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Online Media opinion

Social media 'experts'... copy that!

There has been a trend in the past few months for a multitude of small companies to pop up declaring expertise in social media. I'm starting to worry though. How many of these companies really understand the ins and outs of building (and maintaining) a brand?
It seems to me that a host of 20-somethings cottoned on to the idea that easy money could be made by feeding off small to medium enterprises. Approach the CEO, throw some marketing garble at him about target audiences, social media platforms, engaging with your audience and chuck in some "advancing technology" for good measure.

Bombard him with some Facebook statistics about the number of users around the world and then show him your twitter followers and describe how this is an indication of how you were able to utilise social media to build your personal brand.

Bam, client signed.

It's getting all too familiar.

Successful businessmen know a good thing when they see it and as we're all still waddling in unfamiliar territory they can be excused for having the wool pulled over their eyes. It frustrates me to no end that the current crop of "social media experts" are pushing content that tends to be plagiarised. They tout their business blogs as the "new age marketing 101 solution" and post witty adverts and Facebook timeline pictures. Yet they fail to credit the international marketing journal who ran an almost identical article two weeks before.

Wits... or halfwits?

Call them out on it and they shall break a sly smile, knowing that their target market doesn't have the time nor inclination to read said marketing journals and thus their "reputation" is safe. Their "personal brand" consists of some funny pictures shared and some crude jokes copied and pasted off another site, or copied from an American tweleb (twitter celeb for those not sure) who is in fact naturally witty and creating content as opposed to riding on the coat tails of someone else's imagination.

So what?

These "social media experts" could seriously damage your business reputation as well as their own. Do you really need to be paying someone R10 000 a month to manage your online presence? Who is this someone you're paying? Those are questions any business needs to start asking.

Here are a few more:
  • How much experience does this entity have in other marketing platforms? Any good marketing firm will know that social media can only work hand in hand with your current marketing strategy.
  • Can we eventually manage this in house? For SMEs there is no reason why you should not be able to eventually manage your online presence in house. Be wary of the man who tells you otherwise.
  • Ask to see the portfolio. A company that boasts a selection of clients or past work that you can look up and research should always be preferred over a company that only has their employees own "brands" featured in their portfolio.
  • Check for scandal. You'd be horrified at the number of "social media experts/specialists" making the online faux pas. Be careful that your business does not fall into the hands of someone who could potentially cause long lasting harm to your brand.
Ironically, the legitimate guys who have added social media to their list of marketing skills are not the ones touting retainer fees or monthly payments.

When it comes to social media for small to medium enterprises the "experts" (you can spot them easily, they refuse to call themselves social media experts) won't be attempting to snatch money out of your hands each month. They tend to suggest training for current staff and evaluations of existing platforms in operation. They offer suggestions, make tweaks and hold your hand through the process. Once you can happily walk through the new online territory they hang around to catch you when you fall.

Eventually you wonder off and are able to negotiate the jungle alone, just fine.
    
 

About Samantha Wright

Samantha Wright currently manages the marketing portfolio of an international engineering firm while also consulting and freelancing for niche market SMEs in the brand journalism and content marketing fields. Her passion lies in giving people the tools to "do it themselves". Before she fell into marketing she dabbled in media - from PR to sub-editing the news bulletins at YFM. Contact details: cell +27 (0)82 554 9681 | email | Twitter @IAmSamW
Richard Simmonds
I totally agree with you Samantha, the average 'social media expert' is no more than a web designer who realized that there is no money in designing websites and doing SEO, so going to the 'social media' arena has enabled them to get some work, but at the expense of the user and even worse at the expense of their personal brand.
Posted on 14 Aug 2012 14:29
Arthur Charles Van Wyk
Hey. Are you able to cite one or two examples of glorified web designers in the South African digital space please? Very curious.
Posted on 15 Aug 2012 08:03
Martin Hugo
I see so many websites with insubstantial articles written by copywriters following a keyword density formula, and then think to myself, fine, they get the user to the page, but once he or she is there, what will they be reading and will they return? It's one thing if a company can get you hits, but if they don't convert to sales it's useless. Great article.
Posted on 14 Aug 2012 14:41
Arthur Charles Van Wyk
I'm not sure social media is really a conversion mechanism. Conversion is YOUR job as the business owner. Social platforms and channels merely serve to render a company, brand, product or service findable and draws prospects into the sales or marketing funnel. And that is where your conversion strategy should kick in.

