Confessions of a Social Media Expert

This article is part of our Confessions series, in which we trade anonymity for candor to get an unvarnished look at the people, processes and problems inside the industry. More from the series →

Social media executives who work with brands have it tough. There’s pressure to get likes, prove ROI and deal with impatient CMOs who don’t always get it. We spoke with a social media manager who works with big brands about some of the issues these gurus face. You can read the full collection of Confessions. Please contact me at the email below if you’d like to participate. We promise full anonymity in exchange for honesty.

Do agencies understand social media?
Yes and no. There are some agencies that have done amazing work in the social space. And then there are others who are awful at it. The worst are those with different groups — for example, a social media team, a PR team, etc. — that don’t integrate well. I just came across a press release that announced a new Facebook page for a brand. The release encouraged people to log into the brand’s Facebook page. Clearly, they meant to encourage people to check out the page — the general public can’t log into that brand’s Facebook page since they’re not admins. It was an error and it’s not the end of the world, but this kind of oversight shows how disconnected some agencies are.

How good of a job is Twitter doing in catering to the needs of brands?
Brands love Twitter because it’s so public and accessible. That said, compared to Facebook, Twitter hasn’t innovated as quickly to capitalize on brands’ use of the platform. This could be a disadvantage for Twitter, especially since marketers are investing more and more in social media. Some of their more recently launched marketing features haven’t been a huge success in my opinion.

Are you ever pressured to get Facebook likes?
Too many times! That said, as social media continues to evolve, marketers are starting to get more savvy, so I’ve got a lot of clients who focus more on their social community’s activity or engagement, instead of the total number of page likes. It’s similar to other industries — for example, in PR, you’ll always have those clients who only look at impressions from coverage, but you’ll also have other clients who focus on other metrics such as where the coverage was placed, was it a positive feature, etc. — and put a premium on these over numbers.

Do the marketing executives that work at brands really get social media and respect it?
There are some who understand it, appreciate it and are excited to tap into this new space. There are others, though, who are clueless and simply disregard members of their social communities.

Do you feel like there are a lot of charlatans out there calling themselves social media gurus?
Yes, that title kills me! First of all, I find it difficult to call yourself a guru of something that’s so new and is still evolving. There are certainly social media best practices today, but these are still at a basic level. This is an industry where the rules are still being written, revenue models are up in the air, etc. People can have an expertise in social media, but the title “social media guru” is overused and a bit ridiculous in my opinion. I recently interviewed a candidate for an internship, and she called herself a social media guru — right. This person is no longer being considered.

What’s your favorite part of the job?
Interacting with influencers and social communities is what I love most about this job. It’s funny how you can feel like you know someone even if you’ve only interacted with them online.

What’s the most frustrating part of the job?
There are some people more senior than me who are clueless about social media and don’t care to truly learn more about the space. Some of them even act like they know everything, and this is what frustrates me the most. It’s fine if you’re not a digital native, but if you aren’t interested to learn or, worse, pretend to understand social media, this lack of knowledge and understanding is extremely detrimental when decisions are made and recommendations are put forth. I suppose these issues exist in every industry, but it’s especially glaring in the social world since it’s a new and evolving space.

Are you getting pressure from brands around social media’s lack of ROI?
Most of my clients understand the current limitations of social media analytics in relation to ROI. What’s key is being completely transparent and up front about what is and is not feasible at this point. This way, everyone’s on the same page in regards to metrics, what is considered success, etc.

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