There’s no such thing as a Social Media Expert!

Linkbait, inflammatory titles notwithstanding, I’ve seen a lot of web designers, developers & PR firms advertising themselves as “Social Media experts”. One of my main goals, both in business and personally, is to help the average person understand and use technology more effectively, and Social Media is a part of that, however, Social Media is just too new and evolving too rapidly for there to be any real “experts” out there. So before you go and spend any of your hard earned revenue on a “Twitter consultant”, a “Facebook Integrator” or a “MySpace enabler”, there are some things that you should understand. We’ve all seen just how rapidly some of the major players in Social Media have hit the news, and you may feel that you must have a presence on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace or one of the others. But just what is Social Media and why is it important to your business? Well, to answer the 2nd question first, it may not be. That’s right, you may not need a Twitter account in order for your business to be successful. I’ll come back to that in a moment, but first I want to address the first question. “What is Social Media?” Frankly, it’s just some industry jargon for any kind of media that actively involves outside participants.
Facbook is a great example of what Social Media is, and how it works. On Facebook, you post information about your life (or your business) and other users respond to those postings. In (almost) real time, you are able to float ideas or make announcements, and get feedback from prospective customers, friends, etc… Now, that is the basis of all Social Media, the nearly real time feedback that allows you to adjust your business strategy very quickly. Despite what you may have heard, this is really the basic idea of the internet itself, the free and fast flow of information & ideas. Twitter & Facebook are simply new tools in the longstanding effort to get you message out there.
The success stories that have really driven the use of Social Media are businesses that have figured out how to leverage the instantaneous flow of information that Social Media provides. For instance, Kogi BBQ, a Korean Taco stand that operates at various locations from a mobile kitchen, posts “tweets” about where it’s trucks will show up next. This allows potential customers to find them, and has morphed into something of a media darling. The thing that most people forget to talk about in this situation is that Kogi is a mobile service, that may not be in the same location twice in a row. So the tweets allow fans to find them. If you run a brick and mortar store, then you’re not going to have the same effect, because your customers always know where to find you.
The key to harnessing Social Media sites like Twitter & Facebook, is to figure out what information your customers need, and what is the best way to reach them. If you build capital equipment, then yourSocial Media strategy is going to be radically different from a Limousine Service. And that’s really the whole point of this post. Beware people who tell you that they have a “can’t lose” twitter strategy, because they don’t know anything about your business. Any online marketing strategy has to be the result of an intense study of how you do business, who your customers are, and how they interact with you. And that’s why there are no Social Media Experts!

–Disclaimer–
You can follow me on twitter at: @rhibbitts
& you can view my LinkedIn profile at: Richard Hibbitts
Oh Yeah, and you can find me on Facebook at: Richard Hibbitts on Facebook
I, like a lot of people am experimenting with Social Media and trying to determine how these tools can help my business.
No consultants were harmed in the writing of this post (although one was slapped around a little).