Do you really need to hire a social media expert?

by Human Capital11 Jul 2012

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest – these days how you deal with social media can determine the success or failure of products and ad campaigns.

Last year author and entrepreneur Peter Shankman published a post titled “Why I will never ever hire a social media expert”.

He argued that social media was a facet of marketing and customer service, and required an overall understanding and broad viewpoint, not a narrow range of skills.

“Being an expert in social media is like being an expert at taking the bread out of the refrigerator,” he wrote. “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," Shankman wrote.

As pithy as his message is, many big companies are hiring multiple social media managers, as they recognize the importance of having well-managed social media.

According to Voxy CEO Paul Gollash, the company couldn’t manage without one person focusing entirely on social media. “We originally tried to manage our social media presence part-time, but we learned quickly that in order to go from just having a presence to actually building and maintain high-value relationships on several different platforms, we needed a full-time social media manager, Gollash said.

Social media response needs to be prompt and appropriate. The real answer may lie somewhere between Shankman’s and Gollash’s separate opinions – social media needs to be monitored and managed effectively.

Social media and engagement specialist Courtney Hunt said there’s a big difference between being able to use social media, and knowing how to optimize it for your company. “Simple doesn’t mean easy,” she said. “It takes less than a minute to set up a Twitter account, but the simplicity of the user interface hardly ensures effectiveness in using the channel. There’s a new language and norms to learn, as well as hazards and mistakes to avoid," she added.

While it was important to have ways to judge expertise, that didn’t mean holding social media to higher standards than HR areas such as engagement and recruitment. Experts in social media know how to strategize, keep up with changes and help others adapt to the tools, she said.

Certainly, social media has to align with a company’s marketing and customer service, but to follow Shankman’s analogy, if no one else can get the right bread, it might be time to invest in an expert.


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