2009 The birth of the Social Media Expert

Ok, so I only started blogging in mid 2008 – so that’s only around 18 months – and I opened my Twitter account in October 08 – so again, only just over 12 months of activity.  Have dabbled with Facebook – but still can’t get my headSocial netwroking and internet concept crossword round the business side of things.  However, I’ve been with LinkedIn for a while and have been a regular participant on a number of online forums for a good few years.   In fact, one started over 10 years ago. Whilst I participate on and am very comfortable with social media platforms – what I am not, is a ‘social media expert’.  What I am, is a pragmatic and experienced marketer (both off and online) – open to and keen to leverage new channels of communication as you would imagine any decent marketer would be, particularly if those channels enable more targeted activity.

Twitter certainly seems to have dominated ‘social media’ platforms and media during 2009 – and piggybacking on the success of Twitter are at least 5 or perhaps even 10 million (or perhaps even more) social media experts!  Where did they all come from?  And what is the definition of a ‘social media expert’?

In fact, without mentioning any names, I recently met a ‘social media expert’ at a networking event – their business card actually stated Social Media Expert underneath their name.   So, in the name of my own personal quest to determine the route and core of social media expertise, I honed the conversation around developing a greater understanding of the competence involved.

What, very quickly, became apparent, was that this expert was participating with social media platforms in a very similar way to me – and had been doing so for a similar amount of time.  Prior to that, they mainly focused on SEO!  ITheir role was to share their social media expertise with clients – assisting them in setting up these channels to market.  Effectively, setting up accounts, setting alerts to make them aware of activity in their particular sector (if relevant).   On a positive note – I suppose labelling yourself as a ‘Social Media Expert’ regardless of your background does indeed communicate a very targeted and relatively still niche expertise – regardless of how ‘young’ that expertise may be.

I wrote a blog post some months ago now – about Implementing a Social Media Strategy – the post was born from activity I’d been undertaking with a client I’ve been working with for about 7 years.   As part of their ‘umbrella’ marketing strategy which covers a whole range of marketing activity (both inbound and outbound) – it was clear that new ‘social media’ platforms were out there for us to leverage.  So, in just the same way, we’d approach any new activity, I researched, strategised and created a social media activity plan which we would look to implement – and nurture.

I follow the words ‘social media’ in my TweetBeep alert and so am always watching what’s being ‘talked about’ in the social media context.  [In fact this resource is really useful for targeted activity see this post] .  From months of observation, what’s very clear is that many organisations are not ‘on board’ with social media – and those that are, it’s all still very fertile territory.

Recently, I’ve noticed that there are definitely more resources out there springing up from marketers and others who are charged with putting together a social media strategy for organisations – however, it’s still very fragmented – people borrowing theory and practice from one another (which is pretty great actually).

I then researched ‘requests’ and ‘job specs’ for what companies are looking for from a ‘social media expert’ – and it pretty much seems to be the following:

1)         Help to set up the various accounts and manage them ongoing

2)         Set up a blog and assist with writing content and share on social media platforms

3)         Brand management – watching what’s being said about their brand(s)

4)         Include social media platforms in campaigns

I haven’t done ‘extensive’ research, so I’m sure there are other elements to add – but enough to get a flavour for what seems to be the general remit of a ‘social media expert’.

Anyone participating on social media platforms is likely to agree that participation and monitoring and keeping on top of the game can be quite time consuming.   In fact, from my own personal experience with clients, it’s the time consummation which seems to be a big turn off for many companies.  ‘How are we going to manage it all?’ – and ‘tada’… hence the rise of the Social Media Expert.

Of course, when things seem too consuming, it’s useful to break them down into bite sized chunks by ‘compartmentalising’ them – and therefore, organisations may well be on the hunt for social media experts to bring into their marketing teams.

In 2010 no doubt more and more digital agencies will be ‘all over’ social media – providing the ‘full social media service’ as an inherent service – indeed, many have already added this to their menu of services.  So not only will Social Media Experts continue to grow – but Social Media Agencies will have a life of their own – swallowing up many of those with social media competence and experience.

As a pragmatic and experienced marketer, I will continue to remain just that – of course, where relevant, as part of the ‘marketing mix’ social media activity will be leveraged – in my view, the platforms are channels for us to leverage.

Social Media activity isn’t something that is done in isolation – it’s part of the marketing strategy and brand communications – it’s got to be joined up, thought through and implemented with the same thought and care as any marketing activity should be.

In my view, social media platforms sit with marketing – part of the marketing mix – and marketing enables strategic planning.  So all in all – be careful how you execute your social media activity.  It’s your brand and reputation out there – be transparent, considered and think it through…

Here’s to watching what happens in 2010!

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Michelle Carvill is owner and Marketing Director at Carvill Creative - a graphic design and marketing services agency based in Maidenhead, Berkshire.  The agency covers all aspects of graphic design and marketing - covering social media marketing and website planning and website design.