Social Media Experts, Your Messages are Getting Through. Sort Of.

In the two years since I left my job as a local magazine editor to pursue freelance writing and online publicity, the Internet has changed from a static information portal to an interactive, user-content-generated network of bloggers and tweeters who often provide more accuracy about what’s going on in the world than the traditional news media. In this way, Web 2.0 has served great purpose.

But many of these Web 2.0 Internetworkers like to “tweet” their own horn, so to speak. They call themselves “experts” based on criteria I, and many others, admittedly do not understand. I am trying. Especially since many of the “experts” aim their advice at people like me.

I am a solid writer and editor, but a social media expert I am not. I run five blogs, an established social network, a newly launched social network and three Twitter accounts, but none of these accomplishments are enough to qualify me as an “expert”—especially if you count Twitter followers. I have less than 600—across all three accounts! (There’s a reason for that. When it comes to proper “tweetocol,” I really don’t follow most of the “expert’s” recommendations.)

The truth is, I’m more interested in the “tweets” than the “tweeters.” I know, it sounds cold-hearted, but I follow posts that interest me, or that link to content I feel will benefit members of my social networks. I do not automatically follow those who “RT” my tweets or say nice things about me. I don’t particularly like that I have no control over who follows me. And I’m still trying to determine what end it all serves.

Don’t get me wrong: as a writer, publicity professional and small business owner, I want to understand the perceived benefits on every level. Plus, I enjoy “tweeting.” But I think it’s important for the “experts” to realize their messages often overwhelm and confuse the most experienced business professionals. Most of my clients are just happy to have a website. Conflicting advice about how to wage the proper social media marketing campaign creates anti-social media sentiment and makes explaining social media’s many benefits a lot tougher. I know this is not intentional, but it’s happening.

Also, I’ve noticed many of the social media consultants out there network together and have created a sort of social media club within a web of contacts. If you follow one or two of them, you’ll see similar threads and RTs. Of course, this lends credibility to what these consultants have to say, but it also makes me wonder, “Whose advice should I take?”

I hope the “experts” realize claiming to “get it” when others don’t, makes highly intelligent and capable professionals feel subordinate. A client actually mentioned this to me (after I had already thought it to myself). I’m just saying.

One more newsflash: many people already get it—they just don’t agree with what everyone else apparently “gets.” So who’s right and who’s wrong?

I just want to understand how the various social media platforms can benefit my clients and my business’ bottom line. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one wanting a simple explanation for this. Is it possible?

Here is what I, and many others, would like to understand:

1. Who exactly are the social media “experts?” What is a typical profile in terms of their experience and education?

2. Who are the social media consultants directing their advice to? Other consultants? It seems mainly marketing and publicity professionals comment on these blogs, but rarely do I read input from representatives of other business departments.

3. Is it possible to measure the demographics of Twitter followers? This is perhaps the best reason to get to know your followers. There doesn’t seem to be a way to monitor this. And if you have thousands of followers, how do you find the time to get know who they really are? Email marketing is still considered the most targeted source of online marketing, followed by direct links resulting from SEO, no? LinkedIn, Facebook, social networks and categorized blogs typically have a definable following, and link directly to a company’s website, but categorizing Twitter followers is not as straightforward.

4. Everyone agrees Twitter is a great tool in the marketing toolbox, but it seems like some consultants see it as more than that? If so, why, and how?

5. What is the proper protocol when it comes to following people and businesses on Twitter?

6. Regarding blogs, how important is juxtaposing keywords in a headline just to increase SEO? As journalism major in college, I was coached to write engaging headlines that entice readers. Web 2.0’s keyword-laden headlines don’t always work for me. Could this be the case for an audience of business leaders as well?

I write this out of a genuine desire to understand and harness the various components and benefits of social media so I can form a viewpoint that makes sense. I want to use this knowledge to refine publicity initiatives for my clients, and to improve my own marketing plan.

What do you think? Please offer your thoughts on this. And thanks in advance to anyone who is willing to share their “expertise.” I am grateful to you.

