Carbing Up, Reaching Out

Pain au Levain, a French bread

Image via Wikipedia

Peter Shankman, founder of online community HARO and overall marketing top dog, recently threw down on Social Media Experts. Hard.

In an article written for Business Insider, Shankman blasts Social Media Experts as pretty much useless, and a waste of money.

“Being an expert in social media is like being an expert at taking the bread out of the refrigerator. You might be the best bread-taker-outer in the world, but you know what? The goal is to make an amazing sandwich, and you can’t do that if all you’ve done in your life is taken the bread out of the fridge.”

Touché, Shankman. Your point is well-taken. Bread alone does not a sandwich make.

And many companies are essentially carbo-loading: blindly tweeting, Facebooking, and blogging without a well-articulated strategy for how social media will pump up sales or improve service.

Say you’re a hardware store owner, and you launch an aggressive Facebook campaign to advertise a discount on paint. But if your customers aren’t on Facebook, your salesgirl is surly, and your paint expired in 1998, then you can post on Facebook all the live long day and not see a dime from it. Social media is a tool, just like radio ads or TV spots or open houses or business cards.

Yes, bread alone does not a sandwich make. But let me ask you this: have you ever had an amazing sandwich with crappy bread?

A good Social Media Expert could steer the hardware store owner away from a Facebook promotion, and toward a WordPress blog that gives friendly tips and expert advice about home repair and renovations.

Social media is, for better or for worse, a powerful tool that has given a voice back to our consumers. It’s relatively low-cost, it’s evolving quickly, it’s saturating every demographic, and it’s not going anywhere.

A qualified Social Media Expert is not a CEO; his expertise is specific and increasingly critical to the success of a marketing campaign.  He can’t teach great service, execute quality control, or make sure your electric bill is paid.

What he can do is help you figure out how to start a conversation with your customers, in the medium that your customers regularly use. He can show you how that conversation eventually leads to brand awareness, customer loyalty, and increased sales. He can help you find your company’s voice and create unique, interesting content.

(Forgive me, I can’t resist–)

He might just be the best thing since sliced bread.

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