While the communications disciplines are still divided in most higher education programs, students (or at least my peers and I were) are often warned that the MarCom disciplines (marketing, communications, public relations, advertising) are being more and more integrated. This is becoming ever more apparent as all industries come together to fight over the rightful ownership of social media. Digital agencies think they are light years ahead those “silly” PR folks, while the PR professionals KNOW they are the right people for the job. The marketers think they’ve got the whole ROI issue cornered. The ad kids can make everything look shiny and pretty. So which industry has the right to inherent the magical kingdom of social media?
The real answer to that is no one and everyone. This is what makes the realm of social media so wonderful, but also so full of charlatans. There are a few characteristics that make for a good social media manager, but they are not exclusive to a particular industry. Some of the best social media movers and shakers I know come from outside the MarCom industry.
One of the best in-house social media teams is run out of the Roger Smith Hotel by Brian Simpson, who spent his life working in the hospitality industry and Adam Wallace, who received his degree from Skidmore College and has a background in photography and web design. They (and quite frankly the entire staff at the hotel) excel at their jobs because they understand two fundamental elements of social media, customer service and relationship building. I particularly enjoy the look Brian gives when people incredulously ask him about their key to success and he simply says, “It’s just about being a nice person.” What is their ROI you ask? Well their food and beverage revenue increased 10 fold in the past year because they’ve built a community of rabid fans who may or may not be overnight guests, but treat the hotel and adjacent restaurant as a second home.
Damien Basile, a social media consultant and close friend, studied design at the Fashion Institute of Technology. What makes him so great?
1. He produces and shares content that is relevant and insightful at breakneck pace. The man is the human Bing (only he actually works well).
2. He has business card after business card of people who you might call an “influencer,” but Damien is their friend in the truest sense of the term.
3. He works hard and produces results. While some people make promises and offer projections, Damien simply makes it happen. For him the words try, maybe and perhaps don’t exist.
“My purpose in life is to connect people together in a meaningful manner, essentially solving their problem,” Damien explains his role. “On a grander level this is what I do for brands and companies as a communications strategist – I solve their problem of communicating their brand message across multiple mediums.”
Now for the buyer beware notice: There are countless individuals floating out there on the internets calling themselves a “social media guru/Sherpa/expert/genius,” who may know how to create a Twitter account, but probably don’t know the first thing about how to engage with someone. They are able to do so for the very same reasons that all the MarCom players are fighting with each other. The field is still too new and too dynamic for any standards to be well established. There may very well be a plumber using a dial-up connection who knows more about how to best utilize social media than a PR professional with 30 years experience who still believes calling a reporter incessantly is the best course of action.
This all brings me to my final point, all the arguing over “who” is entering the social media space is just creating more useless noise. Rather, if you look at how they are doing their jobs then you can start accurately evaluating the quality of their work.