10 thoughts on “Social Media Experts, Your Messages are Getting Through. Sort Of.

  1. Wow, awesome thoughts! I have come to realize that it is much more profitable to sell Twitter related products than to sell or market anything on Twitter! I just don’t think the message really gets through. Granted it is fun to interact and use Twitter to build business and other relationships.
    Maybe that is the Key!



  2. Great points, Elizabeth. As someone who makes a living in social media (but who considers himself to be an explorer, not an expert — even after 6 years of this), your questions seem very valid — and, sadly, are mostly unanswered by those of us who think we know what we’re doing.

    I started to respond point-by-point, and then I realized my response is longer than your blog post. So I blogged my response here:

    Thanks for raising these issues. If more people ask (and answer) these questions, maybe we’ll nudge the entire social media field toward validity after all. 😉

  3. Hi Beth! I too started to answer each point, and discovered it was way too long:)

    I think in MANY cases people in lots of industries call themselves experts that aren’t. Some perhaps believe that they are, and others may only for lack of a better “word”.
    I don’t think of myself as an expert, although others may refer to me that way. I might say that I have some expertise, but that would be all. In terms of who to consider an expert, I would look at those who have clearly studied and researched, but also those who have results from actually using social media.
    The type of results would also vary however! I consider many of the personal friendships that I’ve created to be my greatest results. Even more so than all of the clients/business received.

    You can’t “get a degree in twitter”, in fact, it’s a challenge to keep up with anything that changes faster than a stoplight. (Even those with “degrees can be truly clueless!).

    I do believe that many people (unlike yourself) don’t understand AND aren’t willing to learn. They don’t read blog posts or comment and therefore the perception is that “the experts are talking to each other”. I can honestly say that when I “tweet tips”, or even post to my blog, I rarely ever get a response from anyone that isn’t “into social media”.

    Thanks for the post. Great points to ponder! (and I’m with you on the headline thing too! I’m often told that I should “optimize” mine more, but I prefer catchy & attention getting:)

  4. 1) I had to chuckle at the idea of the experts RTing each other. I’ve often thought that too.

    2) I think the things you’re asking are very valid and as yet unanswered on a large scale. IMHO, what it comes down to is that Twitter – and many other social avenues – can be and will be what each person/business wants them to be – given their unique approach, ideas, time constraints, etc.

    3) What strikes me for all the “social media” talk is that when it comes down to it, none of this is really all that new. Faster, yes. More instant, yes. Better tools, yes. But for as long as I can remember, people have been sharing, meeting, talking, connecting each other, spreading things virally – all online. The latest tools are just a more modern outlet for that.

  5. Hi Heather,

    I like what you’ve said and agree. I keep getting hung up on the inability to measure results via Twitter. I’m spoiled by Google Analytics and WordPress’ Analytics information and I guess I would just like to see some way of measuring Twitter as well.

    You’re so right to say many people who do have degrees don’t always know what they’re doing!

    Your point about being “willing to learn” is the key, IMO. This is a new “frontier” as our friend Pat wisely said. We are all explorers and those consultants who are called experts by others show a willingness to learn that others can see and appreciate. They will get the business of a client over someone who states outright he/she is an expert. Agree?

  6. Frank, you are probably right about marketing Twitter products being a more successful venture than marketing via Twitter, but I will say I have gotten the scoop on some good deals (free ice cream, clothing sales, product reviews) via Twitter, so that helps–or HURT–product sales. I think many businesses fear a bad review more than they long for a good one!

    RLDParis, businesses are indeed using Twitter to not only build relationships with customers, but to market sales and offer coupons. When I opened my Triangle TRACKS and Charlotte Twitter accounts, I looked up all the children’s companies I could think of to see if they were on Twitter, and I began following them if they were. I’ve gotten great insight on Barbie, Harry Potter and Legos that way!! 🙂

    Justin, your response via your blog was excellent and on point. I found myself agreeing with the way you’re looking at these issues. We must share the same POV on this. Thanks for taking the time to write such a thoughtful response!

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