OK, I’ll admit it. I’m as guilty of assigning myself a made-up title as anyone.

But c’mon – “Digital Alchemist” is pretty cool. And it’s a nice shorthand for what I do – which is to research, study, broadcast via social media, write case studies, write blog posts, take still photos, work on mobile web designs, shoot video, compose music tracks, publish to the web, craft a monetization strategy … and then travel the world teaching other people to do as I do. And at least the basic idea is there in the two words: Digital. Alchemist. I take existing media forms and I transfer them to the web medium, and in the process transmute the experience to something that is (in theory, at least) greater than the sum of the parts.

It was distressingly tough to be a mop whore

Yeah, there are times that I feel a little like the “natural scientists” in Gulliver’s Travels, attempting to squeeze sunlight out of cucumbers (because if sunlight went into them to make them grow, then there must be a way to wring that sunlight back outta them). But I’ve had enough success by this time to feel fairly OK with calling myself something more than an tongue-tangling multihyphenate journalist-videographer-designer-web consultant-blogger-editor-photographer-whatever.

But it’s time to move past the days of “Social Media Ninjas” and/or “Social Media Gurus” and get down to what we really need.

Social Media Janitors.

Why janitors? Why not Social Media Engineers? Or Social Media Architects? Or even Social Media Mad Scientists?

Because two years after Facebook blew up and became pretty much the standard background noise of modern life, social media has arrived at the point where it’s time that we all stopped gawking at the infographics with all the pretty lines going all hockey stick on us, and actually get down to putting a wrench on this thing and making it Do Something Useful.

So again. Why janitors?

  • Janitors are the guys who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. School janitors are the longsuffering guys who come in with their gray, tattered mops and buckets of cloying sawdust to clean up in the lunchroom after some poor kid yarfs up the spoiled Mystery Meatloaf. Social Media Janitors are the guys who patiently answer the n00b questions while keep the message threads clear of trolls, and soothing hurt feelings after flame wars.
  • Janitors are willing to put in long, hard days at work. The school janitors are there in the mornings, chipping away at the ice on the sidewalk, and there at the end of the day, checking the mousetraps in the crawlspaces. Social Media Janitors are always on, either with their butts at their workstations, creating content, or setting alerts to go to their cellphones 24/7, just to make certain nothing is blowing up on the message boards.
  • Janitors always have lots of keys. The school janitor has one of those shiny metal belt ziplines that holds enough metal to make a Studebaker engine block. He can be trusted to always open the doors that need opening, get you into your locker when you forget the com, and move quietly and unobtrusively around the building, going about his business. Social Media Janitors are the ones opening the doors to new users, making sure they are directed to the content they need, and who keep all the passwords secure for you.
  • Janitors don’t grandstand; they just quietly go about the task of spiffing the school up a bit before they leave, making sure that the doors and windows are cleaned and closed, and that nobody left a fire burning in a garbage can. Social Media Janitors keep all the various social media presences on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, etc., up to date, without making it all about them.

A good Social Media Janitor understands that it’s not about her. It’s about the audience, the users. Maybe there’s some time for fun here and there – goofing with the users, enjoying the give and take of a good conversation.

So here we see Matt Meeks, one of the smarter users of social media in the LA area, at the Los Angeles Web Professionals Group meeting, talking about how to pick which platform to use to put out your social media messaging … or just to have some fun.

More Matt Meeks to come…