Ending the War over Social Media Marketing Governance

What follows (all in the space of 500 words) are three interesting stories. The first two are closely interwoven; the third seems unrelated. Together, they span thousands of years. And while each is fascinating in its own right, when seen as one, they provide a solution to the war of governance over social media marketing.

Mentor, Friend of Odysseus

According to Greek mythology, when Odysseus (King of Ithaca) departed for the Trojan War, he placed his son in the tutelage of his wise friend, Mentor. (This is, in part, where the term “mentoring” originates.) When Odysseus fails to return from Troy, many suitors seek the hand of his wife and assumed widow, Penelope. But Athena (Goddess of Wisdom) intervenes by disguising herself as Mentor and encouraging Odysseus’ son to find Odysseus, who is still alive. Finally, after 10 years abroad, Odysseus returns to foil Penelope’s suitors and reunite with his beloved wife. Hence, the wisdom of Athena is also associated with “mentoring.”

Glaucus, Owl of Minerva

In Roman mythology, Athena’s name was Minerva. Her owl, Glaucus, became a symbol of wisdom and a metaphor for philosophy. Using this metaphor, German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) warned us that philosophy is incapable of teaching the world what it ought to be, because true wisdom appears only after history is written – because understanding comes too late in life to be instructive. (“The Owl of Minerva spreads her wings only at dusk”, Elements of the Philosophy of Right,1820) While some have argued that such an opinion would make wisdom rather useless, others have argued that Hegel’s understanding gives purpose to the role of the mentor, who sees what his contemporary youths cannot yet see.

A War of Experience and Ideologies

Modern marketing has been disrupted by social media. Burgeoning technologies, networks, and communities have changed the way we communicate, increased our spheres of influence, and opened new channels to market. The technical skills to manipulate these social media technologies are held in the hands of a new generation of thinkers. Yet many of these young marketers lack the classical training, the experience, and the perspective (the wisdom) of their elder, fellow marketers. And as a result, a great rift has emerged between those who control the technologies of social media and those who possess the wisdom to guide communications. Or so it would seem, as the war of words rages between classical marketers and their neo counterparts.

The Moral

If the war of governance over social media marketing were to end with either side vanquished, then peace would surely come at the expense of prosperity. Left without the wisdom of their learned but aging counterparts, our technologically empowered leaders would merely repeat the mistakes of their predecessors. Conversely, without the tools of technology at their disposal, our wise but un-empowered elders would be unable to compete in a rapidly changing world. To find peace in this modern war, we must turn enemies into allies, and the key will be mentoring.