Facebook, Twitter and similar services can make connecting with your customers a breeze. It can quickly foster relationships with new clients and create a community around your products or services. But, having a true mastery of these platforms goes well beyond the simple ability to use them. It’s not that difficult to get a basic social media campaign running, but it is hard to build one that is actually generating revenue or visibility for your business. So, think carefully before putting a phrase like “social media guru” on your resume, or taking on a new social media initiative at work. If you don’t have true marketing skills, a commitment of real resources from your company and a solid chunk of daily time to dedicate, it could land you in a serious bind.
A day to learn, a lifetime to master
Services like Facebook and Twitter were designed with painstaking care (and millions of dollars) to be intuitive, so figuring out even the most advanced capabilities doesn’t truly put anyone ahead of the pack in terms of social media expertise. Social media involves connecting with people, not mastering software. In fact, stereotypes would suggest that software mastery is much more likely to land you in a behind-the-scenes, “computer nerd” position than a prominent, visible spokesman role for your company. So, unless you have social media successes that go beyond logging in and posting content, you’re somewhere in the middle of the social media skill spectrum along with the rest of us. Turning on a stove doesn’t make you a chef – even if you know every setting of the machinery you still need know-how, experience and creativity to make the most of it.
The misguided self-perception of “social media expert” can sometimes be a product of your surroundings. You may work with people who got the marketing work done “the old fashioned way” and seem to have little enthusiasm for (or understanding of) social media. To them, it’s a “fad” that’s not worth pursuing. But for most businesses social media is viewed as the “next big thing” to grow their business beyond expectations.
“Seeking Social Media Rock Star…”
“Social media” is at the tip of every hiring manager’s tongue. Thousands of recent job postings contain mandates for “social media expertise” and every business and group on the planet wants “Facebook integration” for their business and a throng of followers on Twitter to support them. Executives drop buzzwords like “crowdsourcing” and “blogosphere” into sentences that sound like radical innovations. The truth is, they want what they’ve always wanted; to sell more products, to gain more supporters, and to get more subscribers to their services.
Don’t put yourself in the precarious position of promising them some sort of “viral social media campaign” that is going to cause an explosion of interest. Ask yourself “Am I really a social media expert?”
- Have I helped develop a Facebook or iPhone application?
- Have I written marketing copy on a company blog?
- Have I put meaningful information on Twitter that has gotten significant attention?
- Do I have any tangible results from my social media efforts?
Another question to consider is, “Is my company really committed to social media success?” Many companies are not; they don’t allocate any time or resources to it and basically expect a near-instant, automatic surge of followers to spontaneously appear. Despite being a “top priority” in meetings and conversations, it’s conspicuously absent from accounting books and timesheets. If your company truly wants to delve into social media, make sure they mean it. Then fit it into all of the necessary schedules, budgets and long-term plans.
Social Media Success is Mostly About the Product
Even if you really are a social media expert, you still might struggle if you don’t have a truly valuable product or service to market. The last thing you want to be doing is marketing an inferior item on the web. Contrast said it best, “If [a company] wants a million hits, followers, lists, comments, links, posts, friends, fans and re-tweets, then they should do something meaningful.” If the product is great, the “social media work” is hardly work at all. But if the product is less than great, all of your marketing turns to empty hype and you disappoint the followers you’ve gathered on the web. More importantly, you disappoint the employers whom you promised viral success.
So be honest with yourself and your employers, and hedge their expectations. If you really are a social media rock star, the product is great and they’ve committed real resources to social media – then swing for the fences. If you’re just a typical social media user, the product is ordinary at best and there’s no tangible commitment…then don’t “tweet yourself into a corner” with empty promises.
Remember: Tweeting is easy; marketing is hard.
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