Too many of us assume social media marketing is a silver bullet. It is not.
Posted on 15 Aug 2012 08:01
Mike Taberner
Great piece, speaks to the reality that marketing professionals are being led around by the noses, when it comes to the "social spaces"
Posted on 14 Aug 2012 14:45
Rob Campbell
Valid argument, well expressed. Thank you.
Posted on 14 Aug 2012 15:02
Dianne Bayley
Great piece. No marketing experience, no "guru". Marketing experience at 20? Not so much . . .
Posted on 14 Aug 2012 15:20
Yumna Titus
Great insights Samantha and makes total sense.
Posted on 14 Aug 2012 15:41
Shaun Wilson
Haha, so true.. as soon as I hear the word specialist or expert i think... Specialist/Expert at bulls$%^
Posted on 14 Aug 2012 16:06
Kagiso Mutlaneng
Great article. But target shouldn't just be made towards
younger "guru's" only as I'm younger and have lost plenty of accounts to "older", vastly experienced guys who are great at spinning a sales angle and diddly squat social media experience. Facebook launched fan pages circa 2008 or late 2007 (can't really remember), and these were glorified profile pages for celebrities to use back then. This year alone I personally have seen more than 100 competitors pop up from nowhere and claim social media experience, now this gives the average social media agency around 5 years of experience right (3 I can actually say you actually know what you doing)? It's actually become harder for guys like myself to sell social media strategies at the end of the day because I'm perceived too "young" to know anything. I agree with the article almost entirely until where it seems to promote "older is always better with this one" which I don't agree with, but to each his/her own. BTW I'm in my late 20's now so not in the early 20's as most might believe. As Martin put it, if something as simple as identifying key performance areas or reporting CPA can't be addressed with any agency, you being duped. finish and klaar!

If you being sold any social media service with the words "we want to provide you with this cool/great..." instead of something that solves a problem for you, you being screwed. Could be a young guy with a mohawk the size of a truck tire, or a "professional" with the last 2 strands of black hair on his head.

Sorry for the anon post above, BC wouldn't connect to LinkedIn on Opera
Posted on 14 Aug 2012 16:28
Neil Duly
I like to play Devil's advocate sometimes, this isn't an exception.

While I agree, I have to say I see this happen with a few companies. People with no experience in some fields start and then make things happen. I have a neighbor that was a baker who started a car wash, now he has 3 "stores" and has started importing machines so that he can service corporate clients. Steve Jobs wasn't exactly an ex-IBM man that went rogue.

Some of these guys might have great ideas and insights that can change our world and actually be great value to clients. And they might be able to help small businesses with less demanding strategies.

In my experience customers that choose the wrong supplier learn their lesson and eventually see the value in reputable providers - "once bitten, twice shy". I can guarantee you they will come back after poor results and find value if these other "agencies" are poor.

ALSO, consider that digital jobs are hard to get and entry level jobs don't pay very well. Necessity being the mother of invention; you invite competition when you make it hard for passionate go-getters to work for you as a digital agency, what other choice do they have at times?

We're in an economy that needs more entrepreneurs, thats the way all agencies started. Remember that every industry should have a degree of moderation from key stakeholders that have the klout to let the buyer beware should poor standards spiral out of control and we have that.

If its not killing your business model then why worry?
Posted on 14 Aug 2012 17:00
Tyrone Van Heerden
Good read Samantha!

What also needs to be taken into consideration is that social media isn't a solution for all businesses/ brands.

