Avatar of Evan Hamilton

Don’t hire a social media expert (hire a community manager)

man wearing a shirt that says follow me I am a social media expertPeter Shankman of Business Insider recently wrote a post entitled “Why I Will Never, Ever Hire a ‘Social Media Expert'”. He didn’t hold back:

“I was going to call this article “All 'Social Media Experts' Need To Go Die In A Fire,” but I figured I should be nicer than that.”

Ouch. That’s got to hurt me, right? I’m a Community Manager, so he’s aiming right at me, isn’t he?

Well, no. Here’s Peter’s point:

“[It’s not about] Facebook, and fans, and followers, and engagement, and influence. IT’S ABOUT GENERATING REVENUE THROUGH SOLID MARKETING AND STELLAR CUSTOMER SERVICE, JUST LIKE IT’S BEEN SINCE THE BEGINNING OF TIME.”

Peter is right on the money (pun intended). Of course hiring a “social media expert” doesn’t make sense. Do you hire a “newspaper expert” to get you written up in newspapers? Do you hire a “selling to men between the ages of 24-36 expert”? No. You hire a PR professional, or a sales professional. You hire people because of their skill around a craft, not a task.

#empathyBut here’s where Peter’s argument starts to worry me. He suggests that social media is an arrow in the marketer’s quiver. That worries me, because many marketers don’t have the empathy that Peter rightly suggests you need when interacting with customers. Whether he agrees or not, I think Peter is arguing for the position of Community Manager (or Chief Happiness Officer).

Urban Outfitters had a “social media expert” at the reins while the stolen design fiasco happened. Yet they failed to respond farther than “we’re looking into it” within the essential first 24 hours. That’s because their “social media expert” was only empowered and knowledgeable in sending out messages – not communicating and relating and knowing how to do the right thing.

Would a marketer have done better? Maybe. I know some marketers who would have done a fantastic job. And I know plenty that would have botched it just as badly.

A Community Manager is not a “social media expert”. If Twitter and Facebook disappeared today, Community Managers would continue to provide great value. Why? Because we’re experts in bridging the gap between customers and company. We’re experts at moving quickly and adapting to unexpected customer reactions. We’re experts at delighting people. Not all marketers are.

So kudos to you, Peter, for coming out and saying what we’re all thinking. Just make sure you’re not creating just as much of a problem by having a marketer with no empathy talk to your customers!

Social Media Expert photo courtesy of jgarber.
Empathy photo courtesy of Marlene Angeja
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