Social Media Specialists Are No Longer Needed

If you’ve been in this business for any length of time, then its time to take your collective aggregate knowledge of social media and add it to the overall mix of what you know and do. We’re at least five years in and I want you to quit being a social media specialist, because you aren’t one any longer. Simply put, and I’ve written about this at various points in the past, we’re all becoming social media generalists.

I used to be  an SEO specialist until  what I did just became a small  part of the daily mix of things that I did for our clients. There was also a time where I used to do nothing but manage PPC campaigns until it just became part of each clients overall web marketing strategy.

We all did something before social media

We all could mildly claim that we are or were bloggers at one point in time, except that it’s now merely part of what we do for our clients and respective companies. Same with video/vlogging, same with social media optimization, same with email marketing, same with creating websites, designing logos, writing copy, and creating tag lines; at one point in time it was unique and special but now-it’s just a sum total part of the collective us. We’re pulling from our collective experiences now. It’s natural and expected.

By now social should be a small part of what you do, but not all of what you do- At least for some of you. In fact, and I know a lot of you who fall into this category, there was a time where you owned social media and no one else could touch you. You were oracles of the social media soundbite.  Not anymore, social media knowledge bearers and practitioners are multiplying like rabbits and they know the game just as well as you do except…

You still have an advantage...

When I first got started in social it was for reputation management purposes and even then it wasn’t as much about the conversation as it was about understanding social media and its relationship to search… or I should say a blogs relationship to search (Facebook and Twitter weren’t even part of the conversation yet) Back then, a lot of you SEO’ers were merely concerned or wondering how to hyperlink signatures with keywords-I know that’s what I did, but then I evolved and so did you. Case in point.  I can bet all of you who have had a blog longer than a year can now spot a noob to the blog scene. How? When you get comment spam from people who insist on hyperlinking their generic, lame, weak, comment to a no-follow keyword based signature, you know… and you ask “Did they really just do that”? You’ve evolved.

Let’s digress

Things are changing. skill sets are changing- for example, if you are a PR practitioner, when did it become imperative that you understood how to not only write for your client, but also how to write for search? Or where the title of the promo piece was as important as the content contained within? Or better yet, when was it asked of PR practitioners that they had to understand the value of making connections with people in social networks? or starting blogger outreach campaigns? The PR person of today has many skills across multiple disciplines. They have to have them to survive.

Things change, people learn and skills evolve.

For Marcom people adding social to the mix is just another in the long list of things that are now just part of the job description. Yes we all still have to deal with the pretenders in the space, the snake oil salesman if you will, but for a lot of us, social is just part of the mix now. There was a time where I hated hearing the comment, “Yea but there is no ROI in social”; Now? I love to hear that comment so that I can fire both barrels of justification back at them. I’ve evolved and so have you. Marcom people need to know social, marketing, writing, PR, email marketing, advertising and design. Do they have to have deep knowledge? No, but give me breadth if I can’t have depth.

The next act

You see for a lot of you, your baseline level of knowledge in social now sets you up for what’s next. For those of you with an agency background, social is now just a part of what one does when creating a campaign. In some cases it’s the cornerstone, in others, it augments. Same with design. It’s a given that sites will have social components now-The hard part used to be finding people who could carry out the idealistic social initiatives aligned with the campaign, not any more. The troops are waiting for their marching orders.

Now social media failure isn’t so much based on the unknown or the person with a lack of knowledge, as much as it is based on a weak strategy, poor management, the wrong KPI’s or bad tactics. For a lot of you, you are the ones that will lead the charge into the new era of well rounded, seasoned generalists with skill sets that cover, tech, social, marketing, pr, and web. That’s the person I want and that’s the person that brands need.

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SearchBoth; Pitting good versus evil.

In an effort to confuse and confound internet searching even moreso, SearchBoth has decided to add more functionality. Forget the fact that most people really don’t know how to use search properly in the first place, SearchBoth had taken a novel approach in that it would combine the results from rival search engines. And you thought that Yahoo and Google had combined forces?  Hah! But there is one problem with this idea. Rather than re-doing an already busy page, SearchBoth has decided to just clutter the page with a additional tools.

