I’m worried about starting too quickly

Here’s the part where I prove I’ve got a little marketing cred [sort-of self-deprecating sarcasm]:

  • I joined Twitter on December 31st, 2006, and had no idea what I was doing with it until around June 2007 when it finally clicked. I started this blog in April 2008 and had no idea what I was really doing until that summer. My first job after completing my MBA was managing 2 websites and being the de facto Social Media Guy at Hilton. Then, I was the lead social media analyst for Microsoft Windows (before, during, and after the Windows 7 launch), most of the other big Microsoft products (including before, during, and after 2 other major product launches), Razorfish, and a few other clients. At the same time, I’ve been an independent consultant for small and large companies alike. And now, I’m the chief social strategist for large nonprofits like National Parkinson Foundation, Operation Blessing International, etc, etc, etc.

I’m telling you this because I like this whole social media thing, and while comprehending openness, transparency, and being social is easy, succeeding in it is not.

  • At a time when so many people hate on social media gurus, experts, and even just social media consultants, I see a thriving market for them. I see people, who get it doing enough to properly sell their services to large and small businesses alike. What concerns me though is that getting it is not enough.

I want proof of success.

  • I recently went to SEOmoz’ PRO Training Seminar in Seattle and noticed a marked difference between SEO events and social media events. SEO speakers often have graphs and numbers. They talk about work that they have done, ideas they have tested, and they show before and after measurements. Social media speakers too often talk about connecting. They talk about shifts in perception, and if we’re lucky, they’ll show data backing up what they say, but alas, I rarely see it. Do you?

I worry that we look to every social media consultant for strategy when some of them are only tacticians…maybe.

  • I implore you. If you are a social media (or “online marketing”) speaker or consultant, please start collecting data around the work you do so that you can show it to future clients, publish it online, and demonstrate your strategies in your speaking engagements. If you don’t have data but you at least walk the talk, I at least know you’re a tactician, but strategy is waaay more important to me honestly. Get some numbers and allow me (as your client or conference attendee) to be the judge
  • If you’re a business owner considering bringing in a consultant, ask for proof of past success. Ask that individual consultant (hell, ask that social media agency) for a case study. If they can’t show you one, be wary. You might be paying for strategy and only getting tactics.

I collect and make sense of data.

But, then again, they’re not online marketing or social media consultants, are they?

  • Am I wrong here? Do we not need to worry that not only are social media consultants going too quickly from “this is how you use Twitter & Facebook” to “this is how you do everything social,” but also that we are going too quickly from “I’ll pay someone to teach us how to use the tools” to “I’ll pay someone to build out (or talk to us about) a social strategy”? Should we not understand upfront that, just as in every other field, there are big differences between tacticians and strategists, large and small consultants, experienced and inexperienced new hires, and speakers, who speak from years of experience, versus speakers, who speak about things that they just get ?

As always, say hello on Twitter , check me out at my nonprofit marketing agency , and subscribe to this blog .

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  • Marcus Sheridan

    Really interesting point here Pratum– yeah, I do think too often social media ‘gurus’ talk in more nebulous forms and not with concrete results as an SEO does, and is expected to do for that matter. I think there is one big difference between the two though, if I can just throw this in, and that is the fact that SEO is incredibly valuable in any industry, field, etc. On the other hand, there are simply some industries where a huge investment in FB, or twitter, just won’t produce enough fruit.

    Anyway, just my thoughts but very good points brought up here Pratum.

  • http://www.grizzard.com/author/epratum/ Eric Pratum

    Good point, Marcus. To further elaborate on this, I would say that consultants, who start too quickly, are likely to sell their services to people, who can’t really use them…such as the industries you address where Twitter, FB, etc might not be valuable. And, if the people hiring these consultants get into this too quickly without doing their due diligence, they’re likely to buy something they can’t really use.

    The ironic thing, that isn’t lost on me here, is that, despite the fact that I can list off a bunch of places that I’ve worked in this field, I doubt a stranger could get any more of a confident feel for if I might be what they need than if, say, another consultant, who has a slick website but has only been at it for 3 months, is right for them. The same would go for an agency, a pool/spa company that claims to have the best stuff ;-) , etc.

    All in all, whether in SEO or any other field, I guess I’m just thinking it’s best if we all keep our salesmanship realistic and don’t use too much hyperbole ;-)

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