If you work at a company and are passionate about social media, and passionate about getting your company to use social media, then you are probably spending a lot of attention to the supposed social media experts. The most influential bloggers and Twitter users. The ‘rockstars’.
Here’s 5 reasons why that’s probably not a good idea.
1 – Social media experts gravitate to shiny things. If you are active on Twitter especially, then you have probably heard about the shiny social media site of the moment; Quora. Quora is basically a Q&A site that despite having functionality similar to most other Q&A sites, seems to suddenly have everyone buzzing.
The problem is, ‘shiny’ doesn’t always equal ‘useful’ when it comes to social media for companies. What you should do with Quora is monitor company mentions. You should already have a monitoring system in place (even if it’s just Google Alerts, which you can set up in 5 mins), and this will let you track company mentions on Quora and other sites.
With most ‘shiny’ social media sites and tools, it’s best to be aware, but to not jump in headfirst. Why? Because often the ‘buzz’ around a shiny social site is driven by hype more than utility. In general, it’s best to let the hype die down then see what happens. If the value is there, people will stick with it.
And before anyone comments, I am not slamming Quora. I have plenty of friends that love the site, and to be honest, I have barely spent an hour with it. My only point is, I tend to tune out and wait when I see sites like Quora suddenly getting super-hyped. I did the same thing with Identica and Kwippy, and yes, even Twitter.
2 – What works for social media experts might not work for your company. Most social media experts will tell blogging companies that they must have as many comments as possible. That interaction and engagement is all that matters. They probably get a bunch of comments on their blog, so they tell companies they need comments as well.
Guess what? Most companies could give a rat’s rump if they ever get a comment on their blog. They want LEADS and BUSINESS from the blog. But most social media experts have difficulty explaining how companies can get leads and business from their blogging efforts, so they talk about things they know: such as getting comments and RTs.
3 – There is no one-size-fits-all solution to social media. Twitter is the textbook example of this. I have literally changed the way I use Twitter a dozen or more times in the last 4 years. I used to follow more people than followed me. Then I followed almost no one, now I follow anyone that interacts with me on Twitter, or that I have met.
The point is, there are few, if any, social media rules that apply to EVERY company’s efforts. For example, many social media experts will say that a blogging company should try to blog every single day. And at minimum, they should write 3 new posts a week.
And confession time, I used to think this as well when I started blogging almost 6 years ago. The a funny thing happened: I started getting so busy with consulting work that I couldn’t blog every day. I had to make the choice between blogging every day, or working on client work every day. Guess which one won?
The solution is: Pick a posting schedule that works for YOUR situation. My best advice is to pick a schedule that you can stick with. If you *think* you can write 2 new posts a week, start out shooting for once a week, then build up to 2 a week if you can.
4 – Social media experts often write for each other, not for companies. How many times have you read a well-known social media person write a blog post or a tweet just ripping another well-known social media person? It happens far too often. So why does it happen? Because almost every time there is an ‘I’m calling bullshit on…’ post, it gets views. And comments, and RTs. And traffic.
But does it get them business? Maybe it does, but the next time I hear a social media consultant tell me they got a project because they ripped one of their peers, will be the 1st time. But I often hear of companies that have specifically NOT hired an expert or consultant based on something they said online. Good manners matter, and no amount of RTs or pageviews or comments make up for a lack of civility.
5 – Social media experts are using social media in a way that works for THEM. One person. So obviously, attempting to mimic the way one person uses social media and applying it to the social media efforts of a Fortune 500 company, might not be the best course of action.
This is not to say that you can’t learn from how the experts and thought leaders are using social media. Because you can, and yes I am being slightly self-serving when I say that. But you should never assume that you should use social media in a certain way, simply because someone you read or follow, does. Maybe their method for using a particular site or tool can work for your company as well, but you shouldn’t blindly adopt using the site or tool the same way simply because that’s how they do it.
Don’t blindly adopt, but don’t blindly dismiss either
Your company should be aware of what the leaders and experts in this space are saying and doing. But you shouldn’t do anything simply because they are, nor should you dismiss their methods simply because you believe that ‘social media experts’ are all ‘snake oil salesmen’. Look for trends, ways that most of the leaders in this space are using social media, or what they are teaching, and look critically at their lessons and if they can apply to your company’s efforts. Don’t view them as a ‘cheatsheet’ for using social media, but rather as another resource for your company.
