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Archive for February 25th, 2012

Beware those who call themselves “social media EXPERTS”

With all this talk of social media, I was reminded of an episode that occurred a year or so ago. I was invited to a “luncheon” that turned out to be nothing more than a thinly disguised sales presentation with a little serving of Vienna sausages. I am NOT exaggerating. More problematic than the food or the surprise sales pitch was the fact that the pitcher wasn’t very good at his service. Want to guess what his service was? Yeppers – social media.

This fledgling company was promising viral Internet penetration through the use of social media. But when I looked at the company’s own social media presence, I could hear crickets chirping. The only company on Twitter with a name even similar to theirs was in Australia; we’re in Phoenix. Nothing on YouTube. But they did have a Facebook page – with 10 “Likes.”

For a moderate fee, they were promising to not only manage my social media for me, but to also to help take me viral on the Web. As we noted the other day, it’s really difficult to manufacture viral.

The story gets better, though. When the presenter (and, I presume, head of the company) asked me if I was ready to sign up, I had to tell him honestly that I had some doubts. I’d checked his stats on three of the most visible SM platforms at the time, and the results were insignificant, at best. First, he insisted that I was looking at the wrong numbers. This was about viral influence, not just their statistics. “Really? But how can you influence anyone if you have only 10 followers?” No real answer for that one except to keep repeating that I just didn’t understand – and maybe they didn’t want me as a client anyway. “It’s by exclusive invitation, you know.” Next, he went home and unfriended me on Facebook. OK, then.

Here’s the thing. Would you use a dentist with bad teeth? Visit a hairdresser with terrible hair? Invest with a financial advisor who drove a beat-up jalopy? Probably not. We generally expect our experts to actually embody the product or service they’re selling. It’s one reason politicians who champion public schools and then send their kids for private education so often meet resistance. The message is incongruous with the messenger! In the same way, shouldn’t a social media company have proven a bit of savvy with the tools before offering their services to other people?

For a while there, it seemed every other person I met was adding “social media expert” to their list of skills and services. One guy on Twitter remarked, “That’s like saying you’re an expert at using the phone or sending an e-mail.” While that’s not exactly true – social media is still in its infancy and is morphing and growing daily – he does make a fair point. I think there are a rare few who can really call themselves social media experts. These are the people who are monitoring and measuring the trends, the ones who can tell us what’s coming up next while we’re still trying to master the last SM wave. They’re writing the blog posts I use as source material. And you know what else? They’re really in it – with lots of friends/followers/connections.

I honestly believe the thing that makes social media work is that it’s personal. Can you hire someone to be personal for you? Maybe. But they’ve got to know you and your book business really, really well. And then you’ve got to trust them. To speak for you. To write for you. To comment for you. To connect for you. To enhance and preserve your reputation for you. That’s a lot of trust.

Social media is a great way to shorten the sales cycle, take the temperature of your readers and followers, get to know new people, and generally make a name for yourself. I would think long and hard before deciding to outsource it, and then hire only someone with stellar references who’s been doing it well for a while.

Happy connecting!

Laura

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