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From the Trenches

You Don’t Need a Social Media Superhero

Mike Sweeney | February 2, 2010

“I hear you guys are the social media gurus in this area. Can you help us blow out our efforts on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook?”

These were seemingly innocent words from a prospective client, spoken just last week. As we dug a bit deeper, the red flags started flying. He wants help with social media only, and wants to address only those three properties. He doesn’t want us to worry about how the website, blog, search, email or other areas might impact social media. He is concerned about tracking the effort, but his tracking and measurement will focus on volume of followers, friends and connections.

Ummmm…no thanks.

He wants a Social Media Superhero. The superhero he wants doesn’t possess super human powers and is not dedicated to protecting the public. The superhero he is after is the type that can make his company look “hip” and “in the know”.  He is convinced this is what he needs because he read a book by a Social Media Superhero, a book that – not surprisingly – offered subtle plugs for the idea of hiring a Social Media Superhero.

He doesn’t need a Social Media Superhero. He needs a Marketing Superhero who possesses social media powers and skills, or who can access people with those powers and skills.

I’d say that over half the companies we talk to start with this Social Media Superhero mindset. They view social media as a set of properties that they need to address one-by-one, and they are focused on establishing a “presence” on each of those properties. If no one challenges that viewpoint successfully, they decide to hire a Twitter guy. Or a Facebook gal. Or my favorite – a LinkedIn optimization firm. With Spider-Man, Wonder Woman and Batman on board, how can this social media thing fail?

While I’d like to chalk up this mindset to the relative youth of social media as a marketing vehicle, that’s just letting folks off the hook. The reality is that this mindset existed even in the old days, and when I say old days I mean 10 years ago. While working in the interactive sports industry, I consistently interviewed candidates that professed to “know their way around Sports Illustrated” or “have a great sense for how to maximize what we’re doing with ESPN the Magazine.”

In those situations, the thought bubble above my head always read, “Great. I buy advertising from Sports Illustrated and ESPN the Magazine. I can get to anyone I want to get to at those places because I spend a lot of money. Got any creative ideas, or know how to build a plan? No? Next candidate please.”

Strategy and execution are two very different pieces of the puzzle. To steal a concept from Seth Godin, I can find a slew of factory workers to build standard Facebook fan pages and to maintain a Twitter account. That’s execution. I can count on two hands the folks I know that can handle the strategy side of social media in a superhero-esque way.

So next time Mr. Prospect, be impressed with the ideas. Be impressed with the organization of those ideas. Be impressed with the person who is generating these ideas. Be impressed with the plan.

You don’t need a Social Media Superhero. You need a Marketing Superhero.

After all, no one ever got fired for hiring Superman, right?

 

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