Great post, Mack. The other item I’d add is that companies, large ones doing cool things, have several silos, both unintended and intentional , built into their organizations. The work to “do” social media takes place very early over at Starbucks, over lunch off campus and even some happy hours with business champions- all offline. The bloggers, thought-leaders I enjoy are those that focus on business results and outcomes, not trend spotters. Being up-to-date on trends, skill sets, etc., is what the company is paying it’s people for on a weekly basis.
Mack Collier says
Good points, Matt. I just want companies to understand that most of the thought leaders in this space are VERY early adopters, and are on the bleeding edge. Which means not everything they are discussing and analyzing, it completely applicable to a business that’s just dipping their toes in the water when it comes to social media. I think as a GROUP that social media experts can be an invaluable resource, but trying to pattern a COMPANY’S efforts after how an individual uses social media, can be risky.
Mike Rowland says
Amen brother, amen.
Great post Mack, I especially agree with your number 3. Me too, I have changed the ways I use Social Media so many times, what companies want I think is a strategy or policy they can use for at least a couple of years. Giving them support whenever they need is far better than taking the reigns for them. Social Media is about authenticity, something you can barely teach.
Enjoyed the read let me buffer that one. 🙂
Ps: there seems to be a typo in the very first line of the post, you might want to fix it.
Mack Collier says
Thanks Leo for catching my typo, I need y’all to look out for me 😉
And I agree completely with your idea of helping and guiding a company on how to use social media, instead of trying to take over for them.
Olivier Blanchard says
You might want to define “social media experts” for us then, Mack. From your post, it sounds like you are talking about bloggers rebranding themselves as consultants even when they don’t have the background to execute on their imaginary expertise. Many of the current social media “thought leaders” and A-listers fall into that category. The people doing their rounds on the speaking circuit, hoping no one will ever bother to dig into their CV on LinkedIn.
A word of caution though: As much as I despise the term “social media expert,” there are many different types of professionals working in the space, and many different degrees of expertise and competence within those ranks. Many are hacks and incompetent experts in nothing, passing themselves off as something they are not. But many are extremely competent professionals hailing from a variety of backgrounds. We can’t put them all in the same bag.
I would offer this: Whomever companies hire to help them make sense of social media, build social media programs or even manage some of their social business activities – call them “social media experts” or whatever terminology fits, just hire real professionals instead of hiring self-appointed “experts” with no actual business or management experience.
There is a world of difference between those of us who actually know how to apply this stuff to business, who understand not only the mechanics of digital social communications, but also change management, program development and process integration, and the hacks who think that building a “personal brand” on Twitter and their blog qualifies them to give advice to companies about things they know nothing about.
Lynette Young says
Great point Olivier. Like it or not, solid business / marketing / technical experience is needed. I’m fond of saying “just because you can type doesn’t make you a novelist”.
Dan Perez says
I enjoyed this post. Especially with you being one of those “social media guys” you speak of here. I’ve read several posts just like this one, however, only to see that same writer’s tweets be contrary to their post.
I think social media has come to the point where its “leaders” need to stop with the fluff and start taking a long hard look at the current state of social media with a critical eye and start challenging some of these same views you express here. We’re so worried about being called a “troll” or being unfollowed that we allow questionable opinions/practices to manifest themselves without being challenged.
There are people out there who are starting to get wise to all the stupidity that runs amok on the social media platforms (trust me on this). I hope your views here become consistent with your views “out there”. You might lose a follower or two but you’ll certainly gain a few as well.
Amen. Number 2 is spot on. What works for an individual personality is often not going to work for a company.
Maria Reyes-McDavis says
This is an excellent resource Mack! I particularly love your comments on hype versus utility. Shiny object syndrome in social media can kill a small to mid-size business, allocating resources that were unnecessary, increasing opportunity costs. 🙂 Good stuff!
Mack Collier says
Thank you Maria. A couple of years ago I had a company tell me ‘We need to hire someone that understands Twitter’. I then asked her what happens if she hires someone just to get her and her staff up to speed on using Twitter, then in 3 months Twitter goes away? She didn’t need someone to understand the hot social media tool of the moment, she needed someone to understand why her customers were using social media now, and why they would be tomorrow.
