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By Bryan Elliott

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Beware the Social Media Expert

Gary Vaynerchuk who actually is a real social media expert, is recently famous for weighing in on the state of social media during a now famous Tech Crunch interview when he said, “99% of social media experts are clowns.” I caught up with the Gary in a rare interview and from what I’ve seen, –especially in OC, I agree.

Beware of anyone who calls themselves a "social media expert" or some form thereof...

State of the industry…

If you haven’t heard, there’s this thing called the Internet that’s really catching on. But there’s a very interesting dichotomy with the current economy and the plethora of social platforms. A lot of people have lost their jobs from the start of the downward spiral in the economy in 2008 to the present day. But as the economy reaches new lows, the social web continues to evolve and spiral upwards to new heights.

The result is that many of these out-of-work people have jumped on the social media bandwagon with little or zero marketing experience–not to mention a lack of social media management skills or any campaign track record. And yet they call themselves “social media experts” leading hopeful businesses that need new customers urgently astray.

These so-called experts are often transplants from mature industries hit hard by the economy like Real Estate, Finance, IT and more. They think that knowing what to do and how to set things up on social media platforms qualifies them to help businesses market their products or services and often make promises they can’t keep to vulnerable clients desperate for new biz like a guarantee of  “thousands of new fans or followers.”

I’ve personally met a lot of these folks and they are growing in numbers here in Orange County. They mean well and have good intentions and don’t set off to misguide the companies who hire them. They themselves are eagerly trying to stay afloat in a bad economy and make ends meet. But as nice as many of these people are you should be very careful about whom you give the wheel to drive your business and be the voice of your brand.

This is a young, fast-moving space. Are there really any experts (yet), especially in Orange County? We have a big (little) tech community that’s good at making chips and other stuff but we’re not even on the map for social media innovation. Most people haven’t even heard of Google+. The real hot spots are NorCal, NYC, Austin, Boston…

A few stats: Facebook: on pace to reach 1 billion users by the end of this year. I also read last week that 50% of North America signs in to Facebook every day. Wow! But don’t forget about the explosion of Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, Foursquare, Tumblr, and the flavor of the week in social media.

Here’s some advice from Gary about what to ask the next “expert” before you hire them.

1. What have you actually done? Have your next social media person show you 5 or more marketing plans they’ve written. Ask them for case studies from 5 or more social media campaigns they have done over the past twelve months. Gary talks about “dirt under your fingernails” as a good thing…

2. What is your marketing background? Find out about their level of experience in the area or project you’re asking them to do. Sounds like common sense, but there are a lot of real estate people doing social media marketing for small businesses. This is like the difference between being able to explain how to play tennis and actually being a great player. They are two very different things.

3. Beware of the Over promise. If the person you’re considering promises big numbers fast, they are probably a fraud. You can buy more Facebook fans on Amazon, but what’s that worth? Zero. Most of the real experts say social media is not a silver bullet. It’s good for something things and not for others. For example, great for listening and engaging to make new business relationships.

4. Low Social Proof.

Does your expert say they can change your world but only have 90 Twitter followers who never @reply? Do they manage a Facebook page for a friend that has 10,000 fans but zero fan posts? Watch out.

5. Young Does Not Qualify You. There seems to be a common misconception that just because someone is 20-something they are better suited to be a marketer–AND execute social media, than someone older. Age has nothing to do with it. It’s about skills. It’s about experience. It’s about results.

6. Watch and Listen to Reactions to This Post.It’s bold to call out a large group of people and basically say they are frauds. But remember this: those who are guilty here will be the most defensive and offended–because the truth is hard to swallow! The truly talented social media marketers will applaud this post and take comfort in their own skills.

Weigh in and let me know what you think about all this. Do you have any success stories with any of these newly self-crowned experts? Any horror stories?

The best way to reach me fast is Twitter. I’d love to hear from you!



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