Who Isn't A New Media Strategist?

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If you look at many of the profiles found on Blogs and people’s ultra-short/sharp bios on Twitter, you will notice something very interesting: almost everybody says that they are either a New Media Strategist or a Social Media Strategist. What, exactly, does that mean and how can you better understand just how good they are at online strategy?

There is no doubt that when you get back to the office on Monday, everyone is going to be looking for areas to cut costs and get more efficient. Although we would like to think otherwise, Marketing is usually the first place to get hit… and hit hard. As part of whatever cost saving strategies will be implemented in your company, one question will be, "how can we better use some of these new media channels to gain efficiencies?" While this can be a slew of Blog posts on their own, most people will go online, do some generic searches or post a quick question on FriendFeed or Twitter asking their community who they should be speaking to. The reality is that when something is this new, everybody and anybody can claim to be an expert… or, at least, a "strategist."

Results speak louder than words.

Bios, Twitter feeds, Blog postings, etc… can all be great, interesting and meaty, but nothing will help you decide more than by looking at who they have worked for, what they have done and the results they have achieved. This is not about the size of the brands or the companies, sometimes the best Social Media and New Media stories are about how the local retailer was able to expand their business, create a global footprint, engage in a conversation with their customers and find some kind of fascinating business-to-business opportunity that was created specifically because they had engaged in these social channels. There’s also something to be said for the individual who was able to take a not-for-profit or industry association and help them optimize the conversation between them and their constituents with little-to-no budget. If the Strategist can’t show you real platforms and demonstrate how they changed, added value or affected the business goals of their clients directly, move on.

Do some snooping around on your own.

Doing simple searches on Technorati, Google Blog Search, Twitter Search, FriendFeed or creating a Google Alerts about the company that the Strategist has worked for is another very easy and simple way to see if the work they had done has had any effect. Without question, speaking directly to the client is an important part of deciding if you are going to move forward, but keep in mind that because these channels are so new, the clients may not even know (or be able to verbalize) exactly what the Strategist really did beyond regurgitating what they may have seen in a status report or heard anecdotally through someone else. One of the best ways to make the right decision on who you are going to work with is to empower yourself to use the many free tools available at your fingertips that will only take a few minutes to figure out, and pull results from them. Even doing a generic search on the client should pull some information to see if the needle has moved.

Go beyond the results to see the cross-channel effect.

It’s not just about whether the Strategist helped the client start a Blog, get on Twitter or create a Facebook Fan Page. Telling someone what they should do is not understanding the client’s business goals, seeing how these social channels fit into the mix, choosing the right channel, building the platform effectively and ensuring that there is ongoing nurturing to the community and beyond. On top of really developing and executing this New Media strategy, any great Strategist worth their weight should also have some kind of significant experience in Marketing, Communications, Advertising, Public Relations, etc… Because any strong New Media strategy needs to fit in perfectly with the overall Marketing and Communications strategy. Nothing works in a silo. Nor should it. Every interaction with a customer is an opportunity to build, share and grow the relationship. If all of these touchpoints are not connected, all is lost. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

How good is their own self-promotion?

One of the best parts of these social channels is that anyone can take part and be published. How great is the Strategist in using these same channels to build their own business and reputation? Adding friends on Twitter and Facebook is easy. It’s just a simple click. Anyone can be following or friending anybody. The real question is this: who is following them and is a friend of theirs? But even that is superficial. Some of the biggest names out there will add anybody and everybody to build their own network, community and audience. The bigger question is this: how well respected, how much authority and who looks to this Strategist for insight and information? It’s not enough to have the occasional Blog comment from an a-list Blogger. Dig deeper. Check out where the Strategist ranks on Technorati for their Blog and see who links to their spaces. Google never lies. In a world of transparency, it’s pretty simple to see just how good someone really is. Some might argue this point by saying that the Strategist’s platforms might still be very new or that you don’t, necessarily, have to have your own, successful, Blog to help a client build one. Agreed, but in that case…

Nothing beats experience and history.

As new as these social media and new media channels are, a great Marketing and Communications professional with experience and a track record of helping to facilitate communications and build community is pretty easy to identify. In a world of over 130 million Blogs (according to Technorati), even the brand new ones get a ton of attention if they are, truly, remarkable by adding something new to the conversation or simply being published by someone who is respected because of the work they do. If a seasoned professional can’t get their own insights and platforms any form of attention, how do you really think they will be able to perform for you?

Remember, anybody can create a Blog or say some pithy stuff on Twitter. All of these channels lack any formal process of ranking authority, so the amateur and the twenty-year veteran both have equal footing, This is the best (and worst) part of these social channels.


