Home > Communication, Process Management > Social Media and Other Buzzwords

Social Media and Other Buzzwords

A Linked In connection  (thanks SB!) linked to the following article by Peter Shankman over at Business Insider, so I took a look:

Why I Will Never, Ever Hire A “Social Media Expert”

It’s an interesting, and I think accurate depiction of what’s happening in the marketing and web spheres these days – throw around enough buzzword terms and suddenly you become an “expert” and can get paid for the same kind of work that people used to do under different titles.  I have some disagreements with the author, but his essential point is quite true – call it whatever you want, if you can’t actually do the work behind it, you still end up with garbage.  It’s back to my days as an archivist – the medium of transmission matters less the data you’re preserving.  Sorry, Mr. McCluhan, but I never really bought into the Medium=Message idea.

At the root of this for me is a bad combination at the leadership levels that allows this stuff to perpetuate.  Executives and upper management are:

  1. Busy – the average senior exec at an organization is running a thousand things at once, so it’s often no surprise that they can’t focus enough on details to discover if they really need a “social media expert.”
  2. Ignorant – many of them don’t really understand this technology, and can’t really take the time to understand its implications on their business (see point 1 above)
  3. Naive – highly paid people – in-house or consultants – tell them they need this because that’s where the kids/old people/dogs are, and the company will lose their shirt without a “social media strategy.”
  4. Subject to the same social/cultural pressures as the rest of us – every thing from pasta to pacemakers has a facebook page, so they assume they need one too.

Faced with these issues, often nobody senior stops to ask themselves the important questions they would ask if a marketing person was going to roll out a non-web based campaign.  I’ll add that another reason is that social media (broadly speaking) costs a lot less than a print campaign – in some cases it doesn’t cost a dime – and that’s all some people need to hear to give the go-ahead.

So what you sometimes get, as Mr. Shankman describes at the end of his article , is a 22 year old “expert” given the keys to an organization’s entire online presence.  Do they know how to write?  Do they understand the organization’s messages, client base, industry, or challenges.  Are they aware of regulatory issues that could cause major headaches?

There’s not a lot of specifics for online video vs. other forms of social media – again the message is still more important than the specific medium.  I will say, however, that there’s a skillset to making the right kind of enterprise video, and the ubiquitousness of video equipment does not suddenly mean everyone is a streaming video expert.  A three minute video of your dog playing frisbee getting 2 million YouTube hits does not a Video Producer make.  Video is storytelling, and there are key needs for businesses that the amateurs can’t meet.  At the end of it, you have to behave the same as you would for any other position – don’t hand the keys over to someone without the experience, skillset, and temperament to represent you to the rest of the world.

I’m not sure I agree with Shankman’s idea that there’s no expertise to the Social Media sphere – I do think there are particular approaches that work differently than in traditional marketing.  But he’s spot on that hiring someone just because they are a self-proclaimed “social media expert” without the other key marketing skills is a thoughtless move.

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  1. Renee
    May 31, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Completely agree. As someone who has been in advertising and marketing for a few decades, it’s incredible the sudden emergence of “experts” in the field. Marketing and especially social media has many benefits, but it also has many pitfalls that should be taken into consideration with any strategy and may not be handled properly by someone with little experience in client and consumer relations.

  1. September 13, 2011 at 4:16 pm

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