When I first opened Shankmann’s rant entitled “Why I Will Never, Ever Hire a ‘Social Media Expert,’” I vowed not to dignify it with a response or a link…. D’oh!
I’m no social media expert, but as an SEO professional I know what is like to work ethnically and methodically in an industry with a sometimes-shoddy reputation. Like social media, SEO has its fly-by-nights and pretenders, but it also has experienced professionals with real results to boast. Instead of tearing down an industry, we need to educate businesses on what constitutes expertise in an industry.
Hint: It’s not calling yourself an “expert.” On that point I agree with Shankmann. You would never expect to make a friend by walking up and saying that you’re super cool, because friendship is in the actions you take. You have to prove you’re super cool and friend-worthy. It’s the same with social media, SEO and every other profession. Prove your expertise, don’t claim it on a business card. Ick.
So what constitutes proof? Results. Period. We’re talking results that matter, here. Not the creation of a Twitter account or acquisition of x number of Facebook friends. Those are nifty, but they don’t pay the bills. Show me results in engagement, brand recognition, traffic generation, sales, referrals — whatever the true goal of the campaign was, the goal that contributes to the business’ bottom line.
The true value a social media professional brings to the table is found in his creativity, his network, and his ability to plan and execute all the details of the campaign to contribute actual business value in the business’ marketing mix.
Which brings me to the second point on which I agree with Shankmann: Social media is not a stand-alone, bolt-on project to mark of your list. Like all marketing channels it has to be integrated with the overall marketing strategies and plans to be successful.
Social media is like every other marketing discipline — anyone can do it, but few do it really well. I can send out emails to a list, but that does not make me an email marketing expert. I can dump keywords into AdWords, but that doesn’t make me a paid search expert. I can whip up a nifty banner in Photoshop but that doesn’t make me a graphic designer. Seriously, people, only proven results would convince you of expertise in any of these areas, not a business card merrily proclaiming “Expert.” If you don’t apply that same common sense to working with social media consultants… Well, that’s just a bad business decision.
Do I cringe when I see the title of guru or expert? You bet. Do I wish “experts” would stop overpromising and underdelivering because it tarnishes our industries and makes it harder for true professionals to do what they do best? Absolutely. But if businesses continue to hire on hype rather than meaningful expertise and demonstrated results, who’s really to blame?