Why You May Need a Social Media Specialist

by Laura Spencer

on November 18, 2013

in Business/Freelance

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Businessman drawing a social media diagram on a whiteboard

Do web designers and web developers need the services of a social media specialist?

The answer is…it depends. Here are some key questions to help you find out if you need the services of a social media specialist:

  • Do you want to grow your business?
  • Do you have a product to sell?
  • Do you operate a blog for profit?
  • Is the traffic to your website or blog lethargic or dropping?
  • Do you seem to get the wrong kind of reader?

If you answered “yes” to most of these questions, then your web design or web development business could probably benefit from the services of a social media specialist. (If you answered “no” to all of these questions, you are probably staying busy and don’t need any more clients or customers. Why fix it if it’s not broke?)

I’ve been creating web content for multiple sites for several years. One thing I’ve noticed is that the websites that are the most successful also have the strongest social media presence. That’s not an accident. If you want a strong social media presence, you probably need help.

In this post, I’ll examine what a social media specialist is. I’ll also describe some common social media myths and mistakes. Finally, I’ll discuss how to hire a good social media specialist.

What Is a Social Media Specialist?

Social media is an extremely new profession, and as such is commonly misunderstood.

Many people think that because anyone can create a social media account, anyone can be a social media specialist. This is similar to thinking that because anyone can pick up a paint brush anyone can be an artist. Or thinking that because most people can put a sentence together, most anyone could be a writer.

There’s actually a vast difference between creating a Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr account for fun and knowing how to leverage social technologies to promote a business. Many people who have logged hours on social sites playing games and posting personal photos don’t have a clue about how to effectively promote a business.

One problem is that the role of a social media professional is so new that there’s no real defined qualifications for this type of position yet. Some social sites are just now starting to come out with social media qualifications. Here are a few examples:

  • HubSpot Academy has started to offer certifications for some social media related specialties including Inbound Certification.
  • HootSuite University also offers an opportunity for certification. They offer video-based courses and list certified professionals in their directory.
  • Mediabistro offers not one, but two separate social media certifications. One is a master certificate in Social Media Marketing, the other is simply a Social Media certificate.

Individuals who have completed one or more certificate programs typically have more invested in their career and may be more knowledgeable about the business aspects of social media than those whose main qualification is that they spent hours playing on social platforms.

Shell Robshaw-Bryan has posted an excellent description of what a social media specialist does in her article on Social Media Today titled Social Media Management and the Myth that “Anyone Can Do It”. Her post makes the point that there’s a lot more to social media than you might think.

So, as you can tell, social media specialists have a lot more to offer than most people realize. The myth that anyone can do it is not the only myth surrounding social media, either.

The Myth of Viral Spontaneity

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Another common myth surrounding social media is that all excellent content will spontaneously become viral.

As a content creator, I’ve encountered this myth fairly often. Everyone loves to think that fantastic content or a terrific product will automatically draw an audience without any effort whatsoever to promote it. This idea is simply not true.

Even in those rare occasions when it is true, it isn’t always desirable. For example, once in a while a post or video about a “train wreck” may go viral. But your failure and mistakes probably aren’t what you want your web design business to be known for.

Content, no matter how fantastic it is, won’t get shared unless someone sees it. And in today’s crowded Internet, where everyone is trying to draw attention to their own materials, it can take a concentrated effort on the part of a professional to get your materials in front of the right eyes–those of your prospective clients.

Of course, you could try to do social media on your own. But the odds are great that you’ll make a mistake, and in today’s economy you may not be able to afford a mistake.

3 Common Social Media Mistakes

Social media is an area that many businesses get wrong, including web design businesses. Here are some of the most common mistakes that I see:

  1. Becoming a broadcaster. This is probably the biggest mistake that I see. Sometimes even large brands make this mistake. Companies and organizations share their own content repeatedly. There is never any interaction with others and the user never responds to anyone. However, successful use of social media requires interaction.
  2. Posting tons of crappy content. Another mistake that website owners often make is to equate quantity with quality. Instead hiring a professional writer to create high quality content and a social media specialist to promote the content, they create tons of low budget and low quality content in the hopes that they will attract enough attention by frequent posting.
  3. Giving up. The final mistake that many make is to simply give up. I see this happen with a lot of freelance web designers and developers. They create social media accounts, but they simply do not have the time to keep them active and run their business at the same time.

The best way to avoid making these or other mistakes is to get some professional help.

How to Hire a Good Social Media Specialist

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If you’ve decided to hire a social media specialist, it’s important to get a good one. Your wife’s nephew who has spent hours on Facebook playing Candy Crush probably isn’t qualified to be your social media specialist.

Instead, examine each potential specialist’s background carefully. Here are some things to look for:

  1. Training. Is the potential social media specialist self-taught or do they have formal training? While being self-taught isn’t always bad, a self-taught specialist should have strong experience and be able to point you to current clients. As far as formal training goes, look at the programs that the specialist has taken. If they have a certification, what does that certification include? How well does their training match with what you actually want them to do?
  2. Experience. How long has the social media specialist been working in social media? If they have little to no experience, it may be difficult to determine their ability. And of course, their experience should not precede a social media platform itself. For example, no one should claim knowledge of Facebook before 2004, although some specialists may have worked on predecessors such as forums or chat rooms.
  3. Current Clients. A good social media specialist should have a list of clients and references. You should be able to determine what type of social presence their clients have. They may also be able to provide statistics such as number of social shares and point to an increase (over time) in web traffic. Pay particular attention to what types of platforms the specialist is familiar with. As a minimum, most social media specialists should be familiar with Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Your Turn

Have you hired a social media specialist for your your web design or web development business? What tips would you add?

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About Laura Spencer

Laura Spencer is a freelance writer from North Central Texas with over 20 years of professional business writing experience. If you liked this post, then you may also enjoy Laura’s blog about her freelance writing experiences, WritingThoughts. Laura is also on Google+.