I don't have to tell you how the word "expert" is just a tad over used. You are probably cynical about social media experts without any help from me, but putting the snarky comments and jabs aside, let's talk about this seriously as I have some important points of considerations for you.
An expert is someone that has mastered a topic and/or specialty. So while the world of social media continues to evolve, how can one accomplish mastery of something that isn't done evolving?
Change is inevitable. Heard that before? Well, it is just the beginning of the year and already there are some dramatic changes unfolding in social media. We have a potential game changer lingering from the end of the past year and already 2012 has seen some interesting announcements.
The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) "bill would authorize the U.S. Department of Justice to seek court orders against websites ... infringing on copyrights, or of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement." After delivering a court order, the U.S. Attorney General could require US-directed internet service providers, ad networks, and payment processors to suspend doing business with sites found to infringe on federal criminal intellectual property laws. I am not a legal expert, but I do so see this having major ramifications on social media and the way content is shared.
Google Search+ inserts relevant listings from individuals in your social circles (posts, comments, pictures, etc.) at the top of a search listing. This changes the relevance of both search and social media. I expect more changes to come as the banter (and possibly legal action) regarding Google's limited inclusion to Google assets gets debated and mediated. (Also see "Why Google's Search+ Is a Bigger Deal than You Think.")
Also, the number of social channel introductions (i.e. Pinterest), merger and acquisitions (i.e. Facebook acquiring Gowalla), and platform leadership changes (i.e. so many catching up to Radian6 social media monitoring and surpassing functionality), and you can quickly see that the world of social media and how brands leverage social media continue to morph at a swift rate.
So while your "social person" may not be an expert because of the dynamic nature of the social media world, their effectiveness is directly related to their passion, ability, and commitment to not only follow the new shiny objects, but keep up with best practices and legislation as well. I spend a minimum of three hours every day just keeping up on the industry and learning from others and there is still so much more to learn. It is irresponsible and downright stupid for someone to stop their social education and think they are an expert. The successful social media strategist continues to seek out information, absorb, and learn.
Further examination reveals another extremely important factor when assessing who sets and implements your social media strategy. First, the individual or agency must have solid business and marketing experience. They must have a track record of integrating social creativity and management to the existing business climate and brand marketing. Far too often, social media responsibility is placed in the hands of an internet whiz lacking other relevant business experience.
It is important to make a realistic assessment. First, start with set, defined objectives. Then determine your resource and sourcing needs to accomplish the objectives based on appropriate experience and manpower requirements.
A few months ago, I wrote an article "3 Helpful Tips when Hiring for Social Media." There is good information there for social media candidates and companies looking to hire their own resources and/or agency support. But the three suggestions amount to:
- Simply Show You Are Social - the responsible individual(s) should be highly engaged in various social media platforms in their personal life
- Know What You Are Looking For - have stated objectives and be able to evaluate the degree to which your social resource can deliver
- Connecting Social Media to Business Objectives - as previously stated, be sure there is not a gap in the ability of your social leader bridge business/marketing objectives to social implementation and success
This is the year to make it happen. To go beyond "we're doing social" to "we are seeing measureable results from our social." It starts with having the right people. Maybe not a social media expert, yet, but definitely a leader that gets it ... gets business, gets marketing, gets social, and has passion, interest, and drive to constantly learn and turn measureable results.
Make It Happen!