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Down With Social Media Experts?

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This article by Peter Shankman made it to the front page of Sphinn recently and was posted to the site by Jill Whalen.


I found it an interesting read, but didn't actually come away from the article nodding my head in agreement.


My take on Shankman's main point is that he feels people are jumping on the bandwagon thinking that SM will solve their problems, but that this is a wrong approach because SM is just another form of marketing, same-old-same-old.


I'm with him to a certain degree, but the title of the post "Why I will never hire a social media expert" just doesn't work for me. I do believe there is a genuine need for, if not that iffy word 'expert', then trainers in this field who can take business owners through the steps of using SM to broaden their visibility and activity on the web. If 'experts' don't offer consulting and services to help business owners get the hang of this, then who will?


I'm coming at this from the angle that my firm does not offer social media services of any kind. We need to send our small business clients to someone who works in the SM sphere on a daily basis, keeps on top of the changes and news and can teach the client from the very beginning what Twitter is, how to set up a Facebook account, what is allowed, what is a violation, what is a good idea, what is a faux pas. We can't teach this. We need an 'expert'....


So, the author may not feel the need to ever source something like this for himself or his clients, but I do, and I know I've talked with other folks in my same shoes who have the same need.


What do you make of all this? I'd love to discuss.

Edited by SEOigloo

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I'm with you. Sure, like in any industry, there are posers who will pretend to know more than they do, so a social media expert may not actually be an expert. That's what I thought he was warning about - too many people calling themselves experts - but admittedly, I kinda skimmed it the other day in the middle of a bunch of other stuff I was doing.


In any case, social media marketing isn't any easier than seo is. Sure, once you've been doing it for a while, it seems simple, but that's only because you've been doing it for a while.


If I were to tell my sister to go do some social media marketing for her and her hubby's business, she'd look at me like I'd just spoken martian to her.


She needs an "expert" to guide her through it all. I can promise that her limited experience with playing games on Facebook isn't going to help her with social media marketing. Sure - she's using social media to some extent - but that's not the same thing at all. There are people who live and breathe social media marketing - that makes them experts, and that makes them valuable to all the people who need their help.

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Rand wrote a contrarian piece on this subject saying "everyone should hire a social media expert".... I think that he purposely took the extreme position.




I think that there is a complete range of potential for social media going from near zero to enormous. It works at different levels of success for different types of sites and the people who visit them. Then you have the impact of how lucky or how effective a person can implement it.


A few years ago everyone thought that blogs were magic bullets that would bring you traffic and topSERPs. Today a few people still promote them that way, but now we know that as a platform they are about as effective as any other but that the content posted on them makes all of the difference.


The same is true for social media. If you have substance and smarts it can be a fantastic thing... but lazy people or bozos, it ain't gonna work for you.


Then you have "smart people who don't "get it"". I think I am in that category. Implementing social media effectively enough to make a worthy payback - I don't know how to do it in my niche... and I don't want to invest the time.


I'll wait until some other person in my niche invents an effective template that I understand and like - then I'll improve and adapt to suit.

Edited by EGOL

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Agreed with all the above. As usual, it depends :emo_gavel:


As for Shankman's article, it seems to have the air of those same articles that label everyone in the industry as uneducated crowd of underperformers. To me, a real social media expert, if he/she is an expert, knows everything about what Peter has written in the article and uses his position to improve customer service, marketing and product quality. What's different about social media people is that they also communicate with customers and, probably, empower everyone in the company to do that without official protocols.


So I am more on Rand's side in this argument, because I don't approve generalizations (even though I dislike the below average people, claiming to be experts). Jane Copland had worded it well, too:

I think it goes beyond the irritating language and pseudo-cool folks a lot of people seem to associate with "social media marketer." They're the stereotype, but they're not really the reality in my experience (although I do know one such person, to be fair). I thought Shankman was protesting against a more ingrained, better-disguised version of social media bullshit: the guy who's not dressed like he's 15 but who writes the same blog post over and over again with a different title, saying nothing more revolutionary than he did last week.