Mickey Gomez says
There are too many sweeping generalizations here for me to agree overall with what you are saying, Mack. My hope is that your intention was to start a conversation, not provide one-stop answers, in which case I say thank you – it’s always great to get a variety of perspectives once the stage has been set.
I absolutely think that creating a strategy and goals and tracking the impact of social media is critical, and that there are experts out there who get that and understand that social media is not one-size-fits-all. There are also people who call themselves experts who don’t get that, or who are more worried about the next bright shiny object.
To me it’s always worrisome to see broad generalizations, and I’d hate to see a post like this keep businesses from seeking and finding an actual expert to help them with social media, if they need one. Thanks, Mack!
Mack Collier says
Hey Mickey! This post was designed to encourage companies that are looking to the ‘leaders’ in social media for guidance concerning their efforts. I don’t want them to blindly accept what we say, anymore than I want them to blindly dismiss us. But what I have repeatedly noticed is a company saying they are considering changing or tweaking how they use social media based on one post by Jeremiah or Chris Brogan or Beth Harte. How an individual uses social media (with their own unique objectives) may or may not be the same way that a business should use social media.
Businesses should absolutely view the leaders in this space as being a valuable resource to them. As a one-size-fits-all blueprint for how THEY should use social media? No.
Gabriele Maidecchi says
I am always up to listen to suggestions, and not just from expert. I strongly believe good suggestions can come from the most unusual of sources, and I had evidence of this in the past, in many occasions.
Suggestions should be worked on and developed, tailored to your needs and specific situation. And the more you practice this, the better you get at it, and the best results you get in the end.
Mack Collier says
Very prudent and sound advice, Gabriele. As always 😉
Scott Schablow says
Very good points Mack. I also liked what Oliver said about digging a bit deeper into their resume for solid marketing or communications experience. I remember the day the realization hit me that many of those I considered thought leaders were only personal brand wranglers. The benefit they generated went no further than the tip of their nose. If one cares to look closely there are qualified professionals out there that can bring substantial value.
Jonathan Saar says
This has to be one of your best posts Mack. I love them all but this one hit a soft spot since I am dealing with personal friends and colleagues who are insisting on using companies who claim they know everything. It is very frustrating to me that this takes place. I really like point #2 especially. How can you be an expert at someone else’s business? Thanks for continuing to bring a clear message to a messy space at times.
Al Brocious says
Great post, Amen you are spot on. To many people know concepts not how to apply them. Twitter is not the end all be all, neither is Facebook, Youtube or dare I say blogging. It is the mix, like the military it’s combined arms.
Anne Janzer says
Thanks for the post, I particularly like point #3 — there’s no one right way to use social media, and your strategy may be constantly changing. I have encountered some businesses with the ‘social media lemming’ mindset: if our competition has this, we need it too, no matter if there’s any strategy behind it!
Anthony Plack says
Mack, Interesting. I believe the real issues is companies not creating an effective brand. Because they don’t know their brand, they don’t know how social media draws their prospective customers.
On the other hand, I STRONGLY disagree with your statement “Most companies could give a rat’s rump if they ever get a comment on their blog. They want LEADS and BUSINESS from the blog.”
Companies who don’t care, don’t care. Companies seeking after LEADS are ignoring brand. They are opposite to what really is in their best interest.
Customers don’t care how much you blog or tweet, customers blog and tweet how much you care. Comments are about creating the tribe of followers.
Thank you for the discussion.
Danny Brown says
I know of someone that took a stand and questioned the “leaders” and their methods, as well as the business sense behind it. The person took a lot of flak from the names he/she challenged, as well as from the armies of blind followers of the people questioned.
The agency this person ran picked up three clients, one of which was a Fortune 100. The general consensus was because the questions asked of the “leaders” were great business questions. Not one of the experts had an answer to the questions, which kinda showed their overall business acumen.
To that end, the clients chose the agency because they weren’t just talking about stuff; they knew how to do it, and could spot fluff a mile off. Which is exactly what these “leaders” were peddling.
So I guess you could say #4 is an option when done right, and when it highlights the thoughtful over the lacking-in-thought.
Jay Baer says
Great post Mack. Olivier and Danny are right, too. The business experience of many social “luminaries” is pretty thin.
