A letter to Social Media Experts (and the people that might potentially hire them).

I wanted to address the overabundance of self-proclaimed Social Media Experts, not limited to and including; Specialists, Ninjas, Evangelists, Gurus, Leaders, and all the other buzzword-laden things people refer to themselves as.

In my opinion, I don’t think you can ever truly know enough about Social Media and all that encapsulates to call yourself an expert or any of the above titles. There are a few reasons for this and what better way to bring them all together than in a blog post.


The first thing to know is that there’s such a immense array of platforms, theory, experience and knowledge that is needed to cover the breadth of what we refer to as Social Media. I mean, there might be a handful of these people that could actually understand this breadth. In the world. Not tens of thousands of people as their Twitter bios, LinkedIn profiles and resumes would have led you to believe.

The thing that you have to remember is in all industries there are reputable and not-so-reputable practitioners. Marketing and PR is no exception (haha). The main difference from specifically Social Media Marketing and the rest of the ‘marketing’ industry is that it’s still pretty new and there aren’t many standardised role descriptions or qualifications. And it is always changing. Always.

It is easier to explain this in terms of how an electrician becomes certified (my brother, an electrician will appreciate this reference). A budding electrician completes their apprenticeship to become qualified. During this apprenticeship they have to master certain skills to progress and are watched and evaluated both on the job site and the classroom, having to pass levels throughout this certification process.

At the end of their apprenticeship you can hire an electrician assuming they possess certain skills, knowledge and experience. But this isn’t the case for Social Media. There’s no standardised course. There’s no prerequisites. Literally ANYONE can call themselves a Social Media Expert. Literally. Anyone.

The biggest question that needs to be asked is what exactly self-proclaimed social media experts supposedly experts at? Are they coding and designing websites, games, and apps? Then, are they identifying and building an audience? Then, are they delivering ongoing and engaging content? Then, are they monetizing traffic? Spoiler alert, no, they’re not. The digital universe is too large for anyone to be an expert on all things. There’s too much out there and it’s too new for any one person to have mastered it all.

Being an expert in social media is like being an expert at taking the lettuce out of the fridge. You might be the best lettuce -taker-outer in the world, but you know what? The goal is to make an amazing sandwich, and you can’t do that if all you’ve done in your life is taken the lettuce out of the fridge.

Social media is just another facet of marketing and customer service. Say it with me. Repeat it until you know it by heart. Write it on your bedroom mirror so that you can read it every single morning. Social media, by itself, will not help you. It alone is not the key to turning around your business.

You’ll need to make sure that the person you hire to guide your Social Media Marketing efforts understands your business. The hierarchy, the products, your locations, the tone, the goals, your main target demographic and the segments you’re hoping to branch out into. Even better if they are passionate about what you do. If they can’t see the wood for the trees your relationship is doomed for the get go.

Social media is all about relevance.

It’s not about tweeting every single time your company offers 10 percent off on a thingamabob. It’s not about telling the world every time you have a new piece of research, or how nice the cup of coffee is at your establishment.

It’s about finding out where your customers and your audience actually are, and going after them there. If you’re tweeting all your discounts, and none of your customers are on Twitter, then you my friend, are an idiot. Likewise, it is about thinking outside the box – if your company regularly designs new products, you social media person should be able to suggest a move onto a platform such as Pinterest, that really captures your designs and design inspiration to engage with your audiences.

When you think more generally about it all, marketing and PR involves knowing your audience, and tailoring your promotions in specific bursts to the correct segments; this is the same when thinking about social.

There are generally warning signs if you look. And I suggest you do. Often the outsourced Social Media Professional is the first person from outside the business who has ever spoken for the brand! Don’t risk being swindled by someone who seems really cool, many of us aren’t cool at all! But we’re Chameleons. We know how to pretend, change tone, mimic our audiences – because you have to.

Do you know your audience? Have you reached out to them? I’m not talking about “tweeting at them into the void.” I’m talking about actually reaching out. Asking them what you can do better, or asking those who haven’t been around in a while what you can do to get them back. It’s not about 10 percent off coupons or “contests for the next follower.” For God’s sake, you need to be smarter than that.

There are some really brilliant people that truly understand how to use social media; it just takes some effort to cut through the weeds to find the flowers. Hopefully this post will help you find your true “rock star”, make you watch out for when people proclaim themselves as social media rock stars and prevent the phonies from tarnishing the term social media any more than they’re already doing.


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