Several marketing executives have informed me that they are excited about their new requisitions to hire social media experts for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other dances with the public. I’ve sent several back to the drawing board when I told them why I was quite sure that their strategy would fail.
A few things: One: These are not small companies. Two: Nothing personal, but these companies do not understand social media. Three: as a good friend reminded me this is all too new – there are no experts.
Like many people, these executives know this social media stuff is big and they need to get there and be seen, or just try to sell there. And who knows how to use this stuff better than kids just out of college. Any college. Perhaps with the possible exception of Wossamotta U of Rocky and Bullwinkle fame. If you “get” that joke, you are in serious danger of hiring the wrong person. If you don’t get the joke or are really bored, click here.
While it’s true that many kids understand social media and can navigate these sites with ease and share information, they still don’t understand how business works. Making them responsible for the program and having them report to someone who likely does not understand social media at all will serve nobody’s interest.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve know a few 20-somethings who do get business and social media – and have experience. They also know better than to settle for an entry level position.
It may sound like a great idea to have one of those low payroll positions for something “kids like to do anyway,” but you are seriously missing the point. They are speaking for your company on the world wide stage.
Would you send an intern to present at a major conference on behalf of your company?
And why not? Is it because a senior person understands the business, the people, how to address a CxO level audience, how to protect trademarks and the company’s intellectual capital? Is it because they can spot opportunities and connect with that person to develop a business relationship?
Today, failure to communicate properly can make the company look bad – no–look awful. A bad mistake can make it around the world and even splash into traditional media in a matter of minutes.
That is why your social media director or chief listener should be a senior person. They know that there should be more listening than speaking. How do you listen and for what do you listen? Depending on your goals, listening for comments about your company and products, your suppliers, competitors and the industry as a whole can be useful. Your social media person must have the business “chops” to know what tools to use and what to do with the information to make it actionable. They must also have a way to quantify and trend the data to spot emerging customer needs and attitudes. If you are an international company, you need to decide how many languages must be understood. The list goes on and on, because you are dealing with people both individually and as a group.
Word of mouth is the new television.
When you hear something positive or negative about your product or company, you can engage the person to thank them or to set the record straight – assuming you don’t come off too creepy. And when you’re wrong, apologize. If you’ve built your base well, hundreds of people and their friends will support you, and that can drown out a lot of noise.
Doing this all comes back to having an experienced person in social media and business at the same meetings that your decision makers attend. The senior management team must be trained by the social media lead as well because guess what: business schools can’t cover emerging technology quick enough.
So this person must be a teacher, a listener and learner, a diplomat and have a firm understanding of business and your business AND must also know marketing and social media. What happens if they don’t have all these elements? Perhaps this was best answered by Borris Badenov, “You know how I always am honeybun, always destroying things, breaking them, smashing them up.”
That isn’t a good social media strategy.
There is a lot of work that can be done. While you’re creating these new jobs, maybe make an entry level job for the social media assistant. After all, those kids can sure use social media.
As the narrator of Rocky and Bullwinkle, William Conrad may say: Don’t miss next week’s exciting adventure, “Social Meatier” or “I Twittered Away My Failed Whale at Sam Clams Disco.”