The theorist vs the practitioner (2009)

A while back I listened to a podcast that was discussing social media. The discussion revolved around two different perspectives: the theorist and the practitioner. The two opposing perspectives went something like this:

Perspective 1: I study social media and don’t have to actually be using it to understand it

Perspective 2: You cant really understand social media unless you use it

While I can’t say that one position is better than the other, I most definitely fall in line with perspective #2.

Getting into the weeds is much better suited for my personality because when I speak on a subject, I want to be able to speak with authority and from experience.

Yes, it is true that you don’t necessarily have to be an active user of Twitter, Facebook, or Flickr to know what it is those platforms are capable of, but using it certainly won’t decrease your understanding.

The same argument can also be said when discussing cultures of the world. One does not necessarily have to have lived in a foreign country to understand that countries culture. You can read about it in books and discuss the topic with others that have been there, but your knowledge is not based on personal experience.

If you had the choice, wouldn’t you be more knowledgeable if you could live in the country instead of just reading about it from various books and websites?

Lucky for those of us in the communication profession, social media does not take a lot of money, it can all be done for free. The only cost is time.

I blog, use micro-blogs, photo sharing sites, social networking sites, podcast, and all this knowledge I gain from being a practitioner I know will come in handy down the road.

So if you’re in this profession and have not become a practitioner, select a social media site and give it a shot.

Write a blog, post to Twitter a couple times a day, do something that is out of your normal comfort zone.

The next time you get into a strategic discussion and the tactic you have worked on comes up, your first-hand knowledge will go a long way.

Mike Nicholson

I've spent my career working in a variety of Strategic Communications, Public Relations, Public Affairs, Information Operations, and Executive Outreach positions. With a history of planning, preparing, executing, and assessing communication strategies in the U.S. and abroad, I use this site to write, think and share lessons learned on organizational communications.

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