Like thousands of other people, I read Peter Shankman’s “Why I Will Never, Ever Hire a Social Media Expert” rant and I was amused. He makes some good points. And, considering my own lack of respect for most social marketers, you might think I’d agree with him wholeheartedly.
But, surprise: I think he’s ultimately wrong. (And not just because he insists that social media naturally = social marketing, which I’ve already explained is a fallacy.)
Trust me, I share his loathing for social media hacks. I’m pretty sure there’s no “industry” in the world right now that’s filled with more bullshit artists than any “social” field is.
For me, my disagreement with his stance boils down to this passage:
Being an expert in social media is like being an expert at taking the bread out of the refrigerator. You might be the best bread-taker-outer in the world, but you know what? The goal is to make an amazing sandwich, and you can’t do that if all you’ve done in your life is taken the bread out of the fridge.
Social media is just another facet of marketing and customer service. Say it with me. Repeat it until you know it by heart. Bind it as a sign upon your hands and upon thy gates. Social media, by itself, will not help you.
I’m sure this quote had people from PR, marketing and sales high-fiving each other up and down LinkedIn’s frat row yesterday, because it validates their eternal belief that social marketing is “just” an extension of what they already do. And, ultimately, it is.
But, by comparison, if you said something like…
I will never hire a urologist because it’s a complete waste of money. Repeat after me: Urology is just another facet of total body health. You might be the best urologist in the world, but the goal is to have total body health, and you can’t do that if all you’ve ever done is study urethras.
… you’d be laughed off whatever soapbox you were standing on.
Let’s be clear: social marketing isn’t urology, just like “increasing sales” isn’t “achieving total body health.” But to dismiss any aspect of the big picture is, to me, an excuse to half-ass the whole job.
Here’s what I think is really happening.
Social Media Isn’t a Bubble; It’s a Boutique
Five or ten years ago, the elements that comprise social marketing — blogs, social networks, web video, etc. — were new and poorly understood by the very people best positioned to take advantage of them, as is often the case with new media and new technologies. So, the role of mastering these new techniques fell to the amateurs.
Fast forward to now, and you see a saturation point of “experts” in the “social media” field, who are primarily wide-eyed desperadoes with no functional experience in sales, marketing, management or any other justifiable business practice. But because the barrier to entry for social media practitioners is zero, this allows 99 people to claim to be “experts” simply because they all read the blog of the one person who actually is an expert in this admittedly narrow and specialized field.
For those 99 hacks, yes, “social media” is bubble.
But for that one person who actually knows what s/he’s doing, social marketing is a boutique service that can be offered to clients who will actually make use of it within the context of a comprehensive sales and marketing strategy.
The problem I already see with this assessment is that 100% of social media experts believe they’re the boutique, and it’s that kind of 99% flawed thinking that’s going to pop this rancid bubble sooner or later. (And the sooner the better, because the 1% who do know what they’re doing would probably like to offer their services without feeling like used car salesmen.)
So while I think Shankman’s “kill ‘em all” rant is on the right track, it’s also a tossing-out-the-baby-with-the-bathwater solution. The real problem is that 99% of the so-called gurus in the social marketing field have given the field, as a whole, a bad name. It’s so bad, in fact, that those of us who are sick of it would almost rather never practice social marketing than have to do so as members of a guild so utterly depraved and worthless that we’re now ashamed to admit we belong to it.
I doubt urologists feel the same way.