For anyone who spends any amount of time working online, it doesn’t take long to realize that there is a social media elite, the who’s who of bloggers and social media mavens that many in the blogosphere turn to for direction, instruction and advice. I have spent countless hours reading what some of the go-to people have to say, and much of it has been extremely useful. I have learned a lot and have had the opportunity to put in my two cents through comments on their blogs, and well as writing my own commentary on my blog. The so-called “thought leaders” of social media have quite a flock that follows their every word.
I do find that the term “thought leader” a little disturbing, with somewhat Orwellian undertones. To me, it implies that there is an inner circle that needs to lead all others in how they should or shouldn’t think. Experience can produce knowledge, but sometimes it can also produce a closed mindedness and a sense of ownership and entitlement. I would suggest that what others outside of the elite circle can bring to the table is innovation. Sometimes those that don’t have as much experience or that are coming in from the outside have the ability to view things with open eyes. They don’t have those preconceived notions about what should or shouldn’t be done. Those that have set the rules and would like to let all others know what those rules are and how they should be followed should listen a little more carefully to what outsiders or lesser-experienced people have to say. The so-called thought leaders may feel like social media methodology is their baby, but the baby eventually grows up and starts dating.
This applies to any field, not just social media. I got into a discussion with my son’s teacher last year, and I was trying to make a point to get him to look at something in a different light than what he was used to. His response to me was “I’ve been doing this for thirty years.” And that was that, discussion over. That statement was enough of an explanation for him to me as to why he didn’t have to listen to my perspective. Well, thirty years ago, teaching was different, school was different and kids were different. We have to be able to keep our minds open to listen to those who may be from outside, but may be able to offer a fresh outlook or a new way of doing things that could be just as valid (or more) as a well worn methodology. An outsider’s view can sometimes shed new light onto something that otherwise, if you are too close, you cannot even see.
Social media is a relatively new concept. It is ever-changing and evolving rapidly. The rules, technology and methods change and mutate. Read what others have to say, whether they are the “thought leaders” or not, insiders or not. Take what you can use or relate to and discard the rest (or even better, throw in your own comments), but don’t discount or accept anyone’s opinion based on his or her popularity, name recognition, or subscriber or follower count. Don’t always take the safest route; let your own brain be your thought leader.