SearchBoth.com places websites side by side on one split screen in order to make comparing the results of any two websites simple and easy. The site started out with just Google and Yahoo but now offers Ask.com, MSN, DogPile, MetaCrawler, Alta Vista, LookSmart and WebSearch as well. Users can select any two search engines and view them side by side on one split screen. Cool concept but…

SearchBoth.com has also included the ability to search travel sites side by side as well with the top 12 travel sites. Users can search Hotels.com, Expedia, Travelocity, HotWire, CheapTickets, SideStep, Kayak, CheapFlights, Travelation, TravelZoo, PriceLine, Orbitz, and CheapOAir side by side as well. Cool idea but…

Although these features may be useful, the UI harkens back to a pre-millenium design where designers and engineers would vomit information onto a page thinking that “less was less” and more was not enough.

If I’m wrong, correct me and show me the way. I can be swayed.

Dumb People and Technology

According to Wikipedia:

Dumb may refer to:

  • Stupidity, the state of
  • Dumbing down, a term referring to over-simplification

I recently wrote about the fact that sometimes technology and the use thereof, may be too complicated for some “slower” people to grasp, therefore what they might use their computer for, might not neccessarily be what others use it for. Is that ok?

In creating web apps and websites, we always try to dumb down what we are creating, in the hopes that its simplicity will push it over the top in terms of the broadest possible audience grasping what we are trying to convey. In lieu of words sometimes we create icons. Yet other large manufacturers choose to assume that people will “get it” and if they have problems just call the help desk. Can you say focus group? Or lack thereof?

Maybe Dumb people shouldn’t operate computers? Maybe we underestimate the dumb person; Or perhaps they use it to go to YouTube? Do dumb people use email? Has anyone or any company actually looked at that sector of the public to see, just what they use the computer for? Is it a group that we should market to? Are we missing out on this demographic? Or do we just assume that they will get it? Isn’t it the goal of all technology innovations that they are accessible to all? If so, doesn’t that mean regardless of your mental capacity, that that person will be able to grasp it? That you, the slow one, will get it?

Is technology biased towards people who are educated? If it is, do they leave the dumb people in their wake? What are dumb people supposed to do? Rely on smarter people? Or the Geek Squad? Do dumb people want a  crack at technology and what it has to offer?  Does technology provide a fair shake to people who want to learn but just are really really challenged?

A dumb person might have the grandest of intentions when buying a computer, but what are they to do when they have to install software, get an internet connection, download updates, install security software, burn a disc, download some music from itunes, buy some porn, etc etc etc…?

You see the world is moving more and more towards a paperless virtual high speed electronic environment. But it moves at a speed that not a lot of people are comfortable with. And you know what? Technology could not care less! Social networking sites are great but I’m willing to bet the affluency of the users is solid middle class and up. Educationally, we provide our 1st graders with a solid foundation for technology, but we’ve forgotten about the boomers and some gen X’ers even, and those who may have slipped through the cracks and those that it just passed right over. For whatever reason, those people are missing out on what technology can do for them. But now that I think about it, maybe they don’t care. Maybe to them, playing FreeCell, Bejeweled and watching Videos on YouTube, is just fine…

Web Sites Worth Sharing

It’s Friday and I really don’t wanna get too deep about technology or internet marketing, instead lets look at some fun websites or websites that might be of interest. In ivillage there is one site I’m sure some of us will want to forward to uh.. our friends. It’s called the perfect position selector. I will let you use your imagination as to what it might be in reference to.

This interactive company HiFade, in Pittsburgh, PA has a killer website and a friend of mine did the design work on it, check out the portfolio  Brilliant stuff. Pittsburgh by the way, is this country’s hidden little secret.

Have you ever been curious as to what people are into search wize from day to day and week to week? Well the Yahoo Buzz Index, willl give you a glimpse into that. My take is there is way too much testosterone flowing in today’s young males. Jessica Alba, can you hear me? Can you say Brazillian Models?

