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The guest post today is by Shelley Cadamy is currently the Business & Entrepreneurial Services Coordinator for Francis Tuttle Technology Center.  She assists start-up as well as existing small businesses in strategy development and implementation.

About a year ago, I fell into being a “social media expert.” I use the quotes, because I’m really not convinced there are all that many actual social media experts out there, and I’m certainly not one of them. As a small business strategist, one of the things I assist my clients with is creating quick and dirty marketing plans. As such, I created a seminar on how my clients could effectively use social media tools in their marketing. It was wildly successful (one client picked up three new customers the first three days they were on Twitter), and the one seminar I expected to do turned into about thirty seminars and counting. Unfortunately, when I get introduced, to my chagrin, it’s as a “social media expert,” which I quickly correct, after much cringing.

Having said that, I’m amazed at how many people are more than happy to promote themselves as “social media experts.” Every third twitter follow I get is from some IT guy who may have difficulty with interpersonal communication, but is now a social media expert. Or an HR Director who believes that since he is successful at using social media in his HR position, that he is also qualified to do social media on behalf of other people. Or an accountant who is on Facebook and Twitter 24/7 and thus, must be a social media expert and believes himself completely qualified to do social media on behalf of you or your company.

When it comes right down to it, social media is a marketing tactic, and just like old school marketing tactics – direct mail, TV & Radio advertising, print advertising, etc. – lots and lots of difficult homework must be completed before they’re ever employed on behalf of your company. They must be used as part of an overall marketing strategy that makes sense for your company, your market, and your resources. Those marketing plans are not easy to create, and the reason they’re not easy to create is because they take actual marketing knowledge and understanding to craft – something which marketing professionals have plenty of and something of which IT guys, accountants, and HR professionals are generally fresh out.

If you’re a small business owner, do you know who your market is and why? Do you know what they want? Do you know what your message to your market should be? Then and only then should you be getting your message out to that market via social media or any other media. If you don’t have the answers to these questions, please find a marketing professional to help you find them and to help you implement the resulting plan. If you choose to hire someone to assist specifically with your social marketing as well, please ensure that he or she is also a marketing professional. You wouldn’t hire a marketing professional to manage your EEO claims – please don’t hire an HR professional to do your marketing.

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