  1. Psst! Mitch! I am NOT a New Media Strategist! And no offense, I have no interest in being one. God knows I need people like you and Chris and Julian to keep pushing the boundaries and surveying the landscape, but I want to put your vision(s) into practice… harness the brains and excitement into a reality…. I am in awe of you guys I really am, but I will never ever claim to be ‘one of you.’ You can hold me to that.

  2. Great post. I love the “social media experts with 25 friends and 9 followers on Twitter, or those who have set up a blogger account to tout their new services.
    Just because you’ve used the tools does not make you an expert or a strategist. It just makes you a contributor.
    To your point, building a plan and then executing on that plan for a company or organization, and then showing results is what makes you a successful new media professional.
    Otherwise you’re just a snake-oil salesman who tells people to start a Twitter account and Facebook page – without any rhyme or reason.
    Proof is in the doing as they say. Show me results, show me success and then show me you were able to do it more than once. Then maybe I’ll listen to you.

  3. Mitch, I definitely agree with your comments in this post. The one thing I would add is that it’s one thing to be spend a lot of time blogging and Twittering about blogs and Twitter, and get a reasonable following, but using new media to develop a following around another subject (be it wine, cars, security, whatever), is a different challenge entirely. Looking for someone who has guided that kind of strategy would also be a key criteria if your business is not a new media business itself.

  4. It’s good to companies get involved in circles like Twitter and Facebook but your right, results speak louder then words.
    Actually I have a meeting with a company about this very thing on Saturday. I will be book marking this for sure.
    Once again, this stuff helps alot 🙂

  5. I never feel confident enough to claim I am a social media strategist. Anyone claiming to be a strategist infers that they are skilled. I’m comfortable in claiming to be a old media strategist, but when it comes to social media, I’m only comfortable in claiming to be an advocate.

  6. Angela Connor had a somewhat-related post on her blog the other day: “Social Media Strategist or Practitioner”. One of the analogies made was about a ball player and a coach. Just because you play well doesn’t mean you can coach, just as a coach doesn’t have to have played in the Big Leagues to be able to motivate, inspire and foster talent.
    >Check out where the Strategist ranks on Technorati for their Blog and see who links to their spaces. Google never lies. In a world of transparency, it’s pretty simple to see just how good someone really is.
    New Media suffers from the fact that is APPEARS to be so accessible. We believe that if an individual isn’t easily found on social media sites, they must not know how to apply them for business. We wouldn’t expect this same thing to take place in other fields, so why new media? There are some fabulous male fashion designers who don’t wear their own stuff, but that doesn’t denigrate their work. It just means they are not their own target audience.

  7. @Mitch – I have been for sometime now been wanting to do a blog post with some very applicable and tangible advice with respect to social media strategies. I agree that it’s entirely too easy for someone to just talk-the-talk (in part because of how new the space is).
    I am very careful to always correct people and tell them that I am a social media experimenter as opposed to a consultant or strategist.
    While I have done some work with some very notable companies with respect to the space, there’s still plenty of people that know WAY more than me, and only a handful that I would call ‘experts.’
    And even experts make mistakes, but they fail fast and they produce results (and move real tangible needles) more times than not, and that’s what separates them.
    I love that you touched on the fact that the -real- strategists listen and understand the companies they are working for to ensure that they utilize the social media tools and channels as part of the companies’ overall marketing strategies. The two have to be aligned.
    All that said, I think this is also important to remember. Guy Kawasaki said it best when he said, “It is better to hire people that can get you where you want to be than people who have been there before.�
    Experience is certainly very important, but I also will not dismiss someone that might lack some of the experience, but can offer solutions and present to me tangible advice to the betterment of a company’s goals.
    Thanks for providing me with this platform to share with your community.

  8. It is true. This is the new “business coach” business. Unfortunately, many “strategists” don’t understand more than how to set up a facebook page.
    But, just like any business. The best will rise to the top.
    You are correct, having a good story is important.
    I support photographers in the new media space.
    My story is that I’ve grown my company 15-30% year after year in a tough business located in DETROIT, with help from these tools. Detroit is where business and photographers have been dropping like flies.
    Although I’ve been online and working with internet and social media a long time, I don’t think it is about how long people have been involved with social media.
    Smart people are headed into this space that are going to rock our worlds with new creative ideas and applications.
    Let everyone prove themselves.

  9. Happy New Year Mitch.
    As usual, you are spot on! I just had this conversation with a friend – a consultant with more than 20 years in traditional PR.
    There are just as many consultants out there calling themselves new media strategists and social media experts who are active in the space without business experience as there are with business experience who don’t participate in these new channels.
    My two cents…
    In order to be an effective strategist you need to have:
    a) produced results and,
    b) hands-on experience producing content and building a presence in this space.
    It’s more than tactics. There’s a culture that you can only truly understand once you become a participant.

