Santa Claus, Loch Ness Monster and Social Media Experts

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Santa Claus with a little girl
Image via Wikipedia

A few weeks ago I was pitched (again) by a “social media guru” from San Francisco.  After meeting him through a friend of a friend, and about 17 emails I finally gave in and invited him to stop by the winery.  Seems like I’m getting pitched every week by another social media expert who has all the answers to our wine business needs.  I was hoping this guy would have something different to say, or at least I was hoping he would take the time to look at the wine industry for real, and not just the romanticized vision of it.

I see him roll up in his recently buffed pearl white Mercedes SUV and slicked back hair, and I knew right away what this guy was about.  In my mind, he represents what’s wrong with the social media landscape right now.  So many businesses are realizing they want to “socialize” themselves, but they don’t know how to do it.  Suddenly, out of the woodwork comes armies of “gurus” and “experts” with all the answers.  The wine industry is especially susceptible because wineries aren’t especially tech-savvy.  It’s easy to be confused by snake oil salesmen promising big numbers.

So I listen to the pitch about all the powerful social media ROI his team can produce, and I wait until the end.  I asked the guy what he knew about our winery.  “Nothing,” he replied.  I asked him who he thought were the wineries who were succeeding with social media.  “There’s a winery in Illinois called Lynfred Winery, but no one around here,” he said.  I thanked him for his time and sent him on his way.  He failed to do any research about me as a potential client, and he failed to look at the wine/social landscape.  I think they call that due diligence.  I had looked into his online efforts before he arrived, and discovered he didn’t even have a Twitter handle, nor a Facebook page.  Basically, he and his team go into blog comments on behalf of clients and essentially spam the hell out of wine blogs.

It seems many wineries may have similar experiences, which is probably causing confusion.  In my job as the Director of Social Media for St. Supéry, I live and breathe this stuff every day, and I feel like we’re just now starting to understand it.  Through a lot of trial and error we’ve had some successes and some things that didn’t work.  After a year and two months in my role, I am just now starting to feel like I’m getting enough experience to no longer be called a beginner.  Maybe intermediate…maybe.
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Some people say you have to do something at least 10,000 times before you can be considered an expert in anything.

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For wineries trying to make sense out of who to trust and who not to, I put together a few tips that should help determine if someone is capable of executing any sort of social media campaign:
1. What is their Klout score? Klout.com is a tool that helps measure influence.  Influence is established by having an idea of what you’re doing.  Amazingly, many social media experts have very low Klout scores.  Hmmmm  Bullshit meter is already starting to hum.

2. Do they have a LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and blog presence? Those are kind of the main social sites these days.  If they’re going to build your business online, they need to show mastery of those sites.  Understanding how all the social sites fit together is critical because web 2.0 is all about open source, or the ability to share between sites.

3. Are they promising ROI? Hardly anyone has figured out how to manufacture and measure ROI.  Even the Old Spice campaign, which is considered to be one of the best social media efforts in history isn’t fully understood yet in terms of ROI.  You can’t promise a certain increase in followers, fans or ROI because all those things are out of your control.  Free will can’t be manipulated, and that’s what social media is.  You can’t make someone become a Facebook fan or follow organically.  The only way is through gimmicks like contests or something that bumps numbers up, but doesn’t create an authentic connection.

4. What do their online conversations look like? There’s a social media “expert” in Northern California who’s Twitter stream is only Foursquare checkins.  No actual conversation are taking place.  Having engaging conversations is a pretty important part of the equation.

5. If they can’t build their brand online, they can’t build yours Sounds obvious, but there’s truth to that statement.  Walking the walk and talking the talk is important because it demonstrates how well someone can do what they’re saying you should do.

I’m going to make a blanket statement and say anyone who refers to themselves as a Social Media Guru or Expert isn’t.  Ironically, this is the easiest way to find the people are aren’t.  Like Santa Claus and Nessie of Loch Ness, Social Media Experts don’t exist.

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  22 comments for “Santa Claus, Loch Ness Monster and Social Media Experts

  1. September 11, 2010 at 12:09 AM

    Hey, Rick. Love the post.

    You know enough to call BS when someone doesn’t walk the talk. If only it was so clear to those who aren’t as social media savvy. They are so easily wowed (and confused) by buzzwords without substance.

    I’m on Twitter, Facebook and all the other bright and shiny places. All I need now is a white Mercedes. Must get right to work on that.

