I’ve always struggled to explain what I do for a living, I help people with social media — in varying ways. Why would they need help? Without going into every example for individual cases — which can take a huge amount of time to be anything more than the most general — I think an analogy might help. So here one is (please contribute in the comments if you can improve, extend or tear down):

Social media is for most people something you work with, rather than in. Think of it like a pencil — almost everyone can use it in their job, but few work “in pencils”, or even exclusively with them.

It’s an easy thing to use, to make a mark with, and there are huge differences in scale of use; from a shopping list to one of Da Vinci’s etchings. All are completely valid and require different amounts of skill and knowledge in how the pencil works.

When you use a pencil to communicate you’re not really thinking about the pencil, but the message you are communicating. If you’re using it to mark a point to saw on a piece of wood, then it’s internal communication — if it’s a note for the milkman you have to think about how he will react to what you write. That is if you want your gold top in the morning.

If that’s all you need then, great, get to the stationers and get a box of HB — you’re set. If you’re just pencilling for pleasure and have time to practise, have fun (and show us when you’ve finished what you’ve done).

Now stop and think that everyone can get a pencil if they like. And make a mark pretty much anywhere.

How do your marks interact with other marks? And what does that mean to your communication? You need to think about the people you’re communicating with rather than the pencils, or even the marks they make. You may need help thinking about that or deciding what marks to make with your pencils, or where. You might just want tuition to raise you to your own level of pencilling.

That’s where the people that have been thinking about the pencils, the marks and the communication as a whole come in — they do work “in pencils”, in a kind of way.

They may even know the people who put the lead into the pencils if you need to build your own.

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