This post was originally published on the WebMarketCentral blog in April 2009.
In most areas of life, experience with a particular field of endeavor is considered a vital component of expertise. If you needed surgery, for example, you’d probably prefer to have it done by someone who had performed many surgeries before than by an individual who’d merely read quite a bit about medicine.
When it comes to social media, however, MarketingSherpa reported yesterday that a majority of marketers don’t believe any experience is necessary to be a social media expert. According to their report, “two-thirds of marketers who work for organizations that have not used any form of social media marketing or PR consider themselves ‘very knowledgeable” or “somewhat knowledgeable’ about this emerging strategy. Their overconfidence in unproven ability can doom social media initiatives to failure.”
The article goes on to state, “Clearly, there is a disconnect between personal exposure and professional ability that is unique to social media. And this disconnect is one of the most critical dangers to the successful adoption of social media as a marketing strategy. This was confirmed in MarketingSherpa’s Social Media Marketing and PR study where we found that the ‘lack of knowledgeable staff’ was the most significant barrier to social media adoption…A better approach to adopting this strategy is to seek the advice of an agency or consultant specializing in social media if no one within your organization has proven experience.”
I was recently part of a LinkedIn discussion about what constitutes social media expertise. The general consensus was that the field is so new and still changing so rapidly that almost anyone can claim to be an expert, dubious as that label may be in most cases. Still, most companies could save money and get a better return on their social marketing initiatives by bringing in an outside firm or consultant with some experience, who has clear concepts of social media strategy and an outline of services that can be provided.
Ultimately, social media marketing is an in-house activity. No outside expert will ever be able to carry on in-depth conversations about your industry or products the way your own subject matter expert employees can. But an experienced consultant can help create an appropriate strategy for your business, select the right social media tools, and train your staff so you can minimize costs, avoid missteps, and maximize the return on your social media marketing efforts.