Many of us have parents who own small businesses. With the economy in the state it’s in these days, a lot of these small businesses are looking to new outlets for free and low cost advertising; many are turning to social media “experts” for help.
I’m always a little wary when I hear someone described as a social media “expert.” This is not because I think there aren’t people out there who do good work or who understand the medium, quite the contrary. There are folks like Brian Clark over at Copyblogger, the writers at Socialbrite, or John Hayden to name a few, who consistently offer up excellent thoughts in this relatively new and rapidly changing field. But, it is precisely because the field of social media is still so new and rapidly changing that words like “expert” or “guru” still can’t accurately be applied.
I am not a social media expert. At all. I prefer terms like “social media enthusiast” or “social media junkie” since I’m very interested in how businesses and corporations are using social media strategy as it relates to me as a consumer.
A few months ago I completed a nine month communications internship with a non-profit in DC where working with their social media outlets factored in heavily. I also subscribe to a handful of social media blogs for tips on how to better understand and use the medium (call me a weirdo, but dissections of strategy and information on new tools for users on multiple platforms are kinda neat.) I’ve learned a lot, but that hardly makes me an authority on the subject. On the other hand, it does give me the ability to call “shenanigans” when I come across bad advice from a self appointed “expert.”
Bad advice and poor strategy can hurt a brand. I’m not talking about Coca-Cola or DuPont or the like. Larger businesses and corporations have the money to hire professional teams of thoroughly vetted strategists. Rather, it’s the smaller businesses (the kind our parents start) that run the greater risk of being taken advantage of by someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.
Here are a couple of things to tell your parents to be careful about:
Your “expert” has one social media strategy that they apply to everyone.
No two businesses are the same, so why would you hire someone whose treats marketing strategies like they are? Watch out for the “expert” whose social media road map focuses solely on creating a hub at your website, then a Facebook page, and creating a following on Twitter. This is not to say that this isn’t a fine strategy for some businesses or individuals, but if your audience isn’t on Facebook or Twitter, you’re going to have a very hard time attracting the attention you want.
As I’ve previously discussed, it comes down to finding your audience. Make sure your “expert” understands that the first step to a successful social media campaign is identifying who your audience is and where they’re found.
The “expert” only wants to talk about the importance of website hits.
It baffles me when I hear someone talking about the number of hits their website has garnered. Of all the was to measure traffic to your site, “hits” is one of the worst.
What’s a “hit?” Simply put, a hit is a request for one file from a web server. If you visit a webpage with only text, the web server sends you that page as a file. This counts as one “hit.” Back in the dark days of the internet, hits were a legitimate way of tracking how many pages were viewed because each page was generally one file. Each “hit,” more or less, equaled a page view.
Today, webpages are made up of multiple files- text, photos, video all of which count as hits. It gets worse: the webpages of Web 2.0 are designed differently than they were back in the day of Web 1.0. Say a website uses 30 icons in their navigation menu. This website is now generating more hits than a website using only text and a single image. “Hits” are useless when it comes to looking at actual traffic to your website.
Social media strategy is about planning, posting, and measuring in a near endless cycle. If your “expert” doesn’t know how to measure your traffic with metrics like unique visitors, bounce rate, visit duration, all of your careful planning and posting is useless.
What else should your parents know about hiring an “expert” for their business?