I have mentioned this in presentations and on Twitter, but I felt it needed a blog post as well. I have been involved in social media for about the last 5 years. I have seen it grow from its infancy to a powerful communications and engagement medium. I have seen companies come and go and I have seen mega-brands created almost overnight. In my 16 years as a marketer, this is, by far, the most exciting and compelling trend to happen in marketing.
However, social media has spawned a not so pleasant side effect: so-called “social media marketers”. What I am referring to are the hordes of techies who figure out how to blog, podcast, or use social networks to build a certain following and then start billing themselves out as “experts”. How many “internet marketing experts” or “social media experts” have you seen boasting about their capabilities in their Twitter profiles or on their blogs? In a very short period of time (5 years) an entire service industry has been spawned by former engineers, unemployed college students, ex-sales people, high-school drop-outs, and housewives who are now marketing “experts”. Yeah, doesn’t make sense to me either.
One so-called expert posted a press release about how so incredibly awesome he was at social media. He has been getting coverage all over the social media networks, except it is as “The Biggest Douche in Social Media.”
If you remember nothing else from this post, remember this one key fact: there is a difference between users of social media and social media marketers. To give you an example, I know how to use Photoshop. Been using it for about 10 years to do little tasks here and there. I even delve into bigger projects occasionally and took a class on it at a local training facility. However, just because I know how to use Photoshop or Illustrator or Quark doesn’t make me a graphic designer. A designer has training and experience in colors, shapes, and the emotions of good design. The software he uses are just the tools.
The same holds true of marketers. Social media can be extremely powerful, but the rules of marketing still hold true. While social media may be replacing advertising as the communication vehicle, you still need to position, differentiate, and build an integrated communication plan. I have found that those who most ridicule the educated and experienced marketers as being “out of touch” with how marketing works today are those without an education and without experience. True, there are many marketers who are not keeping up with the changing nature of communications, by my prediction is that those who succeed long term in social media will be the classic marketers who learn how to adapt to the new realities of how consumers like to be communicated to. The Internet bubble burst because the realities of business had not, in fact, changed, only the delivery vehicle had. The same holds true for social media; the core principles of marketing have not changed, only the engagement vehicle has.
Are there social media marketers? Of course there are, and many of them are extremely effective. However, don’t believe every “expert” who tells you they can get you to the Top of Twitter or can build you a giant following on Facebook and have that equate to increased sales. The principles haven’t changed, only the tools have.