Rockstar, expert, evangelist, strategist, thought leader: all overused terms that say nothing but “hey, check me out, I’m awesome.” Yesterday I laughed when I saw a post in a Linkedin Group. The Quickest Way to Become a Social Media Rockstar. Um… Wait a second. Let’s dig into this concept a bit.
Today social media is like desktop publishing was in the 9o’s and web design was in the 2000’s. Anyone can do it, the cost barrier to entry is low, and it’s easy to get set up and pitching for business. Everyone is a social media strategist. It’s probably the most overused title on Linkedin. And it’s meaningless. I’ve used it. I still use it. Job descriptions are full of Strategist titles. But it’s cliché and not very helpful in defining a role or responsibility.
We are all social media strategists. If you are reading this blog, you are a social media marketer/strategist/specialist. Congratulations. You are now fighting for ground on the same playing field as Chris Brogan, Malcolm Gladwell, and Seth Godin. All these programs claiming to set you up as a social media strategist leave out one really important part. The minute you hang up your shingle or mint your new certificate you are going to be in competition, not only with the person who wrote the course, but with me and all the strategists behind me. I’m sure you’ve got great ideas.
“Let’s collaborate and do some business together.” A phrase you are likely to hear but unlikely to fulfill. You see, at every level we are hawking our skills to say alive. The business climate not all that friendly to consultants or strategists. It’s okay, but it’s hard. I’m less likely to have enough business for myself. And while I’d love to pitch some business together, I’m more likely to try to win the gigs alone. Sure, if you’ve got some leads let’s do them together. But what’s your super skill again? Oh, social media… Um… Yeah…
Social media is a fraction of the digital marketing landscape. In the demand generation/biz dev toolbox, social media accounts for about 7% of the budget. (see: Death of the Social Media Strategist) So if you’re going to be “social media” specific, you’re going to need some real-world examples of what you’ve done, what kind of numbers you’ve achieved in driving business. And I’m letting you know it’s not going to come from Facebook activity or community management. The Return on social media comes from the sales of services and goods. That’s it. Got sales?
So the idea of becoming a social media rockstar is a bit daunting. Even for consultants who have years of experience with big clients like Microsoft, Intel, and Amazon, the “consultant” title is a bit of a handicap. The title with “social media” in it brings with it even more disadvantages. Let’s take the view of a Marketing Manager for a medium-sized business, and see how their needs match up with yours.
- Email marketing
- Google analytics
- Landing page optimization
- eCommerce/shopping cart fluency
+++ Your Social Tool Box
- Content Marketing (generating good sharable content and socializing it – show me a well-designed editorial content calendar you’ve built)
- Social Marketing (driving demand and engagement using the vertical channels – you know what those are, right?)
Is that a little clearer, about how the pigeon hole of “social” might be a limiting title when talking about the integrated digital marketing role? And then, even if you can up your game to rockstar status, you’re still going to be up against published consultants with years of examples and content calendars under their belts. So it’s a tough marketplace out there: first to convince a business that they need social media; second to convince them that you and your $1,000 per month budget are going to drive the same revenue as a $1,000 PPC spend on Google. The numbers are in Google’s favor every time. I’m sorry to break this to you.
And then we come to the Short Path to becoming a social media consultant. It’s a joke. There’s no short path. Can you build a robust Linkedin profile in six months? When you’re asked to show your portfolio of work, can you give examples of successes you’ve had? The rockstar is really not what they want anyway. What they want is R. And if you can’t show examples of how your work (hands-on work, btw) generated sales — numbers are better than fancy or creative descriptions–you’re not going to get very far.
So rip it up. Get after the social media marketplace and set up yourself as a social media strategist. I’m here to help where I can, as long as it means money or leads to me for my business. But get it straight that social is a small portion of the digital marketing landscape, and very few companies actually pay for social media by using outside resources. Today social media in the small to medium business is handled by existing staff who are also holding down other marketing tasks. And really, that’s the place to start. Get in the door. Do some work. Become an SEO specialist with some real numbers to back up your claims. And then DO social media.
That’s why I’ve stopped leading with social media. In fact in a lot of conversations I have to downplay the social and report on the other “hard” skills I have with email systems (drip campaigns, waterfalls, bounces, list building) or building Google AdWords campaigns. I love the 7% solution, it is what I evangelize too. But social media is not how I pay the bills, it’s how I open the doors.
And the Business Insider inclusion that helped. A lot! The Death of the Social Media Strategist – Business Insider