Social Media Blowback

Social Media Blowback

If you’re talking about social media these days, you’re starting the conversation at a disadvantage. Today terms like demand generation and inbound marketing are much better marketing banners to fly on your LinkedIn profile or on your resume. Digital marketing is the old school title, but it’s still a good one. Perhaps just Marketing, that’s pretty boring and generic. What’s so special about social media? And what has soured in the marketing field that has depreciated the “social media strategist” title?

Let’s do a quick search on Indeed and see what types of roles are available in social media.

That looks okay. Two senior titles and 5 functional titles. Okay, now let’s look at the salary ranges, here in Austin, Texas, the hub of tech and marketing strength.

 

Now this is only an estimate. When the company does not list a salary range, Indeed attempts to guess, often with very poor results. This summer as I was on my interview warpath the hiring managers often laughed when I mentioned Indeed’s estimated salary. Often the number was off by at least $15,000. And unfortunately, the top two senior titles, “Social Media Manager” and “Social Media Director” often are the higher end jobs and they rarely list salaries. So, in my estimation this salary estimate range is way to high. Of the 24 jobs that are showing up at $100,000+ I’d be willing to bet that all of them are “estimates.” And all of them are on the high side of the estimate. But it is good to see 319 jobs in the field, however obvious it is that over half of them are below $60.000 to start. That’s a fine starting salary, but if you are experienced and looking for the more senior positions you can see how few jobs there are and all those people willing to work for $40,000 are going to be applying for all of the higher jobs as well. The problem is the demand for the social media position is fairly low compared to the availability of candidates.

Notice I didn’t say “qualified” candidates. And that’s part of the problem. Everyone does social media. Do you have a Facebook account? You’re experienced at social media. It’s the desktop publishing of the internet: free, easy, ineffective. Well, it’s ineffective when approached haphazardly. And most companies are still dabbling in social. They are putting up Facebook pages and yet 74% of the time not responding to questions on their Facebook page. Or they are setting up a Twitter account, because someone told them to, and tweeting about 20 times and giving up. As a random strategy, social media is awful. And that’s part of the problem. 1. Social media is free to set up; 2. Social media is expensive to manage and deploy; 3. Social media strategy is trial and error, and often more error than trial; 4. It can be difficult to establish a clear ROI with social media efforts.

Social media is a perfect storm for failure. Have an ad hoc team do some social marketing. Loosely plan the content around an event or trade show. Blast out a bunch of content, create a bunch of “activity” in LIKES and SHARES. And… Nothing.

If the return on investment is not obvious and immediate most small and medium businesses will abandon social media like a failed advertising campaign. And we’ve done it to ourselves, to some extent. As an evangelist of social marketing, we’ve oversold the promise. We’d guaranteed results where no direct “click to buy” links were in the model. We’ve sold social media to promote everything from dry cleaning to pizza to teeth whitening services. And since it’s so easy to get started, everyone has dabbled in social a little bit. And it’s the dabbling that gets us all in trouble.

When you set up a Facebook page or a Twitter account for a business you need to have a very clear action plan and very clear goals. And even when you have those things in place, you need a commitment of time and money to support and grow the social media reach. Finally, without measurement, social media really is like snake oil, it’s hard to tell if the tweets are making the marketing better or worse if you can’t measure their impact.

Okay, so let’s say we’ve got all the working parts in order, and we’ve got the team and we’ve got the commitment from the upper office to go for it. There are still a tremendous number of misses that could be ahead.

Social is fast: If you only check in on your Facebook page weekly you’re going to miss a lot of opportunities for conversations. If you look at your weekly Google Analytics to discuss and discover new ideas to try, you’re going to miss some of the trends that have spiked and finished before you even noticed the blip in your metrics. If you want to rely on dashboards and automated processes to give you insights and ideas, you’re going to get bored and stall out fairly quickly. Social moves at the speed of the Tweet. Breaking events, maybe events that are related to your business or important to your customers, happen in minutes and hours not weeks. Your social media team has to be in listening and responding mode most of the time. And that’s the part of the social media process that can be under served when “social” is merely tacked on to someone’s existing job responsibilities.

And it’s hard to show measurable results from most social media efforts. Sure, if you’re a coupon site it’s easy: you tweet a link, you count the clicks on the link, and you count the number of coupons that were redeemed. But most business doesn’t work quite like that.

Social is complex: The traditional marketing spend-to-revenue model doesn’t apply to social marketing. While the VP of Marketing would like you to estimate your results, linking up a Facebook post with a sale a week later is pretty hard to do. If you’re not a click-to-buy e-commerce company the tracking down of a WIN is harder than opening Google Analytics or placing appropriate tagged links. Many times tracking a sale back to social media is more like forensics. And sometimes the sales cycle is longer and more complex, and in those cases the “results” for your social media campaigns will be suspect. The CFO wants to see bottom-line results. The VP of Marketing wants to know what you’ve been doing and when he can get his “results” slide for his meeting with the CFO.

Anyone can do social: If you have your executive assistant tweeting every day about some company win, you’re social program is doomed. Social requires constant attention and frequent changes. Someone, perhaps a consultant at first, needs to be focused on social marketing for your company, if you are planning on showing some results.

And this is where we come back around to some of the problems. 1. If social media is staffed by new graduates who have played with Facebook and Twitter while in college, they are quickly going to run out of ideas for how to drive business with the social channels. 2. If the senior leadership positions in social media are flooded with resumes from the beginners, it’s going to be harder to identify the experienced leaders who can actually help grow those enthusiasts into sharp digital marketers. 3. Social media is 10% of the marketing mix and often businesses can’t sustain or afford a “social media” department. 4. Execution is critical and if you can’t commit to staffing your Twitter/Facebook programs don’t launch them. 5. You need an expert at analytics who can track and measure all the social programs and report them all the way down to sales-impact. Without that you social marketing department is going to be short-lived.

Yes, social is awesome, but everyone is doing it. To stand out in social marketing you have to plan, execute, and measure your efforts in a way that the c-suite will understand your value. 7-out-of-10 responses I got this summer in my job search were, “You resume looks ‘too social’ for this position. Get your experience across the spectrum of digital marketing tools. Understand the fundamentals of marketing and online marketing in particular. Then apply social media in a measured and clear approach. And try, fail, try succeed, try, fail, and keep going.

Social media is a process that interweaves with all of digital marketing. Taken alone, as your primary skill set or objective, it might weaken your value proposition when looking for a new position. And know that when you do apply, those 300 lesser experienced “social media strategists” are putting their expertise in right next to yours. Stack up by showing results, showing innovative ideas, and proving you can execute to a plan.

@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)
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