Is Your In-house Social Media Leader a “Platform Specialist” or a “Marketing Expert?”

Louis Foong 2

The Friday morning buzz on social media networks this past Friday was not the typical “let’s meet for dinner tonight”, “Poker at my house—BYOB” or “folks are out tonight so c’mon over—wings on the house”. Instead, there was a frenzied waiting and watching for social media giant Facebook’s IPO. Come 11 am, there was much excitement and the shares opened around 11.30 in New York at $42.05, 11% over the IPO price of $38. While some justified labeling it a success, others thought it was a failure. Either way, the fact remains that it got the company a lot of attention; not that Facebook is short on that! A vast majority of Internet users and practically every organization that has an online presence factor in “Facebook time” into their routine. So much so that experts are warning us about reasons to be skeptical about Facebook.

In the world of business, particularly, B2B, organizations are simply overwhelmed with social media on the whole; not just Facebook. There are obvious reasons for that—

  • too many social media platforms and channels out there with new ones emerging all the time
  • too little knowledge on how to leverage social media
  • lack of conversion engines
  • no definite and easy-to-use measurement mechanism

So what do companies do? Many will just use trial and error and be happy with small “wins”, even if there is no clear answer to “what is your social media ROI?” Some others will just admit they don’t know how to do it and go hire a social media expert. In most cases, this in-house social media leader is really a “social media platform specialist” rather than a “social media marketing expert”. As a “platform specialist”, the candidate will usually boast social media prowess as far as winning all the major social media platforms—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and so on are concerned.

The problem is most companies have no idea about their objectives, goals or desired returns from social media. All they care about is “we can’t be left behind, so let’s do it”. What criteria then should you follow when engaging a social media leader for your organization? What KPIs will you set for this individual?

Social Media Experts MUST Have Marketing and Brand Building Skills and Acumen

The head honcho of a large technology company told me a few weeks ago that he was planning to hire a social media person. His recruiting agency said they had some bright candidates in their resume bank and would be evaluating each one using a very high standard, so he hoped to find a gem. I was curious about these “high standards” and so he sent me this 9-point list that the agency said came from an industry expert. My reaction? No prizes for guessing—“this is just plain ridiculous!” It’s the typical situation of quantity casting a veil over marketers’ eyes and quality falling by the wayside. What difference does it make how many LinkedIn connections the so-called social media Guru has or how many Facebook likes he/she can garner in one day, or how many new Tweets are on this “expert’s” Twitter page daily. IT DOES NOT MATTER!

What DOES matter:

  • Is the individual a marketing specialist? Look for a true expert who comes with measurable success in communication strategies and brand building.
  • Does the candidate demonstrate repeated success with marketing and lead generation programs? Have the organizations he/she worked with seen “real value” in terms of stronger business relationships and a more loyal clientele? Numbers don’t mean anything until they translate into value and ROI.
  • What understanding does the individual have of your intended target audience / customer needs? What tools and techniques will she/he employ to continuously gauge deeper insights into the customer mindset?
  • Will traditional, time tested and proven marketing methodologies be given the cold shoulder to make place for new-fangled social media tricks? Or will social media be integrated in a cohesive manner to deliver all-round marketing success?
  • Will you get a clear answer when you ask, “how will we measure our social media effectiveness?” Or will you receive the commonly heard pacifier, “let’s hit the numbers across all the big social media platforms and that will give us some immediate success before we dig deeper to build more visibility on smaller channels.”

Visibility? Platforms? Channels? Where is the strategy? What is the road map? How about customer acquisition and retention? Any thoughts about nurture marketing, cross selling and brand loyalty? As an organization you need to think carefully about the reasons why you want to make social media a priority. In your quest to ride this wave, don’t lose sight of the fact that social media is a multi-platform game, yes; but it’s like driving. If you know how to drive, you can drive any vehicle. You don’t need to be a “Ferrari hero”, a “Mustang star”, a “Mercedes suave” and a “BMW trailblazer”…you can be all these and more…you just have to know how to steer your (marketing) vehicle in the right direction.

What are your thoughts about bringing social media expertise in-house? Comments?

2 Comments »

  1. Marc May 23, 2012 at 11:16 am - Reply

    Great article Louis – so many of us get stuck on the social media hype of “I don’t want to be left behind”… as you had written. But as I read your article, what you are saying to me is … social media still needs to be about having a marketing plan. Is that correct?

  2. Louis Foong June 15, 2012 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    You are absolutely correct , just because you are involved with Social Marketing does not mean you forget about the fundamentals. Are you using social as an educational, progression or conversion engine. It seems that everyone has high expectations for Social Media but have no clue on how to convert.

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