Brands need to first and foremost understand what they wish to achieve through a social media campaign, how these goals are going to be measured and obviously how they going to portray themselves on these platforms.

Essentially its up to business CEO's/ MD's/ marketing departments to research these "experts" and see whether they will add value to their brand.
Posted on 14 Aug 2012 17:28
Arthur Charles Van Wyk
I disagree. I believe that all businesses can find and extract value out of social media. Where the line should be drawn is that not all platforms or channels apply to all businesses.
Posted on 15 Aug 2012 07:56
Werner Wichmann
Well said samantha. I agree with you 100%.
Posted on 14 Aug 2012 20:09
Arthur Charles Van Wyk
Wonderful article. Very insightful. But c'mon. Isn't this something that happens in most new industries? Not just social media. In the mid 90s web designers did this. In fact this is how the traditional advertising industry continues to grow. A copywriter that knows nothing about design starts an agency, takes his old agency client with him to his new venture and spits a whole lotta dribble about creative this and that.. then outsources design and art direction.. and CEOs will believe such a person becos he has TJDR or FCB on his CV.

And I don't believe CEOs are idiots. They just expect that when you sell a service, you probably know more about it than they do.

And yes while social media and offline efforts go better together, online marketing can actually stand on its own without help from its offline complements/supplements - unlike offline marketing.

And with you writing about SOCIAL MEDIA sweetie.. it's all about the conversation, i.e. two-way communication. This is gonna be the 13th comment and we haven't heard another peep from you.
Posted on 15 Aug 2012 07:54
Samantha Wright
Have to pay the bills Arthur! Thus my lack of peeping on the topic.

My argument in this regard was that there are social media experts. No doubt. There are also social media charlatans simply copying and pasting ideas and selling them as their own. How do we draw the line? How do we stop it?

I’m not against social media, but I do believe for most SMEs it is not something that needs to be outsourced and can be done in-house for a much smaller cost. What is needed is a consultant to guide and educate. Why would the local three man accounting firm with an annual profit of less than R1 million need to pay someone a 5k retainer to manage their social media? They’re being told they do and because they believe these companies to be “experts” they believe them. They’re being bombarded with marketing terms and being told about the intricacies of social media. Really, it’s not rocket science.

I’m simply saying – before you believe the hype, make sure you really are speaking to someone who understands your business and the market rather than someone peddling a standard formula they read about on a forum such as this.

Kagiso and Neil – I am in no way against young entrepreneurs. I am against young guys simply touting the same strategy to a multitude of businesses because they read an article or a blog from a big firm. There are a large number of very successful “young” marketers out there who are original and innovative. I’ve also noticed that there are a large number of “young” guys charging a small fortune to SMEs and not providing bang for their buck. Within 3 months the SMEs notice and end the contracts but it puts them off social media and that is what I hoped the piece would get across:

Do not be wary of social media; be wary of the person attempting to sell it to you.

Smith – Please visit my twitter account @IAmSamW – there has been a huge response from 20 something marketers who read the article and thanked me for finally saying what most of us young guys were thinking. We’re losing business because other people are attempting to take the quick route and ultimately “rip off” businesses.

This piece was never hitting out at Social media – it was hitting out at the “gurus” who are abusing the medium, plagiarising work and ultimately giving the marketing fraternity a bad name.
Posted on 15 Aug 2012 10:28
Arthur Charles Van Wyk
I agree completely with the gist of what you're saying. What I disagree with is that social media marketing can be done in-house. The reason people use agencies is because the view is clearer from the outside looking in. On top of that if my business is selling widgets I'd like to put 99% of my energy into selling widgets and leave the non-core aspects of my business to people who are reasonably experienced in doing that.

I am going to assume that the people who complain about the "experts" crapping on their parade are not people of colour, because we're so used to struggling for everything we have - it's perfectly normal to see someone else with less talent and skill grab food off your table just because of an ethnic, tertiary or clique association. Just an objective fact. Some of my best friends are not people of colour. It's only when you're used to getting everything easily that you would complain about getting snubbed in favour of an "expert".