    Irene

  2. Heike
    September 11, 2010 at 2:05 AM

    Good post. Hope they will read this too, to rethink their ‘strategy’…

  3. September 11, 2010 at 8:06 AM

    Hello Rick,

    I must say, if he didn’t know of your social media, he must not have done his research at all! I have always used you as a structure to what I want to achieve in our social media platfom.

    Cheers,

    Christina @lynfredwinery

    • Anonymous
      September 15, 2010 at 10:56 AM

      keep doing great work and moving the needle :)

  4. September 11, 2010 at 9:25 AM

    “It’s easy to be confused by snake oil salesmen promising big numbers.”Nice information presented in the post, thanks for sharing such a great post.

  5. Margie Tosch
    September 11, 2010 at 10:36 AM

    Great article Rick! Love that you mentioned the Old Spice ads – because I think they are brilliant! Yet, I haven’t gone out and actually bought any Old Spice. Its a constantly changing landscape, and it’s going to be interesting to see where it goes, I’m willing to go along for the ride!

  6. mary
    September 12, 2010 at 10:52 AM

    Good Grief, I’m a Twitter idiot and I totally know who you are. This guy just must have been down in his basement playing guitar hero for awhile.

  7. September 12, 2010 at 8:48 PM

    Somebody referred to me as a “social media expert” the other day. Not the case at all. With things changing so often, the very least I can be is a “constant learner”. I think that you articulate quite clearly the challenges that face those of us tasked with socializing the web’s inhabitants. Also, I’m fermenting some beets in the corner of my room. Wish me luck. #america!

    • Anonymous
      September 13, 2010 at 5:33 PM

      constant learner is a good term.

  8. Mary-Colleen
    September 13, 2010 at 4:48 PM

    Great piece, Rick. We got a call over here from a “social media expert” the other day. I used your example and asked what wineries were doing a good job with it — he said none, really, because what everyone is doing can’t be quantified/there’s no way of measuring ROI. I asked if there’s no way of measuring success, what was the point of his company?

    I’ve got a lot to learn, I know, but I’d rather learn by observing and engaging with wineries and wine consumers who are doing a great job already than by paying some dude who can’t even tell me what “good social media” even is.

    • Anonymous
      September 13, 2010 at 5:34 PM

      Thanks for sharing that Mary-Colleen. I’d be willing to bet many wineries are getting calls like the one you received but they don’t know what to do or how to make sense out of it.

  9. Ashley
    September 14, 2010 at 2:15 PM

    Re: Bright Shiny Mercedes.

    Don’t hate the player, Rick. Hate the game.

    • Anonymous
      September 14, 2010 at 2:29 PM

      I’m sure you all over at VinTank get approached by these “experts” all the time. Do you find similar experiences?

  10. September 15, 2010 at 10:35 AM

    But Rick, My 4sq chekins are awesome! ;-)

    I love this post, it so true. I also think it’s ironic that so many job openings are looking for that mythical creature, “the social-media expert.” I wonder who they’ve hired?

    • Anonymous
      September 15, 2010 at 10:57 AM

      LOL You’re foursquare checkins ARE awesome. So are your online conversations. Thanks for being a great online friend and for moving the needle.

  11. September 15, 2010 at 10:44 AM

    Uhhh he might have at least done some homework before he walked in the door. Amazing.

    • Anonymous
      September 15, 2010 at 10:56 AM

      total waste of time.

    • Anonymous
      September 26, 2010 at 2:33 PM

      mind boggling.

  12. September 24, 2010 at 5:40 PM

    This is really a great post. I love your advice, look at the “experts” profiles and get a sense for whether they even know what they are doing. Also, if they can’t build their own brand online, how can they build yours? True. True. It’s amazing as I have been working in digital strategy for awhile now and I see the same thing happens with websites, the snake oil saleman shows up and the next thing you know a biz has spent a ton of money on a worthless website. I agree, it seems amazing that anyone can call themselves an expert in social media- the landscape is changing so quickly. The real thought leaders in this field won’t even take that title, so it amazes me when someone calls themselves that. One other thing I find amazing is that these “experts” are calling you to sell their services. I am amazed. If they are so good why are the clients not finding them. I have never had to call and sell to a customer. They have all come through referrals and/or through my social presence. I did not realize there were people out there selling like this. Very unfortunate. Good post. Thanks for sharing.

    • Anonymous
      September 26, 2010 at 2:32 PM

      Thanks for your comments, Nicole. It seems this sort of thing is happening across all sorts of industries, not just wine.

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