The girl who tweets about how to get more Twitter followers, and that's her job. And they're heralded for it like it's actually important and helpful and hasn't been said over and over again by swarms of social media marketer clones.


Also, Peter responded to Rand with:

We can debate these points in public, yet we're pretty much saying the same thing. I'm saying that I'd never hire anyone who sits there and doesn't know the first thing about marketing, they got a Facebook page and a Twitter account, and said, "Hey, I can do this "number 2"!"


EGOL, it seems that not everyone has defined social media ROI and measured it. Probably, there are as many ROI models as there are the so-called social media experts or projects. Not that it's impossible to define and measure it effectively, of course (I have a social media ROI article draft in the drawer) - then you'd be able to produce good results, repetitively. Wouldn't you like to adopt this kind of template? ;)


So to me, it's not about a template - which still makes success possible - but about defining goals, measuring results and doing what works. It's the "doing what works" that's ambiguous, because it doesn't actually have a fixed template, since it's tailored to each case individually, albeit on the same principles. If you know the principles (you already know them, most likely ;) ), you can copy the strategy across all the manifestations of social media that work for you better (i.e., Twitter or Foursquare, Facebook or Flickr, your own forum and/or a blog, etc).

Edited by A.N.Onym

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It's all very nice, but not about social. It's about purely technological faddism.


Facebook is merely the latest fad; a form of tulip mania. A sign, perhaps, that we can't handle technology and are not technologically mature ...socially.


There are layers upon layers of "social computing" that haven't been plumbed.

Edited by DCrx

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Facebook may be the latest fad, yes, but for now, it's where the audience is. I just wrote a piece about being where they are, in fact.


Just one very small example of a social media campaign via Facebook... Let's take a retail brand that people tend to feel strongly about (pro and con) - how about Crocs? Now, I haven't even looked at their FB page (assuming they have one), so this is just off the top of my head. Let's say Crocs wants to pull in people who have previously rejected their shoes based on the fact that they've seen people wearing them, and seen photos, and think they are ugly.


So they offer their current fans (the ones who've already "liked" their FB page) a substantial coupon for sharing their page with non-fans. Then, on top of that, they offer a free pair of shoes to those people for becoming fans. If they don't like the shoes, after wearing them and seeing how comfortable they are (or whatever they think will change people's minds), the company will let them return the shoes, but each pair returned will be donated to some charity.


Now you've got people willing to share your product to get a big discount on something they already love. You've got new people willing to try your product because it's free and if they don't like it, you can donate to charity and do some good (and get some good publicity - let's face facts - that's part of doing charitable promotions).


After all this, you have a slew of new people that you can continually entice with new offers - new people who will share with other new people, etc.


Mixed in with all this, is the fact that you aren't going to always be selling, selling, selling. Much of the interaction will be non-sales interaction. Sometimes, just chatting with fans. Sometimes making note of how some organizations use your shoes (like nurses working long hours, etc.), sometimes asking for feedback, sometimes asking for photos to be shared on their walls of them wearing their shoes doing crazy things, etc. etc.


The point is - people are on FB a lot! Be where they are. If they move, move. Be flexible. Not everyone can utilize this as easily others. A company with a marketing team can handle it better than a lone entrepreneur sometimes. But if that lone entrepreneur learns a bit (from an expert probably) and can spare a little time, it's better than nothing.


Anyway, I should probably hush now. Thing is...if someone understands the various ways to make use of social media, then they will likely be in demand to be hired to help those who don't. IMHO. :emo_gavel:

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Question: Were companies particularly socially savvy before?


If not, then it stand to reason 1) Being on FaceBook isn't something they'll be able to understand or handle. 2) They are going to have to do a lot more than just starting up a Fan page.


Niether would be the thing to entrust to your chatty secretary who incessantly talks about Farmville.


From the Kryptonite lock kurfuffle to the recent Gap logo debacle reality argues for hiring an expert.


