How to: Demystify the Social Media Expert Myth

Much has been said about social media “experts” ranging from Hallelujah, they exist! to “(they) are the cancer..and must be stopped.

These diverse responses are perfectly understandable in an age where every other person (and her nanny) is an “expert”, “guru”, “pundit” or other. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, companies still rely on these darn “experts” to help navigate the uncharted and often turbulent social media waters.

The key to demystifying the social media “expert” myth and finding the real deal is to take a hard look at what a social media “expert” actually does. Based on their role, the experts can be classified into 3 major categories – “Do”ers, Planners, and Talkers.

The most popular and generic “Social Media Manager” roles typically belong to the “Do”ers category, which includes folks who “do” social media and typically are the public face of the brand on social networking sites. These are the folks who manage communities, tweet, blog, and engage on sites like Facebook on behalf of the brand. “Do”ers tend to be individual contributors who spend a great deal of time on the social networking sites and/or have roles that require them to be highly visible brand ambassadors. Having strong online communication skills is a must-have for this role. Folks with engaging personalities and community background (forums, chat, etc.) shine in these types of roles. While this is often an after-thought, this role is best suited for folks with calm temperaments who are less likely to go off the deep end in a crisis. Case in point is the Nestle crisis, where the company rep snapped under pressure on Facebook and had to apologize at the end.

Planners are typically folks who have decent social media expertise and presence but their focus is primarily on planning/managing social media activities. The typical role in this category is social media strategist, who is responsible for pulling together all disparate social media activities into a cohesive strategy/plan. Actively engaging on social media sites is a time-consuming activity, it’s rare to find someone who can balance both roles (planning and engaging) without getting overwhelmed. Folks with solid marketing and/or community management backgrounds seem to do well in these roles. You’ll probably see these types of roles filled by people managers who typically work behind-the-scenes vs. on the front-lines. There aren’t many folks who have the skill set/experience required for these types of roles so increasingly, companies are relying on external social media agencies and consultants to meet their planning needs.

Talkers are your blogbertis or twitteratis who are well-known for talking/writing about social media and may or may not actually engage in social media on behalf of any specific cause for your company (other than social media). Folks in this category typically have a large following on social networks, but may lack the experience in applying social media in a business context. This is a great category for hiring your spokespeople especially if your company is trying to build brand-recognition and wants to get more visibility in the social media space. Many major brands seem to have at least one social media celebrity on their roster, who is not strategically aligned to any specific business function or objective but is rather focused on promoting the company’s overall brand and related messaging.

So there you have it, not everyone is an expert but even among the real experts, different folks excel at different roles. That being said, knowing what you want to achieve is key to deciding the type of expert you need and to avoid getting sucked into the expert myth.

Would love to hear your thoughts on other categories/roles that should be added here.

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10 responses to “How to: Demystify the Social Media Expert Myth

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention How to: Demystify the Social Media Expert Myth « Marketing Mystic -- Topsy.com

  2. Mia – excellent post that really boils it all down. Since a few of us are trying to drag our company into social media, I sent your post to the boss and shared it on our networks, hoping to win hearts and minds.

    • @Vox Voices Thank you! It’s great to hear you found the post helpful and hope this succeeds in creating the mind-shift in your organization. Good luck and do keep me posted! :)

  3. I found your article to be informative. I especially like how you pointed out the different roles in social media management. There is no doubt that most small business owners (especially) do hot have the time to fill all of these roles for themselves.

    So when opting not to DIY-it, it is important that they know what they are looking for and are able to identify the right people to help them.

    You did not mention education in any way, formal or otherwise. I rarely see this issue come up. What are your thoughts?

    • Hi there Annie! Thanks for the feedback. Agreed, too many resource-constrained companies think they can do it all, which isn’t very realistic.

      I am not sure I understand your question about education. Are you asking if it’s important for an organization or if such a role exists? Let me take a stab at what I think you’re asking and you can let me know if that’s not what you meant.

      I think many of the fundamentals of social media are same as for good traditional marketing – knowing your audience, deliver messaging that’s relevant, etc. I think strategy and planning for social media should be incorporated in formal education. While I believe in ongoing training for “doing” social media but very soon it will be as ubiquitous as email, Gen y grew up with email and Gen z will grow up with Facebook/Twitter.

  4. I don’t have any great words of wisdom to add, (sorry!), but did want to let you know that I think this is a well-written article that gets to the heart of the matter very well. I’m off to tweet about it!

  5. Pingback: Read Maria Ogneva’s The Evolving Role Of Community And Social Media Managers @CustomerThink « Fredzimny's Blog

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