- a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.
- a promoter in the entertainment industry.
Tell me again “Zan”, which one are you, I ask as I network at the social media “course” I have been sent to by a previous employer. An employer who was unaware that most of these so-called courses are redundant due to the fact that they are led by self-proclaimed experts who ‘know how to reach millennials’. After an hour or so of listening to the course leader emphasise the importance of making something ‘go viral’ and achieving a verified status, we are finally released from the constraints of our chairs to mingle.
“Oh you know, I create content” Zan responds with a disinterested look on their face as they simultaneously and rather stealthily hand me their business card.
I am assuming the disinterest is down to the fact that unlike Zan, I do not possess 18,000 followers and in the brief moments since meeting, they have gathered this intel and determined I am no longer worth their time. I also assume their 18,000 followers were most likely purchased from somewhere in South-East Asia.
Zan, like many other individuals in the 12-30 age bracket, has set their sights on becoming an influencer. Don’t get me wrong, I see the appeal – being paid to advertise a particular product or service on social media and getting free stuff in return. Why wouldn’t you do it? My issue lies with the self-assignment of various titles and status. Though perhaps I simply have an issue with titles within the digital entrepreneurial field in general. Thought-leader, Brand Ambassador, Innovator – they feel hollow and lacking in substance. They feel disingenuous.
What do you actually do? The irony is not lost on me as someone who not only works in social media, but as someone for whom the response from older generations to my job title is, “So you get paid to tweet?”
Alas, just as I have had to make peace with the fact that in creating social media content for people or brands, I am indeed a “marketer” (an industry of which I’m not the biggest fan), I must accept that the employment landscape has changed and everyone now has the potential to be self-promoter aka an entrepreneur. As McLuhan declared all those years ago in 1964, it’s the medium itself (in this case, social media) that affects the society in which it plays a role, not only by the content delivered over the medium, but also by the characteristics of the medium itself. That’s not to say I’m blaming social media for the rise of the self-titled entrepreneur, the medium has merely facilitated the ability to do so in a far more public manner.
Whilst I will never find the “who are you”, “what is your brand” or “what is your USP” questions any less cringe-worthy, I do believe there are those out there who are genuinely creating great content without introducing or promoting themselves as entrepreneurs.
N.B. If you didn’t already think Zan was a twat, it should also be noted that they use the ‘who followed/unfollowed me today’ apps. Also, it should be noted that Zan is a completely fictional character I have created for the purposes of this blog post, but who does bear similarities to some people I have met in the industry.