Warning: The Social Media “Guru”

courtesy of communications catalyst

courtesy of communications catalyst

Recently, there seems to be a coincidental alignment between reality and theory.  In this case, the topic of social media “gurus” was being discussed around our social and professional circles when I ran across several other blog posts that seemed to align exactly with the content of our debates.  And so, it seems, a good topic to bring to this blog.

With the decline in the job market, self-promotional tools and schemes have proliferated.  I can’t count the number of “get rich on Twitter” or “make money on Facebook” programs that have been pitched my way in recent months.  Along with those programs seemed the rise of the “social media guru” – an obvious attempt for some to brand themselves in a new marketing sector while they continued to struggle with today’s economic decline.

While I enjoy participating in the social media sphere, and encourage our clients to strategize their engagement – I’m no social media expert.  As the face of these marketing channels literally change on a daily basis, I’m wary of anyone who might be so bold as to say they are on top of all it’s rapidly changing facets and nuances.

If you’re in marketing or are marketing your brand, your budget has likely been cut, staff has departed or been reassigned, and the pressure to produce sales from a dwindling market has increased.  Producing qualified leads is still very possible today – converting those prospects from “fence sitters” to buyers is an entirely different challenge.  New sales goals, reduced marketing budgets, and increased expectations have challenged us all to apply more creativity and sound strategy to the brands we know and love – and especially to those that aren’t entirely transparent to the target audience.  What then, given these new circumstances, is a good marketer to do?

Some have turned to social media as the cure-all in hopes that the inexpensive promise of reaching new prospects is well worth the time and investment dedicated to Facebook, Twitter, and a host of other potential market channels.  My inbox is flooded daily with new strategies and “opportunities” to use these free channels to maximize what remaining budgets any client may have.  Yet the challenge remains – just where do you start?  And how do you measure ROI?

Having conducted a few seminars for interested entreprenuers, I can tell you they all share that very frustration.  Often, they’ll throw their hands up, realizing they don’t possess the time or expertise to start a campaign with any strategy and turn outward for help in the “free social media” sphere.  Just Google or check LinkedIn for “social media expert” – then stand back for a glut of referrals to a wide variety of companies and individuals.  Do you hire a big agency?  A one-man-shop?  How do you know who is really worth the investment?

And given the dour economy – many people jump in without much investigation, in hopes of moving to any type of response sooner than later.

Then I ran across a great blog post by Eric Weaver at Brand Dialogue, who clearly outlined some very basic considerations I think each of us would be smart to help guide the decision process.  I’ve recounted them here for your review:

1. Engage a consultant that shares a “media-agnostic perspective”. It’s not the tools that create results – as much as we may love them…it’s the strategy and messaging that will ultimately win the game for any brand.  Ask the consultant how they fit into the marketing mix that includes the tried-and-true traditional channels.  If the response is all about the tools – keep looking.

2. Seek a marketer, not a “techy”. We marketers see these tools in terms of brand, outreach, dialogue…and most importantly, trust.  Technologists often think they understand these integral parts of brand strategy…but more than often…they don’t.   Seek  marketers who have embraced and utilized social tools as part of overarching awareness, conversion or loyalty campaigns – they get it, and can guide you to success overall.

3. Look for quality… not quantity of clients – not followers. Cult followings of people who are similarly enamored by the technology follow those of the same type – and they’re not reaching new markets that can help your brand. Don’t mistake online popularity or digital verbosity with expertise – they are far from the same thing.

4. Look for selflessness rather than self-interest. Consultant relationships can go well – or wrong.  Don’t engage anyone who might turn on you and use you as an example of what not to do.  A good consultant will champion and advocate for their client brands without regard for their own personal growth or online positioning.  Beware the “hangers-on” who are focused on a steady stream of work than deploying the right strategy for your brand.

5. Demand evidence of commitment. Look for testimonials and absolute proof positive that this “guru” has consistently produced for people and brands like yours.

6. Look for final products, and ask them to fully disclose their role. Find out exactly what that consultant has done for any client, and ask for an example of that specific work.  Too often, we see big claims for campaigns from someone who has only taken a small role in the development of the strategy.

Yes…it’s difficult to find the right social media mix and help for your brand in today’s market.  But take the time to vet any consultant who offers their help – no matter how inexpensive or great the claims may be.  Beware the technologist who talks a good game, but is actually learning how to market at your expense.

I’d really like to hear more about the successes and failures we’re encontering in this new field of consulting – and help our clients find the best solution for their social media campaigns with the right mix of talent, strategy and messaging.

What experiences have you had in this area recently?

4 Responses to “Warning: The Social Media “Guru””

  1. Amy Says:

    Great points.

    I have listened to a few free webinars from hubspot.com and am really impressed with their ability to actually measure ROI. They are worth checking out and have established their credibility, I feel. I’m not affiliated in any way with them, but I’m sure impressed.

    • Larry DeVincenzi Says:

      Agreed Amy. I follow Hubspot all the time, and they always provide solid, smart content. I really consider them an online marketing firm, rather than what I was referring to here – the individual that’s out to make money while the topic is hot. There are good ones for sure, and I’m happy to be able to work with them. But along with the popularity of social media comes a few individuals who sell it as the “end all” to marketing…and in my opinion, that’s not helpful to the client.

      Thanks for your thoughts on this one!

  2. Mike Volpe - HubSpot Says:

    Glad you guys are fans of HubSpot! We do our best to provide a lot of value in our free content, and make our software as valuable as possible to our 1,300+ customers.

    I also agree there are many scammers out there that have no idea what they are talking about. In fact, many of these “gurus” attend our “social media 101” webinar to learn about social media in the first place…

  3. social networking web design Says:

    i LOVE hubspot..i also have a 30 day free trial if any one is interested.

    all the best and looking forward to meeting you next week.

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