The article isn't very interesting. Let's liven things up a bit.


A groupon competitor called LevelUp offers three levels of discount. This rewards good customers more than one-shots who'll "friend" Joseph Stalin if it means they'll get ten percent off.


It's the difference between like and "like-like." And if you don't know what I'm talking about you may be ready for Facebook, but you ain't ready for social.


Hello; people talking about engageability? This is rewarding by engagement level.


Social would be the ability to determine the difference between a consumer and a customer. And FaceBook doesn't provide those tools.


Facebook takes the complexity of actual social interaction, then dumbs it down for the sake of usability. Companies are rapidly comprehending the downside of making a social minefield accessible and easy-to-use.




A Short History of "We Don't Need No Stinkin' Social Media Experts"

Edited by DCrx

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I have mixed feelings about this myself too. I think a Social Media Expert is good for large companies (100%).


That being said, there are a lot of posers out there that claim to be Social Media experts (probably mainly Facebook). The only reason though, is that they don't have any other web skills, they just graduated from College and don't have a job, and they have tons of experience using Facebook and maybe Twitter.


There is a person that always comes to the same coffee shop that I often work at. She is a so called "Social Media Expert" that gives talks around the country to companies. When I looked at her own blog's social media links, coverage, and followers. Well, lets just say it was minimal.


When I asked her some practical Social Media questions (how to do this or that) her response was that "she doesn't do those work herself. She hires people to do it" (things like creating a Facebook page and modifying it). Even if you hire people to manage parts of your Social Media, you gotta know at least how to do it yourself if you call yourself an expert.

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Tulip mania was big business. Huge big. It was the lottery with the face of flowers. Flowers!


Though we're a long way from tulip mania today, an awful lot of us still have them in our yards and they're still big business. 350 years after tulip mania we have tulip festivals. Cashing in on the mania part of "tulip mania" was not the only thing giving tulips value.


When they figured out how to control tulip varietals the prices collapsed. It also helped that tulips lost their shine as the new exotic thang - a status symbol. More supply and less of that new shine = less demand, even without the allure of the product itself, even without legal changes that slow market volatility. Fewer unexpected changes = less attraction for hopeful gambler. No huge windfalls for the gentlemen gambler or folk tales about the aspiring "everyman" and his little veggie garden... also no source of parables for anti-gambling crusaders to embellish and propagandize.


Did you know that there was also an "orchidelirium?" Lilies and hyacinths had their turn, too.


I wouldn't be surprised if something like Facebook is still around in ten years, or even fifty. Facebook has already been around longer than the mania part of tulip mania.


When I asked her some practical Social Media questions (how to do this or that) her response was that "she doesn't do those work herself. She hires people to do it" (things like creating a Facebook page and modifying it). Even if you hire people to manage parts of your Social Media, you gotta know at least how to do it yourself if you call yourself an expert.
Good point, more or less -- it helps to have an artist create artwork or someone with scripting smarts to do the configuring. It's rare to find one person with deep skills in divergent areas.

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Wow! Great responses here with special :flowers: to Donna & Liz.


Egol...I know what you mean about not being able to get geared up in your own work about this. The check-in thing, for me, is the ultimate of a me-generation bore. Yet, it's a hit and growing.


This, from Donna, rings especially true with me:


Sure, once you've been doing it for a while, it seems simple, but that's only because you've been doing it for a while.



Maybe that's where the original article sentiment came from. A kind of, "duh, it's so obvious how to do this," without paying heed to the fact that everyone STARTS their learning somewhere before they get to it becoming obvious.

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First of all, shout out to dazzlindonna (Thank you for making the point that Social Media is not

just a pitch fest) :thumbs:



I think the article writer was coming from the stand point that there is no

need for "Social Media Experts" because every business should already know how to personally

interact with their customers.


This is true to a point. Social Media takes direct customer-employee interaction to the

comfort of the customers home. It is a place to provide customer service so that

you can build better relationships with potential customers and current customers, so that

they stay being your customers. When you walk into a store, what is

the first thing an employee, usually, says to you?


