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Social media professionals: worth their weight or a waste of time?

I read the twitter discussion last week around whether social media was better if you were a ‘pro’ or a ‘novice’ with a lot of interest. The original article, from a marketing recruitment company, unsurprisingly argued that hiring a professional marketeer would produce better social marketing results than entrusting the corporate Twitter account to just ‘anyone’. Opinions were shared.

The best way to start is probably to disclose our (limited) vested interest in this. We do offer social media as part of our marketing service. Rarely, if ever, do we offer social media as a stand alone service.

The above leads me in nicely to how we see social media as a whole and why, to a point, I am in agreement with that individual idea from the original article. Social media, like any marketing communications channel, is something that will benefit from having a strategy or a plan. Furthermore: it will benefit businesses more from being part of a strategy or plan.

How can it help you to get your wider message out there? How can it integrate with existing messages? How do you balance the informal nature of social media with the formal strategy you pursue as a business? Are you just on social media to network and build relationships or are you looking to build credibility and add value to your target market?

These are the points that people may struggle to grasp. Social media can be easy and running an engaging Twitter account is one thing. Creating a marketing strategy and ensuring social is part of that strategy, which ultimately governs how your firm is seen by the outside world, is quite another.

There will always be exceptions to that statement. In reading the background to this discussion, I was reminded of Pete Matthew’s article on marketing from last year. The discussion earlier in the week on twitter involved a group of people who are all active on social media and, like Pete, they sell themselves well in a variety of ways and on a variety of platforms. For them it is natural and authentic: it doesn’t come quite so easily to many.

Rory McIllroy was naturally gifted at golf as a young man and probably didn’t need lessons to beat the other members of his local club. I’m afraid that doesn’t go for all of us.

SMEs and big corporates in particular, a group which the original EMR article makes reference to, are struggling to see how social fits into their marketing mix. Social media is authentic, open and transparent, companies are traditionally closed, controlled and risk averse. The two don’t naturally fit. It’s the same with people – for some it comes easily, for others it doesn’t.

The answer in this regard is not to leave it to just ‘anyone’ who might be willing to give it a go. Social needs to be part of these firm’s wider strategy and to have some important controls and support functions organised. It’s vital to remember that, without planning, social can be something that goes wrong too.

For smaller firms, just getting started with social, the golf analogy holds firm. I’m sure even those great at social media now once ‘hacked’ and ‘sliced’ a little at social when they started (I’m sure I did, and still do whenever I join a new network). Perhaps that’s fine for some firms, or perhaps a lesson – or some guidance, or a plan – might help them to hit the greens with more regularity.

A professional at anything – golf, social media, marketing, financial planning, plumbing – can help you to perform a task in their area of expertise better and with more accuracy. It doesn’t always mean that they are needed, all of the time, by everyone. Sometimes, they are needed by ‘anyone’.

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