Listen, Social Media Expert! Tweeting is Easy, Marketing is Hard


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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Peter is Vice President of Digital Marketing at an investment holdings company in Washington DC and Co-Founder at True North.

Discussion

  1. Chris Duell on the 6th July

    There are tools out there to make your social media marketing easier though, enter http://www.twithawk.com
    A tool made to help manage your twitter marketing campaigns

  2. Brian on the 14th July

    As an IT consultant I am fully aware that IT management is struggling with whether social media is productive or obstructive for companies and their employees. Software is being developed and policy and restrictions are being decided everyday by IT managers. The security of the networks of various organizations are at stake but the potential for innovation using social media is a large enough incentive for the discussion of how to properly utilize the medium continues. Palo Alto networks came up with a whitepaper, http://bit.ly/d2NZRp, which will explore the issues surrounding social media in the workplace. It is important to not only understand the immediate benefits of doing business how one lives, but the threat it presents to an organization’s greater ROI and productivity when it comes to the server’s safety and security. If your IT Department wants to block social media apps on the company network…http://bit.ly/d2NZRp and http://bit.ly/cR80Al

  3. Tri Nguyen on the 19th January

    Do you have tips or tutorials on how to effectively learn about making a social media campaign.

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