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Why social media experts are not douche bags

I just read a fascinating article by Olivier Blanchard in which he bemoaned the fact that businesses, proper businesses with responsibilities to staff, investors and creditors, trusted their social media engagement and measurement to “experts” whose experience lies primarily with managing blogs and endeavours in the ether of the net.

As a digital marketer whose job relies on the ether I should perhaps not have enjoyed it as much as I did, but he makes his point wonderfully, namely that social media metrics cannot be viewed in isolation – that there is more to measuring social media success than the number of views or follows.

Specifically, Blanchard mentions changes in buy rate, new sales, new online orders, and new traffic to real-world stores, etc. Businesses should be keeping track of these figures anyway, to measure the effectiveness of offline marketing campaigns and every day productivity and efficiency. Using these as a baseline it shouldn’t be too complicated to overlap the metrics with the figures generated by social media efforts.

The most important thing is to always remember that social media metrics are part of a much broader set of business metrics. They are not the be all and end all.

There is always a but. …

Like I said, I really enjoyed the article. I was even amused by his reference to “social media douche bags”. But that doesn’t mean I agree with everything he said.

I do agree that businesses need to keep in mind the bigger picture. Their views should naturally extend beyond the borders of social media outreach programmes.

But … social media douche bags – or experts as we prefer – are consulted on social media campaigns only. We don’t pretend to be business managers capable to saving businesses from the clutches of insolvency. We don’t announce our arrival in a flurry of promises that guarantee massive leaps in revenue and profit. Not if we’re the professional sort and not the kind that has invested heavily in snake oil.

Social media metrics, such as retweets and blog engagement, are important to us because they tell us if we’ve done our job properly. They show us where we’ve succeeded and failed and point the way forward.

Blanchard says that a monkey could decipher social media metrics in isolation. I submit that this is possible, if the monkey in question is familiar with Google algorithms, the way social media is changing the manner in which people interact with brands, the way it’s changing online shopping behaviour and the impact that new social networks have on current social media behaviour.

You see, contrary to what Blanchard thinks of us, digital marketers are not morons. We’re aware that social media is only one part of a business’s marketing campaign. But it’s the part that we’ve been tasked with managing. And we take that responsibility seriously.

(Image by Gautheron (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)

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