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January 24, 2011

Is there a market for a social media consultant marketing RatKiller 3.0?

A writer at LinkedIn posed the question: “Will businesses pay to have a social media consultant manage their Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc…In my opinion, most business owners don’t have a clue where to start regarding social media and mobile text advertising. Dan Hughes

Before we start with a precis of certain opinions on the subject, it may well be worth reading an article on The Guardian website, which headlined as: “Social networking under fresh attack as tide of cyber-scepticism sweeps US” where it is argued that: “The way in which people frantically communicate online via Twitter, Facebook and instant messaging can be seen as a form of modern madness, according to a leading American sociologist…A behaviour that has become typical may still express the problems that once caused us to see it as pathological,” MIT professor Sherry Turkle writes in her new book, Alone Together, which is leading an attack on the information age.” For the full report, see http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jan/22/social-networking-cyber-scepticism-twitter.

Now, getting back to the debate on LinkedIn, I think, besides the “pathological” desire to be “connected” even at the most enduring moments of one’s life that it is extremely rare for senior management to understand the benefits and economics of SEM in organic search and how it can lead to extended market reach and more customers.

Too much of the time they seem to take the view that to increase revenue, or in a recession to maintain it, they need to fall back on the reliance of traditional media. The result of this is that migration languishes and profitability targets stagnate. We somehow need to convince them otherwise, but I would estimate that only 10% of my clients actually have an understanding of the mechanics and involvement in successfully promoting social media campaigns. SEO is a tricky enough subject to convey, but social media?

Selecting random posts to comment on, maybe it would be useful to loosely define what “social media” actually is. Let’s assume it means article writing, blogging/RSS, social bookmarking, maintaining Facebook pages, posting tweets, engaging in forums and creating videos/podcasts.

There were a number of responses to this: “Paul wrote that the “consultant” only has experience at a “surface level at best” and that there is “little substance to their consultancy other than how to create a Facebook fan page and Twitter account.” This I would mainly hold as true as a “consultant” is not a Jack of all trades but a master of some. Calling oneself a self-proclaimed “social media consultant”, which I onerously do, is tantamount to saying that I am a “web designer” when I use designers to design, programmers to program, coders to code and animators to animate.

I can write, sure, but am I a journalist that can back up my arguments by unique industry quotes? I can write searchable headlines but I’m not a qualified headline writer. I also cannot shoot professional video or write music. A guy called Yoav agreed with this lack of substance when he said that tweets and posts “are not enough” and that clients need someone that will “drive high quality traffic to your business”. He doubted that the “social marketing consultant” is qualified to do this.

I would have to disagree with this at some level as most of the onsite blogs I produce often produce far more site traffic than the site itself. As to the broadening of enquiries, well I doubt that, although it does a site’s rankings no harm.

Another argued that the key for any social media consultant is relieve business owners of the tasks “since they simply do not have the time”. Let’s add to that understanding, resources, commitment and ability. There’s a whole spectrum of content running in the social media construct, and it requires almost other-worldly skills to fully introduce its benefits to senior management when they offer opposition due to “the bottom line”.

This, of course, leads us on to money. Kate thought the “biggest obstacle” to social media consulting is being able to “prove the return on investment to managers”, and that “top executives [often] fail to understand the benefits”. Not only that but “ROI is very hard to measure and for that reason I think it will struggle as a stand alone outsourced marketing services function.”

Mashable wrote about the subject of ROI last year, saying: “Last month, we reported on a survey that found that 84% of social media programs don’t measure return on investment (ROI)…Companies and executives are finally beginning to really jump on the social media bandwagon, and that’s fantastic. However, for social media to fully work (for everyone), businesses and brands need to be able to evaluate the impact their social media use is having, both positive and negative. Measuring social media ROI isn’t impossible, but it can be difficult because many of the pieces that need to be evaluated are difficult to track.”

I’m not so sure this has changed that significantly and I think we need to be far clearer about what we mean by a “social media consultant” in that it defines a myriad of diverse skills. What I agree is the “biggest obstacle” is to convince management is that it’s not only ROI we are measuring but disseminating social messages and interacting with customers about products and services. This, I would argue, is achieved via distinct media that all comes within the ambit of the all-encompassing term “social media”.

My understanding of social media is just that, of communicating, rather than relying on mere economics alone. It is a new paradigm not exclusively modelled on the profit motive. That’s advertising’s job. But back to the original question: “Will businesses pay to have a social media consultant manage their Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.” An unqualified “yes” if the consultant knows their subject

But hold on a minute, let’s just take an extreme and hypothetical case of a company, PestStopper, that wants to engage in a social media experiment and is selling electronic rat killer online. We know that their extermination methods are top-notch but we also know that their English and the description of their product is shocking.

You are now employed to write a press release about PestStopper’s new and hyper-efficient RatKiller 3.0. There is no brochure to accompany the release and little can be gleaned from their website. So, you research other rat killing products on the web and make a stab at a press release. You post it on social media sites. Then, you set up a Facebook fan page. You post a brief summary about the company and its product. But who would wish to be a fan? And when you tweet, who will follow you?

There would probably be no issue following a company on Twitter that sells cute puppies, as is the case with ZeitGeistNews with 4,166 followers, but a company that sells electronic rat killer?

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V9 Design and Build (http://www.v9designbuild.com) produce tasteful web design in Bangkok, Thailand, including ecommerce shopping cart solutions, with functionality that allows owners to set up and maintain their online stores.

One Response to “Is there a market for a social media consultant marketing RatKiller 3.0?

    Don’t actually need a social media consultant to manage my different accounts as I can do that myself. No offense to all those individuals/firms who acquired services from this consultant anyways. But all they really needed was understand all the metrics & use those data to drive more customers & a have a higher market reach. A one time effort can & will generate a positive ROI for your online business.

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