How can I help you today?


This starts a conversation that leads to the employee finding out what it is exactly that

you need and then them trying to fulfill that need with something they can provide.

Weather it be information, a product or service.


Social Media is an easier place for this process to occur. However, just like with a store front,

people don't always just magically appear asking questions. Which is why they are reached out

to through advertising and promotions.


This is where the "Social Media Experts" come in...

Most business owners do not have the time to learn how to reach out to people on a new



Social Media has revolutionized business because people are able to promote and demote a business on a

way larger scale because instead of just being able to call one friend at a time and say

that they just received a horrible service or product from Company XYZ. All they have

to do is put up one status update that notifies everyone of their friends. Things like

this can go viral and can cause a business to tank in no time. Which is another reason

why people are so willing to hire a Social Media expert. They know the basics on how

to run a business but they have realized the power of Social Media and are scared of it,

so they would rather face it with someone that knows a little something about it. So that

they can get the opposite to happen with their business.


Bottom line is that if there wasn't a need for "Social Media Experts" then they wouldn't

exist. There are people that take advantage of this and if they are able to bamboozle you

then that is something to be taken up with them. BUT there are people that do know what

they are talking about. Every person is not put in jail just because some people are criminals.


The point is if you were a business that:

1. Was completely new to Social Media

2. Saw the buzz and power it has

3.Knew that you had to become involved in it

4. Had no idea how to

5. Had little to no time to figure it out


Wouldn't you try to get some help or at least consider taking help if it was offered to you?

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I think the article writer was coming from the stand point that there is no need for "Social Media Experts" because every business should already know how to personally interact with their customers.


Of course. Everybody should know how to interact with customers.


Reality continually argues otherwise. From marketing to viral, from product research to service performance companies interact badly.


Companies constantly come to market with the wrong product, wrong feature set, and the wrong design.


Companies repeatedly make clumsy missteps in policy and articulating that policy. Here’s an example from a cash register receipt of a famous national computer retail chain …" NO REFUND OF EXCHANGE AFTER 14 DAYS …NO REFUND WITHOUT ORIGINAL RECEIPT … A 15% OPEN BOX FEE WILL BE CHARGED FOR OPENED ITEMS …SPECIAL RESTRICTIONS FOR REFUNDS IN EXCESS OF $250.00 AND REFUNDS MADE TO CREDIT CARDS …SEE BACK FOR FULL DETAILS" (Edited for brevity).


That's how companies interact with customers.


I've had this proven to me time and time again, airlines to burger joints to sports bars to internet providers. Companies should be looking to hire some one, perhaps a great many someones, to help them.


You could write a similar puff piece about marketing. Every business -- every business owner -- should be able to market their business. And they hire that out frequently too.


The better article would have been whether, say, marketing or sales should head up a social media campaign. And if so, what skills should they develop or how their existing skill set gets in their way.

Edited by DCrx

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... and of course this whole debate takes on a different aspect with the new Google Plus social world.


Experts so often are dealing with mass methods that have great efficiency because of that 'mass' word. Google Plus seems to be forcing us all to be individuals, making our own connections and forming our own circles. Perhaps there are 'mass' methods you can apply but it would seem that a company cannot have a Google Profile. What should a company do?

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If a company/business is interested in Google social there are two things to do:

First: if a haven't already, and have a visitable real address, join Google Places.

Note: even if NOT interested, it is a good defensive move as your business could be 'claim jumped' or 'hijacked' on Places due to Google's poor procedures.


Second, wait.

Here is a quick update on Google+ and businesses:, Christian Oestlien, Google Plus.

Note: There is a link for 'non-user entities' (OMG!!!) aka non-individuals aka organisations to sign up as beta tester, it sometimes resolves to sign-up page and sometimes to a 404.

...we are discouraging businesses from using regular profiles to connect with Google+ users. Our policy team will actively work with profile owners to shut down non-user profiles.


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