How to See Through a ‘Fake’ Social Media Expert
The term “expert” is thrown out rather carelessly these days. This may be the result of sites like LivePerson, which allow anyone to sign up as an “expert” in a pre-determined category. Sites like these are often lax when it comes to verifying credentials. Social media marketing gurus are abound, possibly because it’s relatively easy to amass a following on sites like Twitter and Facebook. Whether or not these social media mavericks built their following legitimately is immaterial. There’s more to being a social media expert than having thousands of followers.
What’s more, any number of Internet marketing forums provide these individuals with a soap box upon which they can spout their pearls of wisdom. Sites like these create an environment in which people can declare “best practices” and strategies “guaranteed” to increase engagement. Whether these individuals are experts or not can be difficult to determine. If your colleagues are getting a bit full of themselves, you can take them down a peg with a simple social media audit. But first, it’s helpful to be completely clear as to what being a social media marketer is all about.
What a Social Media Marketing Expert Actually Does
A social media marketing expert will have a firm grip on the field. It’s a rough and tumble work environment, and an expert will always be focused on these goals:
- Gleaning demographic data from their client’s audience in order to understand their wants and needs and to grow the base
- Constantly promoting content via content marketing, advertising, guest posting and link building
- Driving engagement and promoting sharing via the major social networks: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, Tumblr, Flickr and Linkedin – each network requires a different strategy and attracts a different “crowd”
- Effectively and efficiently driving traffic to a specific landing page to grow brand awareness
- Cultivating strong ties to niche influencers
Perhaps the most important aspect of the job is the ability to create true engagement with the target audience. Anyone can get followers, but an expert has the ability and know-how to connect with any group of people. He or she has the ability to find out what the audience is passionate about. The expert understands that passion drives engagement and formulates a social engagement plan accordingly.
The Mark of a Professional
First, though, it might be helpful to slap a definition on “expert.” Many professionals consider an expert someone who has specialized knowledge that isn’t easily obtained. In the Old World—the world before 2003 or so—you could easily determine whether someone was an expert by looking at their academic history. No longer. These days, high school and college dropouts make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and run corporations. Still, there are a few indicators of a true social media marketing expert that you can look for. It’s helpful to look past their social media profiles in the beginning and focus on a few other areas:
- Do they have a blog? A social media marketing expert will most certainly have their own Web real estate with a large following. Their blog should be active, with lots of comments and other forms of engagement.
- Do they understand content marketing? Do they use their blog to promote other people’s products, and if so, do they do it well? Their posts should be devoid of the hard sell. They should understand the value of providing well-written, useful content. Their focus should be on building their list and not on selling individual products.
- Are they good with people? Do they respond to comments, and if so, are they helpful? Do you get a sense that they’re a real person, or are they stiff and robotic?
- Do they drive engagement with images, video and infographics? A social media marketing expert will understand the importance of giving the people what they want.
Audit Your Colleagues
Finding out whether or not your colleagues are blowing smoke is straightforward. Start with an audit of their social media channels. You can spot bots – fake followers, likely purchased – by checking whether they actually share content. This can be a bit time consuming, but bot usage is one of the strongest indicators of an amatur. A true social media marketing expert doesn’t feel the need to buff their accounts. There are free online services, such as StatusPeople, that will perform this check for you.
Next, take a look at the content that they share themselves. Most amateurs will focus on sharing only their client’s – or their own – content. True experts, however, understand the value of feeding their audiences content from many different sources. This demonstrates to followers that they’re not just out to make a buck and that they actually want to help them. To get an idea of whether your colleague is sharing valuable content, take a look at how often their posts are shared across the various social networks. Klout makes this very easy to do, and the service assigns individuals a score based on how influential they are. Look for a high volume of +1s, favorites, retweets, shares and likes.
Finally, social media search engine BuzzSumo makes it easy to identify influencers within a given niche. If you know who your colleague claims to represent, you can easily see if those people are in the upper echelon of their niche. Of course, some niches are extremely competitive, so you can’t rely on this tool alone.
At the end of the day, you should be able to vet your friend’s claims against the cold hard metrics that these free services provide. Most so-called “experts” won’t appear on BuzzSumo, nor will they have a Klout score above 50. If these people insist that you’re judging them unfairly, just remind them that the word “expert” is reserved for the best of the best in a given field.