Practicing Social Media

DoctorSeveral years ago I had a good conversation with a friend going into medical school and I asked him a question that had always made me curious: “Why do doctors call it practicing medicine?” The answer has stuck with me for a while, an answer I find confirmation in from time to time by doctors who enter and exit my life. The answer was “Because the day you stop practicing is the day you fail to understand medicine”.

See, in medicine the world is constantly changing. Every week a new study or drug comes out that has the potential to shape the way a doctor treats her patients. Spend some time in any hospital and you will see a huge emphasis on continuing education at all levels of medical service. True, some people get to the point where they can become experts in a particular field, thanks to mind numbing research and dedication they because leaders in an area and define how others practice medicine. But even with them, the day they stop trying to push the edge is the day they suddenly fall behind.

I have a habit of calling people out about saying they are a social media expert. See I view social media much the way that I view medicine; in fact it is the story with any form of human interaction. You never learn all there is to know; the field is changing too rapidly for that to ever happen. The best chance you ever have to be effective at social media is to practice the art by constantly trying new platforms, reading new studies, and most importantly interacting with other people who are doing the same in order reassure yourself that you never have it all figured out. Secondly, and was the real story behind my mini-twitter rant, you have to actually use the damn thing constantly in order to understand it.

In med school your real hospital experience comes by working 12-24-48 hour shifts (even longer in some instances). Why? Because you have to be saturated in it to fully understand it. Social media is the same way. If you go weeks without sending an original (ie: not retweet) post, you are not saturated. If you are hearing about new services a year after they have been launched, you are not saturated. It is a lifestyle, not a conference that you are paid to attend.

Here is the general problem with people who think they are experts, once they believe they are an expert they stop practicing. I’ve been quoted a thousand times by now for my SoSocial intervention where I said “If you are an expert today, you are a dumbass tomorrow”. The reason is because you stop pushing the envelope, you stop trying to learn.

Yes you can carve out a niche, say Twitter or Gowalla, and learn absolutely everything there is to know about that one specific area. You are then a Twitter expert or a Gowalla expert. That is obtainable. But just like being a flu expert or an AIDS expert does not make you an expert in medicine, being an expert in a niche area or platform of social media does not make you an expert in social media.

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