Yes indeed, I am about to hop on the bandwagon or beat a dead horse…whichever you prefer to see this as. Recently interesting conversations have bubbled up over at Josh Hallett’s, Mack Collier’s and Lisa Hoffmann’s blogs on the topic of social media experts.
Josh’s take is that if, as a social media expert, if you can’t answer the following:
- Do you have any recent examples of how you’ve executed a program for a client?
- How are you measuring the output/outcomes of this program?
Why should anyone listen to what they have to say.
Mack’s take is that there are those who think they can implement social media & get paid because they have a client list but when it comes down to it; their social media campaigns well…aren’t very social. And then there are those who truly do understand social media, have proven their social media skills with their own blogs, networks, etc., but who are not overtly self-promotional or touting a large client list.
Lisa’s take is that it’s okay to call yourself an expert, because if you don’t the charlatans will take over.
I hope I understood their points correctly…as I agree with all three (correct me if I am wrong, thanks!).
Here’s my take as a new marketing & social media consultant…
Even with 15 years of deep marketing (all the 4Ps of marketing, not just communications) experience and over seven years of teaching as an adjunct marketing & PR professor, I am not expert. Why? Because in my mind if I become an expert I fear that I will have stopped learning. And that is something I never want to happen. Perhaps that just my own personal issue… I fear complacency like the plague.
As marketers, we look at Philip Kotler as a marketing expert, a title rightly deserved. He has worked for decades on analyzing and implementing highly strategic and complicated marketing programs. (BTW, if you just had to Google Kotler, don’t ever called yourself a “social media ‘marketing’ expert” in my presence, okay? Thanks in advance.) But now that social media is flipping marketing on its head…is he still an expert if he isn’t engaged in or examining the impacts of social media & marketing? (This is just meant to be an example, absolutely no disrespect to my superhero!) My point is this; we are in an evolving space. And social media is mainly a communications channel that doesn’t have to fit into marketing; it could work best in customer service or operations. That said, it takes someone with years of business and marketing acumen to understand that and to consult on strategic and tactical execution. Call them experts if you will.
But! If you want to put social media into the marketing bucket and call yourself a social media expert, you better understand how it fits into a marketing plan and how to write measureable plans around it. (But let’s not fool ourselves either. Most marketers don’t know how to write marketing plans and a lot of companies don’t have them either.)
And to jump on an old soapbox, this expert conversation is specifically the reason I don’t like the term “social media marketing.” Lots of folks call themselves “social media marketing experts” without ever having taken a marketing class or a marketing job in their lives. Just because you “get” Twitter/Facebook doesn’t mean you understand how to implement either into strategic marketing goals/objectives…or corporate goals for that matter. And it surely doesn’t make you a marketing expert either. Okay, hopping off the soapbox.
And finally, I do want to address the client list issue that was kicked around. As a new consultant, I don’t have a large client list or any case studies…and I think that is realistic. That said, by the conversation recently had, you’d think doesn’t count for much even given my years of experience and education (or anyone else’s for that matter).
The funny thing is…I haven’t come across one case study of a social media consultant or agency that has fundamentally turned a company around (i.e. from a corporate, marketing or customer communications perspective) utilizing their ‘expert’ skills. Most of the social media experts who are turning companies around are usually employed by those companies (thinking about Dell, Comcast, Zappos, etc.). And most of the campaigns have been just that…campaigns. If there are case studies of sustainable, on-going, game changing social media efforts, please share them with us. I for one would like to know about them.
Another thought to ponder is this…
As a client-side marketer for many moons, I have never once asked a vendor for a case study (we all know they are mostly pumped up bunk anyway). I have though asked for examples, samples, references, and walk-throughs (as in ‘walk me through this campaign’), etc. Mainly it’s because I understand marketing and can smell agency BS a mile away, which becomes totally apparent when they can’t detail a campaign.
Part of me wonders if this need for all these case studies is so that social media “experts” can learn from those who walked before them in an effort to repeat the same. And that, my friends, does not make an expert it makes a copycat.
What do you think about this whole social media expert conversation? Am I missing the point? Do corporations require large, well-known client lists and lots of case studies to hire consultants? Or do they want to just work with people who are passionate about helping them meet their goals/objectives/solve a challenge? What’s your experience (either corporate or agency)?
How can we legitimize who really understands social media? Or can’t we?
[Image: Daily Waste]