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Quote: “you just f*$k about with Facebook and Twitter all day” just about sums up the general feeling towards anyone who claims to be a “Social Media Expert”. They even make t-shirts with this kind of sentiment on now. Let’s be honest, in a very short space of time, our young industry has become something of a laughing stock.
This is hardly a surprise if you look through the listings on any search engine for a company offering “Social Media Management” and although it is a very young industry, it’s still going to take time to weed out the people intent on making a fast buck before their flaky, usually automated tactics are found out.
It isn’t just companies offering services that causing this disingenuous feeling, but large corporations too. They are intent on hiring someone, anyone with half a brain cell to sort out their social media (usually because no one else understands its confusing complexities). There is nothing wrong with in house social media roles, but just a glance through the local job paper and you get an idea why there is so much confusion, just from the plethora of job titles alone. I’ve seen adverts for Social Media Managers, Experts, Specialists, Social Brand Managers even one for “Social Media Evangelist” but in essence they all amount to the same thing: Social Media jobs. Here in lay one of the many problems with the explosion of social media.
If you listened to most of the interviews we have conducted recently, you’d be led to believe that every student that leaves college comes equipped with a social media degree. You’d also be shocked to find out that more than 70% of all applicants for social media jobs tell their employer they have between 1 and 4 years experience. According to Socialcast, more than 21% of people in social media roles have between 5 and 20 years experience.
First of all, anyone who tells you they have more than 10 years experience in Social Media is pushing their luck. Anyone who says they have more than 20 years experience in the field either owns a Delorean with special adaptations for time travel or they need to spend the afternoon with Dr House and his team finding a rare disease (and I can discount lupus for starters – try Pseudologia fantastica).
Social media is a very recent phenomenon, even 5 years experience in the field would be rare and although there are some excellent people in social media, giving equally excellent advice, a large proportion are either stabbing in the dark, hoping to confuse potential customers with jargonised bulls*$t or taking advantage of peoples naivety on the subject to earn very large amounts of cash with little to no return, save perhaps being able to brag about the 10,000 followers they now have on Twitter (which by the way are useless).
I’m also tired of sites claiming to offer “Social Media Management” for $500 when the reality is they spend $100 on bribing groups of people to like a Facebook page or follow an account on Twitter which have no benefit to the client other than the ability to brag they have lots of followers and fans, none of which actually care who they are or even visit their site. And then of course pocket the other $400 with no overheads because they work from home.
Is this really Social Media? Categorically, it isn't.
Social media needs to provide real, tangible benefit, just like any other digital service. This can come in a number of different ways and a good social media manager wouldn’t rule out measuring success on ROI either, no matter how hard that initially seems to be. Many would claim that you can’t measure on the basis of return on investment, but why not? At some point, social media campaigns MUST return value for your clients; else there is no long term reason to do it. That value could be derived from engagement, follower levels (as long as you haven’t just paid 10,000 people to follow you), traffic increases to your site and blog and a real increase in brand related searches (often helped by a successful, integrated SEO/Social Media campaign that increase brand awareness) and finally it can be measured directly from the amount of sales made.
Ultimately though, it comes back to this one question: “Did we make more money than we did before we did Social Media?” and the answer should always be yes. If it isn’t, you are with the wrong “expert”.
A great social media worker won’t limit themselves to just Facebook and/or Twitter. Marketing on these two platforms, provided you get the basics right, is relatively easy. The challenge comes from finding other sites that compliment your client and aid traffic and conversions. Using some out of the box thinking on sites like flickr for photo competitions or YouTube for video display are good examples of straight forward social media, but it’s also about going a step further and finding communities and social media platforms for your clients vertical that they can get involved with.
And even then, that hardly scratches the surface of what a social media expert should be expected to do on a daily basis. Here are just a few more areas that any good social media manager will ensure they take in to account:
In essence, similar to SEO, you need to live and breathe your customers brand and industry. There are plenty more to add to that list too, but you get the idea.
The cold reality of social media experts is that none of us are experts (not yet anyway) and the sooner we accept that the easier it will be for customers to see through the crap out there.