The biggest problem with social media today (and how to turn it into an opportunity)
Once upon a time only a year or so ago it was still hard to convince senior managers and executives that social media was a real, viable and potentially lucrative channel to be operating in. There was so much fear, so much risk and so little understanding that it was just about impossible to get any budget for social activity. Thankfully this has changed quite substantially over the past 12 months so that now it’s these senior managers that are the ones urging for more social activity, having come to the belief that it is a magical platform that will almost instantly solve all their business problems. Or something.
That’s both good and bad – yes it’s great that most people these days acknowledge the importance of including social media as part of the marketing/comms mix – but at the same time they still don’t understand it – which means that they often have misleading expectations for what it can do (particularly in the beginning).
This is a problem – as many social media managers will attest – however it’s still not our greatest problem. What is the greatest problem? That, my friends, is what I am about to tell you about.
But first, let’s go back and think to ourselves… if just about everyone (including senior stakeholders) are accepting that social media is a must-have – and Facebook pages and Twitter accounts are being set up at a rate faster than French tunnel atom smashing, then why is it that so few companies are actually doing social media well?
Why, if we are all jumping in head-first to the deep depths of social media is it that most businesses (writing particularly from an Australian perspective here) are still essentially shit at doing it? What do you think the answer is? Your opinion realistically is moot, because I’m about to tell you the real answer, but I thought I’d give you an opportunity to reflect. Time is up.
The answer involves reluctance to dedicate real, substantial budgets to put towards social efforts, and also lack of integration and communication across business units – but the main issue, what I’m about to focus on is that there is hardly anyone who knows what they are doing. Yes it’s true that every manager and their dog wants to get involved with social media, but the problem is that there is no one properly equipped to look after it.
Anyone who has tried to hire a social media specialist/expert/guru/manager in recent times (esp in Australia) can testify – there is a SEVERE shortage of these people. This is because:
a) Universities are too slow to catch up and have only recently added social media to their curriculum, so no one is properly ‘trained’ in this field within the current workforce.
b) social media always gets pushed to the side in favour of other, more “crucial” marketing tactics like advertising campaigns, EDMs, PPC etc – this means that traditional marketeers are not able to properly immerse themselves in this field to become true experts.
c) to do social media well you really need to be a bit of an all-rounder. Not only is it crucial that you can spell, but you need to be good at marketing, strategy, analytics, reporting, customer service, communication… and also be able to keep a cool head at all times while dealing well with stress. Clearly there are few people in the world that satisfy all of these things (of which, quite clearly, I am one :)) and trust me when I say, you do not want to hire the wrong person for this role. Never has there been a role that is so visible and accountable – one wrong move and you’re on the front page of the paper with headings like ‘social media disaster’ ‘#fail’ etc – not a nice feeling.
d) training and knowledge is only so much – you really, really need to be properly strategic to get social media and this – unfortunately – is a rare trait.
e) a community manager does not a social media manager make – just about anyone with a friendly disposition and the ability to spell can manage a social media community – it’s not hard. What is hard is coming up with the wider overarching strategy across all your business functions – from insights to corporate affairs to PR to marketing to customer service and recruitment and being able to manage campaigns, agencies stakeholders, glean insights from monitoring and establish the right feedback process to translate these to actionable improvements…. etc etc. Having someone who is good at replying to posts on your Facebook page is very different from having someone who gets all that other stuff.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking – well if I can’t get anyone good I’ll just hire an agency and outsource this stuff. Great idea – except for the fact it’s a really, really terrible idea. Give me an agency that really knows what it’s doing on social media. I cannot think of one. NOT EVEN ONE!! They are just as clueless as your dog because they don’t have anyone who knows what they are doing either! What they do have is an insatiable desire to make more money from you, which they will gladly relieve you of while implementing a half-thought-through ‘exciting’ ‘first in [your country]’ campaign that doesn’t have the right user experience, costs you half your marketing budget and fails to really achieve any of your objectives (though rest assured some pretty presentation will try and convince you otherwise). Anyway I’m not going to focus too much on my complete cynicism towards agencies as I’ve already ranted about this years ago in a Digital Ministry post entitled Why your agency might be sabotaging your social media strategy but suffice it to say they rarely have a clue either. And to be fair, it’s not really their fault because they have the same problem as most other businesses – they can’t actually find anyone who knows what they are doing.
So this is all very defeatist, and most likely a slight exaggeration – but what it does do is present a mammoth opportunity for the right people to delve into this industry and take up social media as a full-time career. Please. The world needs more people who really understand social media – and not just at a community management level – so that we can see more and more successful and impressive social campaigns that are not just reserved for the top tier enterprise businesses who have millions to throw at it. So quit your job, do my ‘how to become a social media expert’ webinar, subscribe to a bunch of social media blogs and start doing it. Today.
Lastly – if you are one of the approximately 204.2 people in the world that does have a clue, can you please get in touch with me, so that we can build a job referral network, because I’m sick of having no one to recommend for the litany of job ads that are sent to my inbox every day.