There continues to be a lot of social media expert bashing going on. My standard policy in such debates is to let the battle go on without me. My focus is on improving my skills in ways that best serve my clients. Since 2005 I have watched and learned from a variety of heated debates including old media vs new media, whether or not social media was a waste of time and a fad, content paywall vs free information, and now why you should not hire a social media expert.
I have felt all the previous debates were healthy discourses related to the changing world. However, I feel the bashing of social media experts is becoming quite dangerous.
I came into the social media field with a very focused vision of what social media was and how it would affect the business world. Almost 6 years later my perspective has not changed much. I have always said social media will impact every department within every industry. It will knock down siloed walls within companies and it will knock down barriers for millions of competitors. Early on I was very aggressive in trying to get this message out, however, the more clients I worked with the more I learned what my role is and what a social media expert is supposed to do.
A social media expert needs to go where the client is in their understanding of social media. Some clients think of social media as a PR initiative. Others see it as an extension of a digital marketing campaign. Some see it as a sales channel where others see it as an opportunity to provide customer service. However, the social media expert does not allow their client to stay in one place with their understanding of social media. They guide the client to new doors and windows where the opportunity lies waiting while threats continue to sneak in.
At one time I had a strict policy to not handle a client’s social media efforts. I explained to my clients that for me to handle their social media would be equivalent to me answering their emails or going to a networking event on their behalf. However, that is one policy I did change several years ago. I realized that part of helping an organization change and embrace the new web was to literally show them the way. We have taken on projects to set up and grow channels and even posting messages and engaging with the community, all while helping clients see how this new world fits in with how they are already doing business.
This leads to what kind of skillset a social media expert needs to have. They need to be salespeople who know how to sell a vision. They need to be project managers who know how to assign tasks and measure the results. They need to be bleeding edge evangelists who thrive on keeping up with the latest innovations and connecting the dots of how the new toys can improve current business processes. But at the same time, they need to be patient trainers who get excited when they are teaching a person how to set up a Linkedin profile and they begin to see all the light bulbs coming on for that person.
Just like there are many doctors, lawyers, and used car salespeople with all kinds of different experiences, values, and approaches to their profession, there are all kinds of social media experts. The danger of bashing the profession is that companies who need the guidance the most will look to people who specialize in only one area that social media touches, such as PR or Marketing and will continue to miss out on new opportunities or will not recognize the incoming threats of today’s world.