Testing The Theory That Social Media Isn’t A “Field”.

Is Social Media a field?

Last Thursday, at an event called Lunch for Good, I was talking to Susan Tenby who informed me about an interesting debate she was having with someone on Twitter where the core issue being discussed was whether or not social media, in all its glory, actually constituted being considered a “field”. Is it more than simply a tool that a department in a company uses to communicate or is there some legitimate purpose for people to specialize in this technology and thus be considered social media consultants?

For some reason, this heralds back a much more pressing issue that has been taking place since the advent of social media – just who owns social media? In an earlier post, I stated that I felt that the combatants had the whole debate wrong. It wasn’t about whether PR or marketers “owned” social media. Neither explicitly “owns” social media. It’s a tool that both parties use.

So why is it so surprising that there could exist a “social media field”?

It’s not as if someone in the IT department or perhaps involved in customer service should be responsible for the field. Social media is a massive tool that can be used across an array of departments within a company and can help to take the business to another level. No, it’s not the responsibility of the marketing department or those in PR. In fact, if you’re going to get someone involved in managing any external social media strategies, then you need someone who is dedicated to the task – someone who can be integrated across all the departments and work with them all on the same project and gather consensus and input or perhaps individually to create targeted social media campaigns.

Simply because there are tools like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn doesn’t mean that it doesn’t qualify as a field. Remember that there are a whole lot of other tools and programs out there in the Internet that can be used for general awareness, specific campaigns or for communication. It’s a wide open field that encompasses all your business needs. Whatever your profession or business objective, there’s a social media tool for it.

So why not give the responsibility to your information technology team?

Seriously? What do they know about marketing, PR or communications? You could give it to the sales team, but then again, what do they know about information technology, marketing or PR? What about the customer service team? Nope…they wouldn’t be concerned entirely with it – not all social media fits into one specific pocket. This is why you go find a reasonable and rationale individual or perhaps a company that focuses on creating social media campaigns. They’re not just folks you would outsource your basic projects to – like updating the company’s Twitter account or posting new photos on Flickr.

On the contrary, these individuals would be considered your source of information on how to properly reach out to folks – with blogger outreach, community management, market research, affiliate sales, etc – they have the knowledge to properly use the technology and their experience and skills thereby form the basis for a social media “field”. They’re specializing in how to use the technology given to help make the business world that much more informed.

What really defines a “field” anyways? I would assume that it would be synonymous with being one’s profession, right? In that case, the simple definition of a “field” (if equivalent to that of a profession) is:

a vocation founded upon specialised educational training, the purpose of which is to supply disinterested counsel and service to others, for a direct and definite compensation, wholly apart from expectation of other business gain.

There you have it. Social media can be a stand-alone function within a company simply because it meets the basic and fundamental definition of a “field” – it does require specialized training and as a result, trained professionals are compensated for their service wholly apart from other business gains.

So what do you think?

Are you in agreement that social media isn’t just some small piece of something much larger and that it’s basically its own sentient being that can be leveraged to help promote other forms of business within a company and/or industry?