Social Media ‘Experts’: Response To Peter Shankman’s ‘Business Insider’ Post
By now you’ve read Peter Shankman’s Business Insider post, “Why I Will Never, Ever Hire A ‘Social Media Expert.'” He makes some interesting points, but I don’t agree with everything he brought up. Like Shankman, I am suspicious of anyone who calls themselves a “social media expert” (based on what?), but unlike him and some of my colleagues, I don’t think that it’s a waste of money to hire a consultant — if what they bring is folded into a strong PR/marketing strategy.
Yes, social media should be a holistic extension of your marketing department. But social media doesn’t live in a silo in a specific section of your company’s building. So many factors feed the content that makes up your marketing/social media strategy, across different departments. If your employees don’t “get” social, then you need to HELP THEM TO GET IT. Sometimes this requires outside help.
Tech blogger/social media consultant Corvida Raven (right) during the Intel Insider III Summit in 2010
My friend Corvida, who is in her early 20’s, consults for brands and is also Community Catalyst at TED. Last year, she shared solutions with Intel re: effectively engaging and educating consumers about upgrading their technology using social media.
Intel sees the value in partnering with social media leaders. Corvida does NOT consider herself a social media expert but is qualified to consult on strategy. Corvida does her thing as a tech star blogger/speaker (she’ll be at MLOVE in Berlin next month), meanwhile she is also a helpful cog in Intel’s R&D/marketing machine, providing valuable insights that support the Intel brand.
I don’t like to use the word “never” unless absolutely necessary.Â I Â think it’s shortsighted to completely write off the added value (in terms of brand engagement and achieving business goals) of QUALIFIED social media consultants.
YES, calling yourself a “social media expert” just sounds weird and inaccurate if you’ve never build a social platform yourself, or brought measurable results to several campaigns, or are resistant to new tools. Then you are just aÂ douche bagÂ charlattan scamming folks.
YES, social strat SHOULD be aligned with your marketing & business goals, but often this is NOT the case, for a variety of reasons that include miscommunication between departments, budget issues, and staff morale.
YES, social strat SHOULD be defined internally, across multiple departments, but sometimes the disconnect is so profound that it requires an (initially) triage approach that benefits from bringing in an agency or individual who specializes in helping companies get on the same page internally — not just in the social extensions, but in their PR/marketing strategy overall.
In an ideal world it would all generate from the inside, but sometimes handling it 100% internally just plain doesn’t work — there are political factors at play, as well as the impact of senior level decisions. A fresh voice in the mix (backed by quantifiable experience), in the form of a social media consultant (not an “expert”) or agency, CAN be beneficial.
But it’s only beneficial if they also bring an EFFECTIVE strategy for transitioning their insights into best practice & style guides, workflow consultation, and other services that will bring autonomy and empowerment to the marketing department to continue what is done after the consultant leaves. Otherwise, all you’ve done is set up a co-dependent FUBAR situation that ultimately only benefits the consultant, who lines their pockets for longer than they should.
This infograph showing “real value & costs of social media” is a great resource for evaluating your company’s strat, as part of overall brand engagement and business goals.
I think that as long as companies continue to innovate and more platforms emerge, we will continue to need (and benefit from) social media consultants with strong marketing/PR backgrounds. What do you think?