Listen. We need to talk. I wasn’t going to say anything, but it’s time. Birds, bees, etc.

Don’t be embarrassed – everyone goes through this. Yes, you’re totally normal. I know social media puberty is uncomfortable and awkward, but it’s gonna be OK.

All the good professions have gone through this. It’s a natural cycle: pioneering, growth, maturity and finally, stabilization. It gets better.

Tell me, does this sound familiar?

In the Beginning…

The social media world was brand-new, and you were discovering everything for the first time, like a baby discovering its fingers.

You were pioneering. Platform creators. Bloggers. Rule makers. One part rogue and two parts revolutionary. You were success kid.

Success Kid

Social has been “a thing” as long as the Internet has been around, but you took to it like you took to your Big Wheel and ran with it. You made it cool.

Pioneers in social helped create awareness and pushed for growth and evolution.

This pioneering phase had a fairly long on-ramp between technology and adoption – there were a lot of moving parts that needed to align.

The Awkward Adolescence

You had to grow up really fast. It’s gotten a little messy – and it’s all been in the public eye, Olsen twins-style.

Staring John Stamos

Suddenly, you had to share the cool kids’ table as the masses and businesses started playing, too. Everything was in flux as a huge and dramatic influx of investors, players and “professionals” joined the scene.

But you stayed on top. The struggle to prove value and worth was all anyone could talk about. As the “social media expert,” you were Tracy Flick raising your hand in class while your job and your field shone in the limelight.

Tracy Flick for President

No pressure, though – right?

Which Leads Us to Today

You’re growing up, our little social media rock star. You may have noticed that your metrics and tools are changing, and that other industries like SEO, Content Marketing and PR are starting to pay you more attention. Don’t be afraid – this is all natural.

Innovation and disruption is still happening, and new players are catching your eye all the time. Hey there mobile, how are you?

The jobs are plentiful. You have a seat at the table. You’re confident. Maybe even too confident? You’re still not grown up yet, although I know it feels like you are.

What’s Next For You?

Listen, you may be Social Media Prom Queen right now, but the real world is coming for you.

Measurement and process standards are becoming the norm. We’re moving towards stabilization. The industry is growing up around you.

The world of marketing is bigger than you, and social isn’t seen as the isolated panacea it once was.

Things are changing, and you should want them to. It means greater opportunity and professional growth for you. It means a chance to be part of crafting a dynamic profession while driving the future of business forward by focusing on customers, content and even having some fun.

But here’s the thing. If the profession is going to grow up, you need to make some changes. I can’t promise it will be easy, but I can promise … well, just do it.

Here’s the Plan

Drop the Bullshit Titles

You are not a guru, ninja, Jedi, wizard, rock star or legend. You don’t get to call yourself an expert or maven.

Ninja Social Media Manager

Conduct yourself professionally, and build a brand that garners the respect it deserves. Grown-up titles and all.

Build your brand and let others anoint you with these titles. (Unless you are actually a ninja, Jedi or wizard. In which case – hit me up. Let’s hang out!)

Change the Conversation

If you’re going to carry the social media crown, you’ve got to be prepared for its responsibilities.

That means turning the tide away from shiny objects and toward driving stakeholder value.

Stop reporting likes. Stop reporting followers, circlers, or whatever other locker-room metrics you’re using. Just stop.

Now, I know, these might be the things you’re being asked about: change the conversation. Consider it a critical imperative for the good of all social practitioners.

Tie your work to solid and meaningful business metrics.

Measure and report on what matters to executives and shareholders. Grab that seat at the table by showing just how beneficial social engagement can be for customers and business.

Look Ahead

Finally I implore you to think about your future.

As social matures, sure, there will still be roles for specialists. But it’s becoming clear that engagement is the job of teams from across the entire organization – from product, to risk, to service, to HR, to marketing, PR and legal. Everyone will have skin in the game.

That’s how it needs to be if businesses are going to mature and become fully engaged, with customer experience as the focus.

Foresee the challenges your organization will face, and work with all of these teams to fully realize the opportunities ahead of them. Empower them. Help them drive value for their teams and the company as a whole.

I know it might be a little scary to grow up, but it’s time.

I mean, seriously. You didn’t think you could call yourself a guru forever…. did you?