Here’s my take on the brief history of demand for social media expertise:
- Back in late 2007, proactive organizations started frantically searching for someone to help them with all this social media “stuff”. They searched for the first thing that came to their mind, “social media expert“. “Surely, there must be an expert out there” , they though.
- Then in early 2008, the real rush came in as the field became more legitimate and the term “social media consultant” emerged.
- Mid-2009 saw a sharp rise in search for the term “social media guru” as certain powerful personal brands emerged that apparently knew everything at an almost enlightening level.
- Late 2009 witnessed a demand in search for “social media strategist” , as certain people realized that the preceding three terms were often being used (with a few exceptions) by hobbyists capitalizing on this trend.
Personally, I like to use “social media strategist”, even though it’s a less popular term in terms of volume. In fact I throw in “marketing & social media strategist” for additional context and to leverage my background in traditional strategic marketing. The problem with the other terms is that they are too broad. What are you an expert, guru or consultant in exactly? Technical social media channel setup? Guideline creation? Overall strategy? Tactical promotion?
I’ve witnessed plenty of these “so-called” experts come into organizations (based on poorly written RFP’s asking for “experts”) armed with nothing except the knowledge of how to setup a blog, Twitter account and maybe even a Facebook page as they proudly give out their new “social media expert” business cards.
This is why I use “strategist”. Essentially, I help guide organizations on the most efficient and effective way to get from A to B using a strategic framework. I always start by asking the question, “what is B?”, followed by, “why do you want to achieve B?” You would be shocked to find out how many people don’t have a clear answer for either one. Often, my job involves determining a realistic B for them that ties into their overall organizational strategy.
If your B is flawed to begin with (e.g. if it’s a tactic instead of a strategic outcome), then you’re in trouble. Common examples of flawed social media initiative B’s include:
- “to create a Facebook page”
- “to start a blog”
- “to be on Twitter”
- “to start a YouTube channel
So what are some examples of good B’s for social media initiatives? These depend on your organizational strategy of course (they need to be in-line with it). Here are some examples:
- “to become a more proactive organization” why? : so that we are seen as leaders, not followers – as is the current case.
- “to build relationships with online influencers in our industry” why? : so that we have a community to help us should a crisis occur
- “to share our existing rich media content on new channels” why? : so that content creators can easily embed and share our content so that it is seen by more people
- “to equip online content creators within our industry with facts” why? : so that we can help reduce the amount of incorrect information floating around the social web
Only once these are in place (and you’ve completed thorough macro and micro environmental scans), can you make the appropriate tactical decisions and set corresponding specific objectives.
Long story short, just do your due diligence before selecting someone and make sure that whatever they call themselves, they understand this basic premise.