Is there such a thing as a real Social Media Expert?

June 14th, 2011 by Search Influence Alumni

Now that we’re in a society that boasts a Twitter and Facebook for every business from restaurants to fortune tellers, you have to be savvy when it comes to social media. But what if your business has been around for a few decades, and you have no idea how to manage these websites yourself? Social media presence? I know, I can feel your head hurting from here, and I assure you, it’s quite alright. The world of social media is a complex one, and there’s nothing wrong for searching for help within it.

Social Media Entrepreneur Peter Shankman (founder of HARO) recently posted  a blog about “social media experts” and why hiring them is a waste of your time, which has made some waves in the social media industry. He makes some valid points — it’s perfectly possible that any dude with a laptop and an idea can go get some business cards printed and start calling himself a social media expert. Of course, people seeking social media help may be less educated on what to look for and can be suckered by these types. But does that mean all “social media experts” are actually con artists?

Shankman points out that the dot com era gave Internet professionals the illusion of credibility much in the same way that titles like “social media expert” do now. This is true, but does it mean that every dot com was a sham with a bunch of clueless dudes behind it staying up late in their parents’ basement? Not at all. Several notable companies survived, being one of the biggest.

Social media experts are a similar story. There are a ton of self-proclaimed experts out there who certainly cannot bring to the table what a website or personal business needs for growth. On the other hand, to generalize and say that they are useless as a whole because people are abusing the term is a mistake. A social media expert is merely a new form of PR rep, whose playing field is the Internet and whose toolbox is made up of key sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Sure, one can pour effort into posting on those sites and trying to get the name of your business out there, but unless you have the knowledge and experience needed to approach these sites appropriately, it’s just more spam that no one will read.

What’s the solution then? If you want to hire a social media expert, research first. Know what you’re getting into and have an idea of what you want. Adding anyone to the payroll and not really understanding what they are doing, but instead waving your hand and expecting them to “take care of it” is the quickest way to get cheated. Ask questions about how they plan to approach promoting your business in this way. You don’t have to be an expert yourself to do some research and know what you are asking someone else to do for you.

With 600 million Facebook users and nearly 200 million Twitter users to appeal to, it’s surely a mistake to assume that we know how to approach them with little or no experience in social media and how it can work for us. One thing we do know is that it’s a powerful platform, and one that only continues to grow and manifest possibilities for the people that choose to use it.