Why You Need a Social Media Specialist

A Social Media Specialist can help bring harmony to your program!

Down below, I’ve given five reasons why it’s important to hire a specialist to handle Social Media programs. I wrote this in response to a short article Richard Branson recently published on Linked-In trying to answer the question “Why aren’t more business leaders online (in social media)?” His article states:

“Why are only 16% of CEOs currently participating in social media? IBM’s 2012 Global CEO Study found that most CEOs are clearly not taking social media seriously. Only one of more than 1,700 respondents had their own blog! Some are on LinkedIn, fewer on Twitter and even less on Facebook, Google+ and elsewhere on the web.”

While he makes a guess and points out that he uses social media, the article really never answers the question and can be summed up as “they all have their heads in the sand, Social Media is the future, and I’m smart enough to know it.”

I’m going to take a different approach than Sir Richard and give the benefit of the doubt to those CEOs that he was quick to rake across the coals. I believe many aren’t engaging Social Media because they fall into one of two categories:

  1. They simply don’t understand social media (the entire network).
  2. They do understand social media, and therefore realize it’s going to take a lot of time, resources and attention to integrate it into their business.

For those that fall into the first category, we need to ignore them. It is the responsibility of all CEOs to understand any elements that have significant impactful on their consumer base’s lives. If a CEO isn’t aware of the degree to which Social Media has become a part of our day-to-day lives, then we can’t hold their hand and lead them to the promise land. There are always some CEOs who just won’t get it when it comes to evolving consumer markets (Blockbuster, Kodak, Yahoo, Nokia, etc.). In those cases, time will make them as irrelevant as they believe Social Media to be.

For the second category, I’m 180 degrees the other way. I’m sympathetic because I’ve been there. I know it’s a huge commitment and, frankly, it’s hard to know where to even start. The worst part is that, unlike almost any other Marketing initiatives out there today, there are no rules or real roadmaps to follow. Why? Because it’s customer driven, and customers are nothing if not unpredictable. In addition, when you really start to understand it, you suddenly realize that it’s more than just another marketing outlet (like billboards). It takes partnerships and expertise throughout your organization (marketing, merchandising, creative services, customer service, CRM, database management, analytics, etc.) to make it effective and to pull data from it as part of an integrated enterprise view of the customer.

So you decide it’s time to enter the fray. What’s the first step? Well before you jump, I might suggest going tandem and tying yourself – tightly and securely – to a Social Media Specialist. The common mistake I’ve seen companies make is offering a current employee (usually under the age of 30) the “opportunity” to build a Social Media plan who already has another job; this would be classified under “additional responsibilities.” The other mistake I’ve seen quite often is giving the job to someone (usually over the age of 30) who is a Manager/Director with lots of tenure but not a lot to do (and Social Media experience consisting of an occasional “Like” on their spouse’s Facebook comments).

Here are the top of reasons that you need someone in your organization, a Social Media Manager/Specialist, who’s experienced with this marketing channel, has the chops to execute it, and does it full time…40 hours+ per week.

1. It’s complicated…really!

Social Media to most people are The Big 3: Facebook, Twitter and Linked-In. But the folks who think that don’t understand the definition (or the reach) of Social Media, which includes any online interactive community. I think this graphic says more than I could with words:

Thanks Buddy Media!

2. Would you go International without a Pro?

This was the toughest lesson for me to learn. Each Social Media outlet is unique; what you do, say or offer on one is not what you would do on another. In other words, no cutting and pasting of messages. What you put out there as a Tweet might be well received, but the folks on Facebook expect something with a little more meat and what you put on either of those wouldn’t probably work on Yelp!, Foursquare, Tumblr or Pinterest. In this way, it’s a lot like doing business overseas; each place has its own way of doing business. It is not their responsibility to accommodate you, it’s your job (if you want to keep it) to figure out how to work with them.

3. You need to be good – really good – at Creative Writing.

Even if you put aside the “what” of your marketing message, the message itself can be one of the more challenging issues. There are much different styles of writing required for social media community. For example, responding to a negative comment about your company would require unique writing (and content) for a community forum vs. a personal blog post vs. a Facebook post vs. a Tweet. If your company has a sudden PR issue, negative comments could hit all of these web channels at the same time. You need someone who knows how to “do it now” in an effective manner, without having to spend time thinking about the nuances of writing for a particular community.

4. You can’t manage what you can’t measure (even in Social Media)!

Every marketing channel has its own ways of measuring business. For example, direct marketers often use circ/response rates, while digital marketers often use traffic/conversion rates. Social Media has its own ways of being measured and analytics, very often using the data provided by the Social Media sites themselves. I often quote Einstein’s saying “Information is not Knowledge” and it takes someone who is embedded in the Social Media world to take the data these sites provide and turn it into useful knowledge. I’ve seen too many companies miss what they were accomplishing with their efforts (and a number of them who also missed that there were accomplishing nothing) simply because they put out a lot of social marketing but never tried to measure the returns.

5. It’s no longer a competitive advantage…it’s how your competitors do business.

Many, many years ago, someone at Harvard put out a white paper stating something similar about IT departments. The fact is your customer/clients/consumers are going to expect you to respond to social media comments. Heck, I know people – although not people I do business with – that actually monitor social media for any mention of their competitors just so THEY can respond. “Hey Joe, had a bad experience at X? We would never let that happen at Y. Give us a call next time!” Isn’t this your worst nightmare? If I have to say more than this scenario to convince you that you need to be out there and in a serious manner, then maybe you fall into Category 1 that I mentioned above.

Social Media marketing isn’t rocket science, but it is a science nonetheless. A specialist can help guide you through a plan, manage a program, and quickly bring you up to speed in a fast-paced marketing channel that already has some fairly strong (and dangerous) currents rushing through it. So is it worth it? How critical is this role to your organization today? Tomorrow? If you knew your competitors were hiring a Social Media “Rockstar”, would you be worried?

Agree/Disagree? Comments, compliments and contrarian views are always welcome.

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