avid practitioner of Chinese Martial Arts, I have learned to recognize that the true title of “Master” is not self-assigned. People who have achieved great “Kung Fu” in their art may have been referred to (by others) as “Masters” in their respective fields, but would seldom boast the title or proclaim it on their own without absolute merit (And by “Kung Fu” I do not mean the fighting style you see in Martial Arts films; that is “Wushu”-The actual meaning of Kung Fu is something more like: time and effort – well utilized).

Studies have indicated that one needs at least 10 years or 10,000 hours of dedicated training/experience to develop expert level skill – THAT is good Kung Fu. This is true for martial arts, film making, and any other creative or technical endeavor. Even with legitimate expertise, the process of learning never stops. Technology, techniques, platforms and markets are constantly changing and it is essential to keep updating one’s education.

Is anyone really an expert on (say for example) Twitter? There are certainly people who have managed to utilize it more effectively than others. But Twitter is a new emerging model. It’s only been around since 2006 and hasn’t gathered big steam till the last few years. By our standard for “expertise”, five or six years are simply not enough time for ANYONE to have “mastered” the platform. And many of these platforms are continuously changing and evolving. While new technology has paved the way, it’s not merely the media and tools that are changing. The very nature of marketing is changing!

But in today’s world of Internet publishing, the ‘Twitterverse’, Facebook, 4square, Vimeo, YouTube, Google,  LinkedIn, Myspace,  WordPress, Blogger, Ning and the myriad of other networks, platforms and forums, it would appear that “everyone” is now suddenly an “expert” – (at least in their own minds).

There ARE a number of people who have made it their life’s work to research, understand and develop marketing and networking techniques and platforms. There are many that have utilized the tools successfully and have practical hands on experience and a track record. But there are also a host of far less-qualified “insta-experts” trying to capitalize on the growing social media phenomenon. The funny thing is; the actual experts may have unwittingly generated this trend themselves. There are a number of books and blogs that declare people need to “establish themselves as experts in their field”. Can anyone say “Frankenstein” ?  – ‘cause I think a monster just got created.

It might be smart to emphasise the disclaimer that it would help to actually BE an expert. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing and a lot of self-proclaimed experts are just one lesson ahead of the student. Anyone with a modicum of common sense, who has done their research, can probably separate the wheat from the chaff pretty easily. But I still cringe when I hear/see phrases like: Social Media Marketing “Maven” or “Guru”.

If I had a nickel for every SPAM post from a “Social Media Expert” or services offering to do my social media work for me at pizza delivery boy rates (no offense to pizza delivery boys) I could have funded a major motion picture by now!
Then there are the “coaches”: coaches for business, for filmmakers, for money manifestation and even coaches for coaches. I’m sure there are plenty of very good ones. But there is something particularly ironic about receiving old school “push sell” tactics in the form of SPAM-like posts from “modern” social media marketing coaches.
There are some very dedicated professionals who have written extremely helpful books on the subject of Social Media Marketing. I am not one of them 😉
If you aren’t either, I would encourage you to read up and research at least enough to be able to discern whether the people who you are taking advice from have any more of a clue than you do. There are a host of books that cover topics from the technical, to the motivational, to groundbreaking new paradigms for the way we live and do business.

And there are things to be learned every day from filmmakers and others who have discovered inspirational ways to utilize the tools well. One recent example would be the amazing “come from behind in the ninth inning” crowd-funding campaign story for Lucas McNelly’s “A Year Without Rent”
With the help of @FilmCourage and other members of the independent film community, Twitter and Facebook were utilized to raise twelve thousand dollars for an independent film cause (most of it in the last 24 hours)!

This is just another example that illustrates that, experts or not, independent filmmakers seem to be a pretty astute and flexible bunch; the kind of folk who aren’t afraid to boldly dive right in and use the manual to set their coffee on. Whether through trial and error or education, filmmakers are starting to gain their stride with social media. If you are reading this article, it’s pretty likely you already have some media savvy, but there is always more to learn. Keep a “beginner’s mind” and get sound advice from successful earnest people who have “walked the walk they talk”.

Whether you are new to the Social Media world or have already had a chance to get a footing, these reasonably current (2010) books range from basic general Social Media to Film Industry specific approaches for the digital age and are a great place to dive in and expand your perspective and understanding of social media for the creative professional.

Please add any of your favorite MUST READ social media marketing suggestions in the comments below! By staying educated and on top of things, perhaps we can decrease SPAM and usher in a whole new era of kinder, gentler and more sincere marketing that resonates better with creatives, fans and the industry!T. Reed @TAOXproductions