The role of “social media consultant” probably strikes the average reader as describing something uncontroversial. There is a truly abundant demand for professional outreach on social media, and there’s no inherently negative consequences of filling that role. But it bears mentioning that the social media consultant chooses to freely enter a minefield of opinion in which practically every user – and every non-user – has a firm view about the inherent qualities of the platform.
Part of the reason why we mention this is because it’s on our minds in the wake of remarks that recent Oscar winner Lady Gaga made in an interview with Jimmy Kimmel. She didn’t have a word to say to any particular individual or profession, but the strength of her opinion might come as a shock to any social media consultant who thinks of his industry as a sort of blank canvas, or as something that is lacking in offense until the wrong people get their hands on it.
Lady Gaga’s view is apparently not so nuanced. “Social media, quite frankly, is the toilet of the internet,” she said in response to speculation about a relationship between her and A Star is Born co-star Bradley Cooper. “What it has done to pop culture is abysmal,” she added more generally, but also vaguely.
It would be surprising if these remarks reflect a majority view, but there is no doubt that some people’s starting point with social media is one of mild disgust. This is true even of some regular users of platforms like Twitter and Facebook, and it puts the work of a social media consultant in a different light. In some cases, instead of simply using that role to craft a client’s public image from scratch, the social media consultant must first tamp down preexisting negative features of online public interaction.
If, for instance, a portion of your intended audience shares Lady Gaga’s aversion to social media, then your business starts out at a disadvantage in terms of attracting the desired attention to your account in the first place. For this, an experienced social media consultant may have ideas for how to break through barriers to interaction. And even then, the underlying reasons for those barriers are likely to create problems for your account somewhere down the line.
Of course, the importance of cleaning “the toilet of the internet” is a big part of why any given social media consultant has a job in the first place. Individuals and companies that adopt a new platform naively are sure to find themselves at a breaking point somewhere down the line. Whether it is because of trolls piling on to controversy over an ill-advised remark, or because of random, anonymous rumors, anyone with a substantial following can find themselves struggling to manage a crisis of social media management.
Wouldn’t you prefer to have an established relationship with professionals in the field before that happens? Even if your outreach to a social media consultant consists only of a general discussion of brand identity, it probably means that you will know where to find a good plunger on the day the toilet of the internet starts to overflow.