Social Media Experts: In the Paleolithic Era Where Tools Are Just Now Emerging

The question of whether someone can be a social media expert truly pivots on a few issues — at least in my mind:[unordered_list style=”bullet”]

  • Best practices. At this point, not enough data exists to suggests a definitive list of best practices for social media overall.
  • Inclusion of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. In my opinion, the answer to this question must be “yes.”
  • Quantifiable, reproducible financial results — no matter the industry. With e-mail marketing, web marketing and traditional marketing, these efforts proved a defined return on the investment.

[/unordered_list]Certainly, time and study will clarify these issues. As Shel Holtz and I discuss the issue of expertise, he likes to cite certain communications professionals as proof of social media experts. I have no doubt at all that he and many others deserve respect for their years of hard work in communication, blogging, etc. But with the advent of social media a few years ago, we cannot simply add “social media expert” to our resume and expect the marketing world to bow down to worship.

More and more of the bottom-line business people are finding that removing social media from the equation doesn’t make a change to the financial bottom line. This is a mistake of the so-called experts (or better yet, “fauxperts“) hired in the initial thrust.

For the expert argument, Mr. Holtz and others like to hang onto blogging as the granddaddy of social media. My argument is without Facebook and Twitter, social media as its own category doesn’t exist. Blogging became categorized at a corporations within the public relations section and, largely, was seen as a way to influence other influential bloggers and online news outlets. This doesn’t belittle the work. It’s simply a fact.

Any journalism, public relations or communications student coming out of a university now will speak of the blogging classes.

Social media as a category truly emerged with the advent of Facebook and Twitter. Blogging slipped in — slightly — since Twitter is considered micro-blogging. However, Twitter itself is a common platform. When I write on Mr. Holtz blog, I don’t get the same status, outlet or prominence. It’s Mr. Holtz’s blog. He determines whether my content appears — as with every other blog. I am at liberty to create my own blog, as I have done. But it’s not within the same equalizing plane that Twitter brings to the game of social media.

Twitter itself, by its own platform, facilitates a kind of equilibrium. Each user is given a voice. No user must create good search engine optimization or add keyword indexes. While one can decorate the account a bit, the changes lack the level of impact layout and design does on a website in a blog. No domain or hosting need be purchased. Twitter, itself give one a forum, free of charge.

Facebook and Twitter require different strategy, as I wrote. Mr. Holtz suggested the word I meant was “tactics.” I meant “strategy.”

[wiki]Strategy[/wiki] is “a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal” that “will rarely be successful if it shows no adaptability.” Further, “strategy is distinct from tactics” (all quotes from Wikipedia.org).

“[wiki]Tactics[/wiki] are at once both a science and an art.” Tactics are operationally how to achieve the strategy.

I meant what I wrote. I don’t mean to make any assumptions, but I sense Mr. Holtz might come from a communication direction rather than marketing and advertising. As a former journalist, I comprehend the differences, but I think the lofty measures of communication might be lost on the business need of marketing/advertising.

To further explain, Mr. Holtz suggests that I fail to comprehend the tasks of a communication team at a corporate level. Mr. Holtz writes, “Public relations (as opposed to marketing and advertising) has ALWAYS been about two-way communication.”

My perspective comes from a narrow interpretation of how two-way communication works. In the mind of the journalist, he or she speaks for the “people.” It’s the “Fourth Estate” argument. Prior to social media, that might have held water, but in today’s world, it can’t. So as the PR professional provides information to the journalist and the journalist writes his or her piece, this is an extraordinarily narrow two-way. In fact, it’s so narrow, I can’t count it. Essentially, the PR professional and journalist work together to provide information out to the “people, ” readers or audience.

While news websites now allow for the readers and people to provide feedback, the communication loops isn’t one that allows for true discussion. If a reader has a question for the CEO of the company, the response likely won’t happen.  In fact, I guarantee you it likely won’t unless some PR flak sees a huge upside for the corporation.

When it comes to judging the ROI, Mr. Holtz writes in his response to me that, “Companies like Radian6 are constantly updating and tweaking the analytics used to support some of those assessments. The body of literature companies can apply to their evaluation efforts continues to grow.”

In other words, no universal measurements exist. It’s too darn early. We’re in the [wiki]Paleolithic[/wiki] era of social media, where the most primitive of tools are emerging.

We will have experts, eventually. Just not now. Not yet.

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Michael Cheek

With more than 20 years of communication experience, Michael Cheek offers solid marketing expertise, especially in the digital frontier. He currently resides in Georgia but he's open to relocate anywhere the opportunities take him. Learn more at http://MichaelCheek.com. You can follow him on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/MichaelCheek and see more about his professional experience at http://LinkedIn.com/in/MichaelCheek. Reach him via e-mail at mcheek@gmail.com.

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