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Agencies should not hire social media specialists

Does your agency have a social media specialist on the team?

What do they do exactly? Community management, social listening, content creation, socialCRM, creative campaigns, influencer management, social business, social advertising, viral videos(!), on-site social media, social search, offline-online integration, mobile-social, social strategy, blogger relations, and social media reporting?

If it’s anything like the agencies I’m familiar with, they do a bit of everything. That’s a hefty job description!

Could one person really be an expert in all this?

No. The time has come for our industry to (continue to) mature and specialize. When I raised this with Andy Jamieson and Scot Ennis, Scot likened the term ‘social media specialist’ to an ‘internet specialist’. Back in the days, when the internet was new, you could have them  but now … they don’t make a living anymore.

They had to specialize into: digital producers, UX designers, web copywriters, digital strategists, SEOs, paid search managers, flash animators (maybe not anymore!) among many other online roles.

Social media specialists must now do the same.

Some are already leading the way: Alison MichalksQuiip agency is dedicated to community management, K-Matrix focuses on social media listening, The Remarkables limits its’ scope to blogger management, and (one closer to home) my sister recognised a niche in health and wellness social marketing.

We need to learn from their innovation.

You could develop a specialty in a number of ways:

  • Pick a platform and know it inside out: become the ultimate know-it-alls of Pinterest, WeChat, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Weibo, Google+, Mixi, RenRen, Quora, forums, MySpace, blogs or any of the other smaller, niche or country-specific platforms.
    • Pros: be really focused so save time on research and staying across developments on all platforms; generate efficiency in process and methodology; and still have variety by doing different types of social media work, for example, you could do Twitter community management, promoted tweets and hashtag campaigns.
    • Cons: you’re totally reliant on a platform … so if it becomes the next MySpace, you’ll need to adapt or your business goes along with it.
  • Focus on a behavioural trait of how people use these platforms: live and breathe how a particular audience segment connects and engages. For example, you could become the go-to-girl on why Japanese users prefer anonymity online and how that influences their use of the interest graph over the social graph.
    • Pros: suits planners, researchers and strategists who are most interested in consumer insights; attracts highly targeted, tailored (more profitable?) projects; enables you to become a real thought-leader on a particular culture, audience or consumer group. If you pick an emerging market – Indonesia, Russia, Brazil, China, India, Africa – your growth will leverage market growth.
    • Cons: the segment will evolve so you’ll need to invest in research. You want to be the expert(s), not just an expert.
  • Narrow the scope of social marketing services: just because you can do everything, doesn’t mean you should. What is most profitable for you? Which sell the most? Look at the numbers to figure out which part of social media marketing you should focus on.
    • Pros: generate efficiencies in processes, staff training and development, methodology; focus on most profitable or highest-selling products to increase margins and revenue.
    • Cons: be wary of choosing a service that is too commoditised or could become that way … or could eventually be moved in-house as the status quo.

So ask yourself and your team: what is your specialty? How do you differentiate yourself from all the other social media agencies out there?

Posted: February 26th, 2013
Categories: Digital
Tags: , , , , , ,
Comments: 2 Comments.
Comment from Phill Ohren - February 27, 2013 at 4:52 pm

Great advice Hannah! Being the Jack of all trades simply isn’t always the way to go in terms of new career growth. However, “Jacks” IMO make good department / sector heads. Such as Head of Digital etc.

Comment from Hannah Law - February 27, 2013 at 6:37 pm

In big teams, it helps for strategists and managers to have a bit of general knowledge about everything social media-related. I think that also works on client side … but to really get value out of an agency, the social media team needs to specialize.