Friday, July 29, 2011

Do you need a social media specialist?

Yes, you do. 
Even if you think you know what Facebook and Twitter are.
For about three years I’ve been managing up to 10 social networks/microblogs/blogs for a big organization (naming no names). Before I took on the role of a social media manager, the organization had NO presence on social networks. Yes, you’ve heard me – no Facebook, no Twitter, no LinkedIn… Nada!
Now, the organization is represented on more than 10 social networks and holds a strong position on Facebook and Twitter with thousands of followers… But as every day shows, the strong positioning of the organization in the social media space, does not mean that its management, actually, knows what these social networks are, how they work and so on….As a matter of fact, some of them still think that a twit can hold a 500-word text and that one can go back to the twit that was sent a few days ago and edit it. Hmm, how would I explain it again that it’s impossible to do so with a twitter?

Or try to explain, why the Facebook page of The New York Time’s reporter Nicholas Kristof (224 000 followers), who twits from war zones, deserts, and such - has more “friends” than the fan page of BBC America’s reporter Bill Turnbull (478 followers) ?  You just can't compare an apple to a pear...
Let’s see… perhaps it’s because the nature of their reporting is different – or they outreach differently? Or, perhaps, it depends on the initial “brand awareness”, how many of you have heard of Kristof and how many – of Turnbull?
Compare the latest Facebook updates from the two.
Nicholas D. Kristof
Nicholas D. Kristof”: War photographers are some of the most amazing people I've encountered, indomitable and irrepressible. Joao Silva of The New York Times lost his legs to a landmine in Afghanistan, and now he is shooting for page one again while on prosthetic legs! Long live news photographers!
Bill Turnbull
Bill Turnbull "knows his way around women":  Comic makes Sian cry with laughter Comedian Reginald D Hunter joined BBC Breakfast to talk about his new show The Truth.
I’ve spoken to a few social media specialists, who are very active on social media scene, including Sam Kass, Assistant Chef and Senior Policy Advisory, Healthy Food Initiatives, at the White House, Baratunde Thurston at The Onion Digital and Carol Kruse, SVP, Marketing, at ESPN  and all them confirm what I’ve already known – you can’t really measure the success of your social media, but you do need it because it gets the word out. That’s obvious to all, except for a few CEOs who still think that the traditional way of doing business – and promoting goods and services – is the way to go.
You get the point, right? But even if you do get the point, what about your management? That’s why I completely agree with Paul Gillin – a social media guru - that yes, you DO need a social media specialist.
Gillin writes: “As fascination with social media has grown, a debate has erupted over whether organizations should hire social media specialists. The naysayers are an interesting mix of evangelists and skeptics. The enthusiasts maintain that social tools should be so intrinsic to the way a company communicates that centralizing expertise limits its potential. Their strange bedfellows are traditionalists who believe the whole social media phenomenon is a flash in the pan”.
His position – one should hire talent for the right reason.
According to Gillin – and I agree with him - when social media initiatives fail, it's usually for one of two root causes. One is apathy. A company sets up a Facebook page and a Twitter account; declares it is “doing social media”; and then walks away. Having a presence is no longer enough to distinguish your company. If you don't invest in valuable content, no one will notice you.
Failure can also happen for the opposite reason: Organizations invest lavishly in social marketing, but have no strategy. They choose the wrong platforms or create content their customers and prospects don't need. This is an easier problem to fix but also a more expensive one.
Social media specialists can address both issues. They're good at unlocking value in content that often already exists in the organization, and that avoids the cost of reinventing the wheel. They also know what not to do. This saves time and money over the trial-and-error approach that too many organizations have taken.
Companies that do social media well tend to have the same basic organizational structure: They have a person, or small group of specialists, who serves as a resource to others. People who want to use social channels in any capacity can tap them for tools and advice. This hub-and-spoke model is intended to educate the entire organization over time. Done right, the social media-specialist role shouldn't even be needed three to five years from now.
Can you outsource this function? In many respects you can. Agencies are good at setting strategy, choosing platforms, crafting policies and educating employees. What they can't do is speak for the company. No contractor can bring the passion and knowledge to customer conversations that your own people can. The social media specialist is as much internal evangelist as external communicator.
Gillin concludes: don't hire a social media specialist in an attempt to compartmentalize the role. The true leverage of social media is in creating a tapestry of conversations between your people and the entire market. If you dump the whole task on one person, you lose 99% of the opportunity to create an engaged company. You'll also probably lose that person pretty quickly.

By the way, as a social media specialist, you should at least get paid this much.

At least, perhaps, this social media specialist would be able to explain, why Lady Gaga has more followers on Facebook than Ashlee Simpson...

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