Death of the Social Media Guru

No More Gurus by Ilana Fox

As a result of organisations becoming increasingly aware of the burgeoning power of social media and consequentially seeking to grow their online presence, a new breed of candidate has emerged.

The self-proclaimed ‘social media guru’, but with no bench mark set to aspire to and no qualifications to back up this status, couldn't anyone call themselves a Social Media Guru? And what effect will this have upon the industry as a whole?

Personal to Professional

Community Engagement Consultant Ilana Fox recently started a campaign in an attempt to rid the world of the so called ‘social media guru’.

Resentful of being classed as a social media guru herself, Fox brings to the foreground the reasons for this new trend and the inevitable issues arising as a result.

Many of the issues raised by Fox are already revealing themselves within the recruitment sector. The vast majority of ‘social media gurus’ we encounter base their skills upon their personal use of social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, adopting the view that they are qualified to use these tools and have used them effectively in a commercial capacity.

Yet their knowledge and evidence of how to drive campaigns through social media and achieve results is sparse. Whilst the basic principles are there such as boosting numbers, there is no strategy in place or understanding of what the moral and ethical implications of using these channels are.

What do Clients Want?

The primary request that we are seeing as recruiters is a demand for results driven candidates. Clients want to see how a candidate’s social media skills have impacted in a previous post upon tangibles such as ROI and traffic - they want commercial value. However, many organisations are unaware of how to best measure this and as such have no previous results for comparison, meaning that the success of a campaign and a candidate’s worth is open to interpretation.

Yet with digital still evolving of development, inevitably we are seeing a skill shortage as the market plays catch up and the candidates who can deliver in this capacity are few and far between. This results in the hiring of the not so capable ‘social media guru’ in a desperate attempt to quickly establish themselves online.

The Price of Social Media Expertise

What is perhaps more worrying though is that this lack of understanding from both client and candidate is directly influencing salaries. The salaries currently offered and requested for these roles are not reflective of the work required or skill sets possessed and often differ wildly from one organisation to the next. Leading to confusion for clients and an inaccurate sense of market worth for the social media guru.

What Next?

Birmingham City University became the first university to offer a degree in social media back in 2009. Since then many other universities have followed suit by integrating social media modules within related courses such as Media Studies and Marketing. Perhaps an indication that in time we may see a new influx of candidates with ‘certified’ social media skills and the criteria could soon become more defined.

That said, skill development in general and particularly within digital is usually an organic process and acquired through experience. Fox outlines that the core attributes to look for if seeking a social media expert are a background of PR or marketing, along with a strong knowledge of media law.

So if you’re new to the industry then getting experience in the aforementioned areas is a good start and if you’re already working within the industry, whether it’s in a marketing, communications or PR position then why not speak to your current employers about additional training. Or better still, if your organisation already has a digital team see if they can help – even if it’s shadowing for a week. Half of what’s needed is experience, but the right experience, anyone can create a group or boost the number of twitter followers they have but as we’ve identified it’s a case of delivering results.