The question I always ask is: “Would I hire this person to manage my marketing or communications or CRM or business or process integration or whatever, if social media didn’t exist, and he/she had to stand solely on the basis of their other areas of knowledge?”
Social media is an ingredient, not an entree, so to hire someone (even if they DO know what they’re doing) solely on the basis of their social media knowledge is a short-term, tail-chasing mindset.
Danny Brown says
Cheers, Jay. Like you say (and Olivier and others), I’d much rather hire a marketing or PR or CRM professional with social media “added on”, as opposed to someone “in” social media with marketing, etc, added on.
Jann Scott says
This is excellent. I have been saying this for sometime also, Our company has to undo, or redo terrible SM plans put together by SM types who have no idea how to market, follow through, take care of their customer, get results and or make things happen……
But their screw ups give us more business.
Mack Collier says
Jann you are right, but at the same time, it’s frustrating as all get-out to take on a new client that’s behind the eight-ball because of listening to a ‘social media expert’. So you have to undo the damage they created, before you can ever move them forward.
But as you said, it is more business…
Charles Miller says
My team’s social efforts grew out of an existing operational role where we set out to address a clear business objective. As we gained better insight into customer’s (mostly) implicit feedback (Social Media is like Reality TV – most know the camera is on, but over time, will still express what is on their mind) we discovered where our customers gathered to share online and participate.
So in a hiring decision, whether agency, contract or full-time — leverage the knowledge of those social experts within your four walls first. You might be surprised that it can be a better first choice, with shorter ramp times and your best communicators within the company are likely active and successful in social themselves.
Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR says
I agree with all your points and it is a great starting point for discussions. And I have to say I appreciate all the comments regarding this post. It is important that we speak frankly and openly.
Social media encompasses so many different fields: marketing, public relations, sales, customer service, and IT. And the fact social media is fairly new, makes it hard to define who an expert is.
Those of us who understand that social media is one tactic in a plan and are experienced in our fields need to continue to educate businesses every chance we get.
I just wanted to add that my Google Alerts took a lot less than five minutes. Thanks for the post.
Mack Collier says
Thanks Leyla 😉 Yeah they really are dead simple to set up.
Moosa Hemani says
Mack, thts perfectly making sense to me… specially the past point. thats true you should not adopt things without a research but you should not dismiss Social media after reading this post 🙂
great article Thanks for sharing…
The third point is really good-There is no one-size-fits-all solution to social media.
Michael Leander says
Thank you for that post, Mack. I have no idea who you are and what your motivation for writing that post was, but it was smack on the money. Especially points 2 and 4.
About Google Alerts, it seems to work, whereas the Socialmention alert seems to provide loads of irrelevant results.
Joel Capperella says
Mack, once again some great perspective here. I particularly like the bit about not worrying about comments. Don’t get me wrong I love to see more comments on a blog – tells me there is an engaged community that care about the content (case in point mackcollier.com), but it is not essential especially in B2B where the leads and the credibility matter most. I launched a corp blog in spring of 2009 and the soul intention was to provide the sales team with some thought leadership type of air coverage as they went about their hunting and gathering. Nearly 2 years later and the sales force actively leverages the blog content (especially rich content like video, audio or presentations) to connect with their prospects and nurture the sales process. Total comments in that time? less than 50.
Pragmatism matters in applying these tools – you summed things up well.
Mindset Marketing says
Thanks for a great post. very informative. I totally agree with you, having is the right mindset is most important of all. I Have already shared this post with a few of my friends and they loved it.
Ernest Falconer says
What really strikes me is that you summed up what I think about everyday…There is no expert..people may call themselves experts due to their vast knowledge of social media and it’s platforms, but they are not to far ahead of the next guy. The true expert will ask questions and learn, he will check out what the company needs and wants and choose the right platform. Once again agreeing with you that new platforms can be useful, but a platform is not fully useful until it is common with society. Sure new platforms are talked about by gurus to gurus to show who knows what’s cutting edge but that has no effect on your companies strategy. Social media itself is only another platform that connects you to all media platforms, and lines of communication, but the strategy behind it must come from the heart of the company keeping it’s brand and mission in mind!! The platform will just convey this..use the right platforms for your business and your on your way..
Thanks for the read,
i dont think its completely true……… there are solutions that fits all companies….