A lot of chatter online this week about social media snake oil here, here and a heated, yet insightful discussion going on over here. I thought I would do what I do best and chime in on the conversation and try to be as delicate as I can not to hurt anyone’s feelings (trust me, this is not my intention). Conversation is always good, even if it’s not always positive in nature.
With that said, here are some high level thoughts on social media experts, social media snake oil and those who are just perpetrating (fakin’ the funk) and I decided on a bulleted list because it’s easier and much more to the point:
- Branding oneself on twitter (or social media in general) is MUCH different then helping a brand (big/small) build true connections on the social web
- Twitter is temporary (just a tool) and finite. Relationship building, if done right, can be infinite (at least a lifetime)
- You (not you the reader, personally) can’t teach/certify/preach/counsel/coach someone on a topic unless you yourself have been in the trenches and (behind the firewall) understand the dynamics of organizational culture. I certainly don’t mean that you have to work for a brand as an employee. Consultants and agencies deal with it all the time too
- I don’t entirely agree that there needs to be a “social media” certification for this space but I guess I could be convinced otherwise; as long as it’s not facilitated by an agency who is trying to monetize the distribution list either (see below for more on this)
- Social media experts are bad (very bad) and when I see that in a bio somewhere; i immediately unfollow/unsubscribe because self proclaimed experts have huge egos and I don’t have time to deal with it
- The folks at the International Social Media Association who created the certification program are just trying to monetize their micro communities. Nothing wrong with that at all; I am a true capitalist at heart. But the question one must ask before spending nearly $3K is … Will I be more credible after graduating? Will it help me get a job in social media with a big brand or even small company? Will it help me kick off my own consulting practice? Is there any value in the curriculum that I can’t learn myself by simply participating?
Hopefully this bit of advice will help someone before they spend a ton of money getting certified and/or hiring an agency or consultant. I would ask them how they would go about:
Measuring ROI: of course, counting twitter followers or RSS subscriber growth is easy; but quantifying those numbers to show how they drive true business value/revenue is not so easy.
Driving organizational buy in: building communities from behind the firewall is no easy task. There are a lot of things to consider; and collaboration across the organization (marketing, legal, PR, business units, customer support) is imperative. Decisions behind the firewall can take months and sometime years.
Integrating social media across a multitude of marketing channels: launching a blog, twitter account and Facebook page is useless unless there is tight integration across the board with retail, online, search, channel partners, resellers, paid media and the list goes on; and then deciding on brand/unbranded community, on domain versus off domain.
Seeking participation across the organization: a blog is good, but a blog without an author is not. A Twitter account is good; but a one way conversation spitting out marketing messages and press releases is bad. Marketing (and I was in marketing for years) is good at hiring agencies and building blogs. What they are not good at are being subject matter experts when it involves something technical or product relates. This is why marketing departments today have to seek out employees within the organization to “volunteer” their time to participate in the social web.
Launching global social media marketing programs: This was part of my responsibility at Intel and it “AINT” easy, trust me. What may work in the US, Canada and maybe the UK will not necessarily work in India. So how would a consultant/agency provide strategic and tactical support for launching a global campaign?
These are some things you should ask before any significant financial investment to any organization. If they can’t answer any of the above questions in a somewhat coherent and intelligent way, I would suggest moving on. Heck, these may even be good interview questions when hiring in house social media managers/strategists as well.
Look, I know and understand the game. You share what you know online, build a community; play Monday morning quarterback by criticizing brands when they mess up — and hope you get hired by one as a consultant so you can go create their Facebook fan page. News flash; it’s not going to work. Companies aren’t stupid and you won’t get paid to have an ego.