I like that you had the chutzpah to write this post though. Yes, even I have been thinking this (but have no time to write about it.. paying the bills myself)
Posted on 15 Aug 2012 14:01
Arthur Charles Van Wyk
Well articulated sir.. or madame (these anonymous posts are annoying). I spent 3 years blindly updating Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and Youtube for a company and at the end of the day everything I did translated into real value because I was consistent and persistent. I gleaned tons of insights from that experience, which I apply in the work I do for companies these days. Once again, why pick on social media professionals when everybody else does this. On the Marklives website is an article about the CEO of Digivox who publicly claims she knew nothing about media planning but was given a job as a media planner in Cape Town.. another perfect example of the racial polarisation of the creative and marketing industries, but a discussion for another day.
Posted on 15 Aug 2012 13:48
Samantha Wright
Arthur, I actually agree with you completely and am in no way saying young professionals shouldn't be allowed time to feel their way around.

Hell, I studied journalism and was thrown into a marketing position, I bumped my head a few times but I found my way eventually.

The point of the article, which I think you may be missing, is that businesses need to be careful of WHO they hire. There are marketing firms copying and pasting content from others and plagiarising work. They're throwing the title "expert" and "guru" onto their personal descriptions - but really are simply stealing content.

That, in my opinion, is not finding your feet. It's theft and lying - businesses have had their fingers burnt and it is negatively influencing the industry.
Posted on 15 Aug 2012 14:53
Richard Simmonds
I agree with you Arthur, your points are valid and you have hit the nail on the proverbial head - Samantha you need to keep the ownership here and engage with your audience, you are writing about social media and you as the author need to keep the engagement levels with your audience high.

Samantha please don't see this as direct criticism as this is an area we all fall short in. We all need to engage more with the people commenting on our stories, as this gives us the best mileage for our articles and ultimately our personal brand influence.

Richard
Posted on 15 Aug 2012 14:12
Samantha Wright
Richard I think I've answered the questions posed.

I'm not against social media nor am I against young professionals gaining experience and being given a chance.

I'm against people claiming to have the answer when the answer was simply copied and pasted from another forum/blog/site etc.

I also wrote the piece as I was tired of people laying claim and making money off other people's innovation and creation. Changing the sentence construction of a blog post or article does not then make it original or allow you to lay claim to it.

Credit the people with the great ideas, learn from them, suggest them but in order to ever be successful you will need a few of your own. In my opinion anyway.
Posted on 15 Aug 2012 15:03
Samantha Wright
Sally,

Not a personal gripe at all. I handle the marketing for an engineering firm. In my inbox currently sits 22 emails from various companies (primarily social media and SEO) all of which read almost identical.

Fine, so be it.

What irked me though is when you visit their websites or own social platforms they have copied and pasted content. They have directed people to blog posts where they claim to have "written some tips on..." or "I suggest you do this.." and then have plagiarised another company's original post. The few clients they do have - their social media platforms all read identical. There is no brand management but rather a formula being applied throughout no matter industry or the target market. That is not a young entrepeneur starting out nor is that good business practice.

In the piece I did not say DO NOT USE SMALL BUSINESS or STAY AWAY FROM YOUNG ENTREPENEURS. I gave suggestions as to how to spot the charlatans.

Feedback from the industry suggests I'm not the only one who has begun to notice how many of them have popped up.

Saying that, there are a few really GREAT young marketing entrepeneurs who do social media right! The likes of Cerebra, @spillly (who I think may be a private consultant over actual company) are just some off the top of my head.
Posted on 16 Aug 2012 10:43
Amy Moonsamy
Nicely done Sam. I totally agree with you.
Posted on 16 Aug 2012 11:49
Afrio Thathe
Awesome share Sam. Thanks.
Posted on 28 Aug 2012 12:44
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