I was reading a post by Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang) recently – Strategy: Five steps to achieve ‘escape velocity’ – and finally stay out of the social media ‘help desk’. I’ve read it, and reread it, I started to write a comment and then deleted it. I left it for a few days and came back to it again this evening. And I’ve got to be honest I’ve struggled with it. I get the individual concepts that he talks about – ‘escape velocity’, the dreaded social media ‘help desk’ (although I question the metaphor), I understand where he is coming from with ‘scalability’, and I understand the five strategies. But when all these things are put together, I struggle.

Before I go any further, and perhaps because I feel I am on shaky ground in expressing an opinion, my opinion, here’s the bit where I feel I have to voice my respect for Jeremiah Owyang. He trail blazes and states opinions, where people like me, simply follow in their wake. My respect for him remains undiminished, as it does for The Altimeter Group. I feel I can move on now, obsequiousness over.

What I struggle with is this: I am not sure what the underlying theme of the post is and therefore not sure how it holds together. Is this about scalability? Is this about a strategy for avoiding one’s role being reduced to that of the dreaded social media ‘help desk’? Am I simply nitpicking? Because I’m not sure what it’s about, for me, the underlying message loses its impact.

If it’s about scalability, or the fact that social media doesn’t scale, that’s one thing. But at least address that issue. Much is made of scalability, and in fact I sometimes wonder what we mean by scalability. Which bit of social media doesn’t scale? Does it depend on which part of the organisation you sit in?

From a social customer care perspective, is it that you simply can’t respond to all the negative complaints? Or is it that you can’t respond to all the negative complaints in a reasonable amount of time (however you define reasonable from a social media perspective?). Or is it that you can’t resolve all the negative complaints in a reasonable amount of time? Or is it that a company does not have enough agents with the right social media skillsets to respond to the complaints; leaving the issue of time aside for the moment. If we can scale for the telephone or email, why can’t we scale for social media (Twitter)? Is it simply, that organisations do not communicate SLAs, so customers have no idea what to expect?

If it’s about avoiding one’s role being reduced to the dreaded social media ‘help desk’, then that’s a different matter entirely. I’m not sure where scalability comes into the picture in this instance. Perhaps I am just missing the point?

I’m not sure if part of the problem is that we expect too much of social media, too much of Twitter, too much of Facebook. We want them to be the answer. Although we are not sure what answer we are looking for. We give these social platforms more than is their due. More than they have ever asked for or expected. Twitter is what it is: 140 characters. It is us who imbues them with potentials and possibilities that they never had in the first place. We expect too much of these channels. The issue of scalability has nothing to do with Twitter, but everything to do with us. And to me, that is the bit we often seem to forget. It is the challenge we need to overcome.

And once you have achieved ‘escape velocity’, what then?

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