Setting standards for the use of social media

The Public Relations field has, for decades, had standards governing conduct and best practices—some tried and true rules of thumb and guidelines. But how does social media, which many—including yours truly—view as a powerful, 21st-century add-on to the PR profession and is perhaps the greatest development to hit the field in more than half a century, fit in?

Let’s cut right to the chase here.

I’m not advocating that every teenager or proud Mom or Dad needs “uber” social media skills to post on Facebook or MySpace (though for a handful of particular posters some skills would be nice!). What I’m talking about are those companies and professionals who tout themselves as social media marketing experts and professionals.

Are they? How can anyone tell? What makes someone a social media expert? What’s stopping virtually anyone from making such a claim?

As it stands now, my neighbor’s 14-year-old high school freshman could claim to be a social media expert . . . and I bet her 600 or so Facebook friends would agree!

Just as with Public Relations professionals, social media experts need to know their stuff. To this end, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) is looking to redefine “public relations” so that it encompasses the two-way dialogue that now takes place, courtesy of social media, between companies and consumers, celebrities and their fans, professionals and clients. Sure to follow will be social media training and professional certifications.

What this means for consumers is a true “seal of approval” to help them discern qualified professionals from the not-so-qualified. What it means for those of us in the profession, aside from increased knowledge and expertise, is greater credibility for anyone holding such a credential.

Sure it sounds like more paperwork and more class work, and undoubtedly an extra fee or two, but in my book, it’s a win-win for PR/Social media professionals and the people/companies we serve. All will benefit from increased standards and greater integrity.

Don’t you think it’s time to weigh in with the PRSA and let them know we want to ensure the integrity of social media and the individuals and firms who operate in this space? While we can’t ensure across-the-board success (case in point, the numerous less-than-stellar TV and radio shows, publications, and networks), when it comes to social media and other online channels we can go a long way to ensuring higher quality and the existence of peer-developed best practices industry wide.

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3 thoughts on “Setting standards for the use of social media

  1. I completely agree that there should be standards and certification in terms of and in helping others define social media experts. With the continuously changing social media landscape, staying one step abreast of the continuing changes will prove to be the challenge.

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