Through some twist of fate, I recently found myself managing the social media of three clients, including two extremely well-funded startups. But I still have trouble answering the question, “So what exactly is it that you do, Jennifer?”
The other day, I told an author that being a social media guru was “easy.” Keeping me real, she replied, “Yeah, duh. It’s easy for you because you’re good at it. You’ve practiced and you know what you’re doing.”
And she was right. To some of you, math – which terrifies me – or swimming or cooking or piloting planes, might be the easiest thing in the world. That’s because you took the time to learn the rules and figure out what you’re doing. And that, in a nutshell, is how to be a social media guru, right?
…Okay, so maybe there’s a little more to it.
Do you really want to be a “Guru”?
First, I don’t really buy into the term “guru,” even though, sadly, it seems to have become the default term for the services I and my counterparts at this relatively new position provide. A traditional guru imparts words of wisdom to followers. But a social media expert should always, always start and maintain conversations. If all I did was drop a “Confucius says” quote on Twitter once and awhile, I wouldn’t be a very good social media guru, now would I?
When writing for social media, make sure to be as open as honest as possible. Sometimes that simply means asking questions that don’t have “Yes” or “No” answers. For example, which is the better Tweet?
"Do you think Company X should create an iPhone app?”
"We here at Company X want your help designing our iPhone app! What features can you not live without?”
Of course #2 is the better Tweet, because it encourages participation and discussion. A “guru,” on the other hand, might simply announce “Company X is developing an iPhone app. So be it.” That’s not very social media like, is it?
Know Your Social Media Sites
The second ground rule in social media is to find ways to quickly ascertain the etiquette of any social media site you encounter. You should, of course, know the etiquette of the big sites like Twitter, Facebook and Linked in, but there are plenty of social media “sites” out there – blogs, forums, Nings, etc. – that don’t start with the letters T, F, and LI. You may have a real estate client who wants you to establish her presence on CitySearch.com, for example. Or you may have a client who wants you to establish her presence, but isn’t sure where. It’s your job to use the tools are your disposal, such as Alexa or Google PageRank to determine whether sites are big and bad enough for you to invest your time on.
Know Your Target Audience
On the other hand, you also have to be able to ascertain a social media site’s audience and decide whether that audience gels with the folks you’re trying to reach. Say you’re selling sausages. Don’t you think you would have a better chance of selling lots of sausages on the Sausage Lovers Forum (for god’s sake, never, ever Google that) with 3,000 members than you would on a bigger site like Facebook, where users may or may not be sausage lovers? Often, it pays in social media to hit a variety of targets both small and large. Read here for more on identifying your target audience.
Be Able to Show Return on Investment (ROI)
One of the biggest complaints about social media is that its ROI is hard to ascertain. That’s certainly the case. Just like with something like public relations or marketing, it can be difficult to discover whether your new customer randomly stumbled on your service or whether they did so because of a marketing, PR or social media effort on your part.
While there is no exact science when it comes to social media ROI, there are tools you can use to at least prove that your message is getting out there. First, you know you’re doing something right if you get more social media “followers” or “fans” on sites like Facebook or Twitter.
You also need to get analytical with tools like Google Analytics. This handy free tool tells you how many people are looking at your anchor website, what sources they are clicking in from (I.e. Twitter, Facebook, the Sausage Lovers Forum, etc.) and what they do (i.e. buy a product, subscribe to your mailing list, etc.) once they are on your site.
One caveat: Google Analytics and tools like it are not a foolproof way to discover the ROI you are generating from social media. A Twitter follower could love your Tweets and feel great affection to your company, but you would never know that that unexpected sale that just came through came from that guy because he simply typed in your website URL. In that way, social media is like public relations in that it generates general good feelings, but those feelings may not be quantifiable.
This is just a tiny encapsulation of what it takes to be a social media guru. As John Blossom has already illustrated, “everything” it takes would fill a book (or, more likely, a blog.) The most exciting – and nerve wracking – thing about the social media “guru” position is that it’s changing every day. There are a plethora of new sites, iPhone apps, strategies, analytic measures, laws and regulation to keep up with, and they are always changing. Social media is like the Wild West of the internet. Do you think you can strike your fortune?