Social media isn't just a proven business practice in the Attention Economy; it's becoming the epicenter of digital marketing.
As a result, bonafide social media consultants must develop always-evolving expertise in the following areas:
1. Media Planning & Strategy
In short, media planning is a series of decisions that result in the most effective method to produce, publish and distribute content to a sizable, relevant audience, at an optimal price, within an optimal channel or platform for each piece of content.
A media plan and strategy includes:
- Market research
- Target audience analysis
- Content strategy
- A "content tilt" (a term coined by Joe Pulizzi in his book Content Inc.)
- Marketing strategy
Storytelling isn't as simple as most marketers make it out to be: Telling stories about people - customers, employees, what have you.
Instead, storytelling starts with developing an editorial blueprint, which includes:
- An editorial mission statement, and
- Editorial guidelines, themes and calendars
The future of effective storytelling will treat content as a product in and of itself, rather than a means to selling more of whatever the company behind the content actually sells.
By treating content as a product in and of itself, you can monetize and even profit from it, just like you would with any other product.
In case you haven't noticed, the Internet is replacing TV, radio, magazines and newspapers as the ultimate source of both information AND entertainment.
Social media consultants must be able to show clients how to produce content that's as entertaining, inspiring, motivating and interesting as it is informative.
"It's not about B2B or B2C marketing. It's about H2H: human to human marketing," writes Timo Elliott, Innovation Evangelist at SAP. "Organizations need to make sure they really understand what people are interested in and dump the marketing speak."
Moving forward, social media consultants must look at marketing through the lens of converged media - the utilization of paid, earned, owned and rented media, characterized by a consistent storyline, look and feel, whereby all channels work in concert in order to reach people exactly where, how, and when they want, regardless of channel, medium or device.
"Rapid journeys across multiple digital devices will increasingly blur the lines until almost all distinction between paid, owned, earned [and rented media] dissolve," Rebecca Lieb and Jeremiah Owyang write in this report from Altimeter Group, which coined the term converged media.
5. Customer Experience
You've probably heard of the term customer experience by now.
By many accounts, customer experience will become the number-one factor in people's purchase-making decisions, ahead of price, by 2020.
In fact, customer experience includes price - as well as the products and services, advertising, marketing, customer service, website, online reviews, and every other possible online and offline interaction and experience that customers can have with a business.
In other words, the sum of a business' individual parts will dictate its success. No longer will brands be able to solely compete on price, promotions, features and benefits, customer service or any other individual competitive edge.
That's why social media consultants must be excellent at understanding:
- How their clients can leverage social media to provide timely, accurate customer service (Jay Baer's book Hug Yours Haters is a great place to start), and
- How content can enhance the overall customer experience
6. Branding & Positioning
As an IBM executive once said, "Your brand is not what you sell."
Social media consultants need to be able to show their clients how to brand and position themselves using social media so as to not appear sales-driven, but to be top-of-mind when people in their audience are ready to make a purchase.
"Consumers reject pure brand messaging," says Michael Brito, former Senior Vice President of Social Strategy at Edelman Digital. "Red Bull never talks about their energy drink; they just talk about Shaun White."