You Don’t Need a Social Media Superhero

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?

 

About the Author

As managing partner and chief strategy officer for Right Source, Mike Sweeney is responsible for all content marketing initiatives, including growing the company’s content marketing practice, guiding all client content marketing strategy, and recruiting and growing a team of modern marketers. Mike received a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a major in marketing from the University of Notre Dame. You can find Mike on Twitter and Google+, connect with him on LinkedIn, or read his other posts.

  • Brilliant, true and the real problem with the idea that Social Media will fix everything. As my favourite ‘guru’ always says, “Social media comes last.”

    If your website, email campaigns and other communication are unfinished or not ready for visitors don’t waste your time with social media.

    “Get your house in order, then go outside and play with everybody else.”

  • Love that last line Kemp, may need to reuse it if you don’t mind. Which ‘guru’ are you referring to?

  • Nice post Sweeney. I plan to share with my team. I think it’s really easy to fall into a knee-jerk pattern of saying “we need a Facebook page” without thinking about the overall strategy or message.

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