Speaking of Brazil, Has anyone seen the fallout stemming from The US Women’s Soccer Team loss to Brazil? If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, type in Hope Solo  in a search or just click her name since she may be venting more, soon.

Lastly..

Quantcast is an internet ratings service. Advertisers can find reports on the audiences of millions of web sites. Publishers can ensure their sites are represented accurately by tagging them for direct measurement. The service is free to everyone. It’s pretty cool.

Ok having said, it’s pretty cool, reminded me of this site that everone might enjoy playing around with, it’s called The Wayback Machine, and what it does,  is it will show you archived versions of websites from years gone by, just type in the URL and check it out, it’s pretty accurate.

That’s all I got Mr. Peabody! Thanks Sherman.

Have any sites that are cool? Let me know.

Web Sites with Bad Design

Web Sites with a bad UI. They are not hard to find. But what I find hard to fathom, is large companies and organizations which green light projects that produce such fodder? Where is the disconnect? I once worked for an interactive web design company, and we would sit in these meetings and this is what happens: 10 people providing input into what “they” would like to see on the “new” website. No central voice, except that all were allowed to participate and contribute.

What happens is the website loses all workflow and navigation sensibility. Why? Because you have decisions made by committee. By people who have no background in web design and UI design. This seems to be more prevalent the larger the organization, but can also happen on a smaller scale, when decision makers fancy themselves and the masses for that matter, as intuitive web designers.

One of the areas where you would think that creativity would reign supreme but does not, is on college campuses. Why? In a lot of  academic settings, each department may be autonomous of each other and thus have an idea how their departments “look and feel” should be articulated online. Trust me it, it doesn’t work. What you get is 20 departments with 20 different looks. All sites should flow, they should have the same layout so that students and parents and prospective students know exactly where to look for critical information.

Which leads me to the bigger picture. At all large corporations and small as well. You need to have a plan. But the plan needs to work in the context of a) does it meet and serve the needs of the visitor and b) does it meet and server the needs of the search engines and c) is it visually effective.

Unfortunately, form over function sometimes wins out and thus what you get is, sites that are not so hot.

Let’s critique a few really quick, shall we?

Harvard I’m a little shocked by the lack of interest this landing page conveys. It’s almost arrogant in nature. The thought being, “We’re Harvard, so having a cool website is not a priority. So Much for PR.

Oxford  Not bad.  At least it’s a little more inviting to visitors than Harvards. It still has a stuffy academic “We are Oxford” feel to it.

Coke Might have been cool but the load was slow, but interactive and engaging, maybe a little too busy, but then again it’s a brand that really has to speak to a lot of different demographics, so it’s understandable. But still slow and confusing.

Pepsi  Absolutely love this. Very fast load (because its PHP?) The UI is broken into segments immediately, it’s hip and engaging and Clearly they understand who is hitting their site. Mad props to the folks at Pepsi. they get it. They understand their brand and their users and how to get them where they need to go.

McDonalds I’m surprised at the corporate nature of this. given the amount of urban advertising and the tremendous push for fresh and new, I’m not feeling this from the landing page.  They have one little drop down called,”havin fun”… NOT!

Burger King Not Bad, but the initial landing page is a map and you have to choose your country. I get that for an internationaly branded product but.. After selecting the proper country there are some nifty flash pages but overall I would think it needs to play up current themes versus current specials??? Who’s your audience?

Los Angeles  The city of Los Angeles, I know, whenever you venture into the public sector, especially government sites, expect the worst. so I wasn’t surprised by what I saw.  As citizens, you expect to muddle your way through any type of state or local government site. I wish they(the sites) were better, but they are because they are.

NYC I actually liked the NYC site. It was laid out a bit better than the LA site; and it also has a feel for who might be hitting the site. The LA site was like their freeways. Confusing. The NYC site actually understands it’s sites visitors better and what they need and want. Kudos to the Big Apple.

I’m curious as to what others might feel about this and would not mind seeing some examples of good and bad sites. I know some orgs. know they have a bad site and others are just clueless, maybe we can help them? Let me know.

Cheers