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Are social media gurus really worth it?

The increasing use of social media channels in a commercial context has given rise to a wave of new digital jobs. Due to the rapid evolution of social networking and online communities over the last few years, new roles have emerged that sit outside of the more traditional marketing remits.
Alongside these new roles have come an abundance of unconventional job titles, such as the social media guru, expert or wizard. You might also come across new media moguls, heads of social networking and social community strategists.
In this comparatively new field, how easy is it to measure the credentials of a self-proclaimed guru? And, more importantly, are these social wizards really capable of delivering the magic they promise?

The social skills dilemma

Unlike in more traditional marketing jobs, there is little formal education to support the guru status. Although you can now study for an MA in social networking, most new graduates will start as social media interns from other disciplines or be marketing professionals looking to move into social media from another field. Increasingly, there are training courses and conferences designed to help individuals and businesses to explore and expand their online social presence, but it's hard for an employer to judge the depth and value of this training
Many courses are independently run, often by specialist agencies or, indeed, by other self-professed gurus. That's not to say they're not useful, it's just hard to assess their merit in relation to an organisation's actual needs.
There's also a worry that some social media ‘experts' base their level proficiency on personal use of social media, rather than its deployment in a more commercial environment. Building strategy and delivering ROI is a very different ball game.
In summary, these are the issues facing employers when seeking a social media professional:
  • Lack of formal education and certification
  • Confusion of personal and professional social media skills
  • Self-proclaimed high experience level, confusing ‘enthusiast' with ‘expert'
  • Embellished job titles
  • Lack of demonstrative proven success and quantitative results

The true guru test

Increasingly, employers want hard proof to back up the guru status and the assurance that this social wizardry has the potential to deliver ROI. For individuals who've devised and implemented successful social media strategies in the past, tracked performance indicators should be readily available. How did social media activity affect site traffic over a certain period? How much social media traffic converted? How frequently was your content shared? Results are the key and can show a prospective employer that the social media professional in question really means business.
It can be hard to measure exact ROI from social media activity, but it's important to indicate some level of impact on the business. A proven track record is never really proven without clear evidence of outcome.
True social media experts need to have demonstrable experience of building and maintaining active and integrated communities across different channels. In a business context, simply having an active interest in Facebook doesn't warrant ‘guru' on the business card.
As social media usage is continually evolving, a true expert needs to have their finger constantly on the pulse regarding any new trends, as well as having their own predictions for up-coming innovations and developments. A brand's online reputation needs to be carefully handled and monitored, so a true social media expert/guru/wizard will know how to mitigate the risks and steer things back on track if needed, as well as adding real, tangible value for a business.

Realistic expectations

Yes, there may be a few overzealous, rather misleading job titles out there, but businesses also need to rein in their expectations when it comes to social media. By its very nature, social media is constantly shifting and is all about flexible, two-way interaction. There is no hard and fast formula for making social media successful and profitable for a particular organisation. Some brands are more naturally suited to these more sociable channels, while other brands may not sit quite so comfortably in this an arena.
An individual with proven experience should know how to best kick-start a brand's social media presence and how to best go about generating genuine engagement and maximising its potential. However, even with a social wizard at the helm, these channels don't always have the magical powers to instantly boost revenue and a certain amount of trial and error will be involved. Businesses must work with social media professionals to understand the limits and realistic goals that a robust social media strategy can bring, and be responsive and adaptable in using it effectively.
If you're looking to improve on your social media strategy, speak to the experts at Michael Page Digital about how the right hire could make all the difference.