Wherever I turn, it seems one of my many friends who work as independent social media consultants are either looking for fulltime jobs or have recently taken one. I’m not talking about superstars like Chris Brogan. Nor do I include the out-of-nowhere self-proclaimed social media “experts” who usually turn out to be ” know-nothings.”
The people I’m talking about are the many mid-level professionals who have done quite well in the last couple of years, by helping a great many companies of diverse size and focus to find their way into social media.
When I ask consultants why they’ve chosen this time to leave consulting and seek employment, they usually start by saying, “it’s time.”
They’re absolutely right. It’s time because the times have fast-evolved.
A few short years ago, social media consultants were still evangelists, explaining that the new conversational tools were not a fad; that it is better to listen to angry customers than set barriers to communications, that once you knew what you wanted to do with social media, you could measure almost every aspect of the process and result.
More recently, the business conversation shifted from the fundamental question of “Why should we…” to “how can we,” and the consultants went from being lonely voices in the dark corners, to pragmatic educators of how new tools could be provide significant, scalable and sustainable improvements.
A decade of social media disruption is now coming to an end. To a very large number of mainstream enterprises, large and small, social media is just one more item to integrate into the workflow process. While a few years ago, there were just ideas, today there are processes. While a few years ago social media teams in large enterprises were relegated to skunkworks operations, now social media is being used by marketing, recruiting, communications, business development, sales, support and so much more.
While a few years ago, there was no such thing as a community manager, there are now thousands of them.
In short, social media’s disruption is pretty much over and now the longer, slower, duller process of integrating social media into enterprise fabric, where diverse workers use tools to get their jobs done the same way they use computers, search and email.
consultants are for new waves of change. In the years I have been in the workplace, I’ve seen consultants for IT, for ethernet connection, faxes, email, security and firewall issues. I even recall being trained on how to use the new IBM typewriters with the ball, instead of a striker. Likewise there were experts on each of these subjects, who not only consulted, but they wrote books and spoke and conferences where people who were either puzzled or passionate about the new technologies gathered to listen, learn and occasionally be inspired.
That’s the state of social media today. It is normalizing inside of business. It is becoming an integrated system in place. There are guidelines for ethics. The lawyers have stopped screeching about risk. Operations officers are comfortable measuring results.
If you are really good at social media, there are tons of jobs for companies who want to normalize social media practices. That is an in-house position. The specialist with hard-to-find expertise on the subject is a dime a dozen as more and more people get accustomed to social media.
This is a normal evolution. It is time for many consultants to join companies and spend a few years continuing the normalization process which bring us out of the decade of corruption and into this new Conversational Age.