The 5 Critical, Current Responsibilities of a Social Media Expert - Social Media Explorer
The 5 Critical, Current Responsibilities of a Social Media Expert
The 5 Critical, Current Responsibilities of a Social Media Expert

Jason got an excellent response (and rightly so) to last week’s post on the ROI of Social Media.  Both the post itself, and the comments, provided a lot of insight into appropriate valuation of social media services.  

In particular, I was captured by Dan Thornton’s comment, which mentioned three different perspectives: the social perspective, the old school perspective, and the transitional perspective.  

I love reading the perspective of the thought leaders who are trying to establish standards and practices for the future of the social media space.  I think it’s also important to remember that we’re not quite there yet.

When I attended ad:tech Chicago this summer, I took exception to Clay Shirky’s statement that it’s no longer a matter of who gets it and who doesn’t get it, but rather what elements of social media are a fit for which companies, communications purposes, and contexts.  The problem with that statement is, it is a matter of who gets it for you, if your clients are among the many companies who still don’t get social media, but want you to provide recommendations.  

If your clients aren’t all enlightened organizations who have fully embraced the social web, but you are, in fact, doing social media work for them, then you’re effectively in that “transitional” perspective.  

So let’s talk about the current, from-the-trenches issues.  What are the critical areas that you, as a practicing social media strategist, need to ensure are being addressed for your clients?  Chime in on the comments with anything you feel I’ve left out. 

1. Client Education:  As a social media strategist, you need to make sure that your clients understanding of social media is at least clear enough that they know what kind of value and benefits they can expect from your work.  That value and benefit may not be quantified (or quantifiable, for that matter).  But in short, make sure they at least know what they’re getting out of social media, not necessarily how much of it they’ll get.

2. Brand Monitoring:  Even clients who aren’t too keen on dialogue and community building understand the profilactic value of listening to the social web and watching for brewing brand firestorms.  Whether it’s spelled out explicitly in your client agreements or not, you do not want to be blindsided by a negative story that blows up in the blogosphere involving your client.  Have some brand reference alerts in place, even if you can’t shell out for paid monitoring tools.

3.  Legal Issues Awareness:  Relax.  I’m not saying you need to go back to college and pick up a law degree in your nonexistent free time.  As recently as June of this year, a survey from the USC Marshall School of Business indicated that a key reason top executives are resistant to social media is corporate liability concerns.  Your clients likely have questions about the legal implications of social media activity. As their expert in the field, you need to be prepared to answer the most basic, common questions about what is and isn’t allowed.  Bone up on the basics of copyright and usage law as it relates to the web, and know who to call on the more complex issues.  I also highly recommend that you read Sarah Bird’s posts on SEOmoz (she manages to make legal proceedings fun and informative).

4. The Backbone to Say No.  We’re still in the wild, wild west of the social web.  The flip side of dealing with clients who are scared to death to enter the conversation are the ones who have suddenly gotten drunk on the social media Kool-Aid, and want to try “exciting” new tactics that are risky, inappropriate for their brand or marketing goals, or just plain wrong.  As their advisor on the social web, you need to be willing to reign in that enthusiasm when necessary.

5. Respect the Pass-Off Zone.  I almost called this “Play Well with Others,” and that might have been a better way to phrase it.  Social media is a discipline that has implications for marketing, public relations, sales, customer service, and human resources, at a minimum.  You need to understand the grey areas where others’ responsibilities bleed into your arena, and be willing to be a resource to the people working within those other disciplines, not a pain in the hindparts.  Work with their online media buyers when doing blogger outreach.  If your community building efforts can give a leg up or boost to their hiring efforts, reach out to Human Resources.  Make sure their traditional P.R. folks know about you, and can contact you.  Know who to contact when your monitoring reveals a Customer Service or product quality issue.

So what do you think?  As social media experts, what are most important, must-have competencies and responsibilities you need to cover?  Do technical skills belong in there, or even an understanding of the technologies involved, or does that matter?  

I’d love to hear what you all think.

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About the Author

Kat French
Kat French is the Client Services and Content Manager at SME Digital. An exceptional writer, Kat combines creativity with an agile, get-it-done attitude across a broad range of experience in content strategy, copywriting, community management and social media marketing. She has worked with national brands like Maker's Mark, Daytona Beach Tourism, CafePress and more.

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