  10. Andrea, you’ll note that I spent the majority of the post talking about how having experience, success with real clients and a history of strategy consulting counts more than anything else.
    I used to be a self-defense coach, and there is no doubt that many of the people I worked with were way more talented than I was, but I did have more experience and the ability to teach it, so I get where you’re going with your comments.
    Here’s the interesting twist: New Media is different. Because these channels are free and easy-to-use, I do find it strange if someone calls themselves a “strategist” but they can’t point to either their own or one of their clients (or both) to demonstrate “real” and “tangible” results.
    I think Steven is also on to something. It’s one thing to have a successful Blog, it’s something very different to be able to help a client create something successful as well.
    There are some great gems here in all of the comments, I look forward to seeing how this conversation evolves.

  11. It just seems to me that people are doing their own personal SEO by using current keywords in their bios. By claiming yourself as an expert or strategist, you can rack up a lot of followers & friends quite quickly, then use that falsely inflated number as proof that they MUST be a respected expert/strategist.

  12. you can’t claim “expert” w/o showing results…and yet any expert worth his or her salt will also tell you they’re making it up as they go along…an expert will have a track record AND be able to tell you about their failings…or put another way: what they’ve learned in the process of applying social media strategy & tools to client issues. if your “expert” isn’t pushing the envelope a bit and trying new ideas based on meaningful past experience, then what’s the point? and no, tons of followers and good personal SEO is not necessarily proof of anything. read the case studies…look at the client list. have a peek at linkedin recommendations…

  13. Social media is the wild west, so very few people can actually lay claim to being experts. Most who call themselves experts are simply making it up as they go along. In fact, they have to since the tools we’ll be using six months from now may not have even been launched yet.
    Having a blog – even one that is ranked on Technorati – is no indication of social media expertise. That’s like saying journalists are also marketing experts. Actually, journalists are good at researching and writing. Which is what successful bloggers are good at too. Having a blog doesn’t even require a modicum of technical expertise, whereas social media marketing does.
    Frankly, nobody should be calling herself an expert until there are tried and true methodologies by which to measure expertise and results. That’s a few years down the line. Until then, the landscape will be littered with gunslingers and snake oil salesmen – calling themselves experts.

  14. I’m not sure how I feel about years = expert (although Malcolm Gladwell and his 10,000 hours theory might disagree). Some people have enough prior experience in a similar field that is applicable and transferable, and if you can combine that with strong work and results, consistently (and that’s the keyword), then who knows how long it takes to be a respected strategist?
    I’m also not sure that there needs to be tried and true methodologies to measure this all. Sometimes, the real experts who can deliver results are the ones who bob and weave and create their own methodology that is not replicable.
    The main spark behind this Blog post was to say that in world of transparency, you better make sure that you can (and have) delivered on something if you’re going to call yourself some kind of “expert” or “strategist”.

  15. There is a fine line between self-aggrandizement and self-promotion, of which the latter may merely be the lesser of two evils.
    Someone who calls themselves an “expert” or “guru” (yuk!) is, to my mind, most likely neither. These labels are conferred by others. I do not call myself an expert although I have consulted to Fortune 500 companies. Likewise, I do not label myself a “strategist” although a large part of my job is to develop social media strategy for clients.
    As so often in life, action speaks louder than words.

  16. Startin’ the year off with a bang not a wimper – i like that….
    I’d agree Mitch that it’s not about years – I know a bunch of people who have been doing this for a long time in Internet years — some i’d hire, some i wouldn’t.
    For me, it’s like watching the auditions on American Idol. So many people truly believe they’re great singers. G-d luv ’em all. And you never really know until they open their mouths.
    Buyer beware is all I got to say for 2009…buyer beware.

  17. This is a very good post and so so true. Its so hard these days to sift and see WHO the real experts are these days. Results are the true measure.
    But I would like to point out those who achieve success and results can be quite protective of the knowledge they have.

  18. I’m glad to see your thoughts on the need for experience to go along with strategic thinking. As someone who consults to a number of companies, I can’t tell you often I end up helping to clean up a mess created by a well-meaning person with no real-world experience to go along with their knowledge of social and web tools. It’s good to have some context to go along with one’s knowledge of content (and sometimes way too much knowledge of how to self-promote!)

  19. Interesting points, I tend to zone out those that have these titles in their twitter profiles, linkedIN, or business card (Often these are self-given). If you really are an expert, strategist, or guru…you probably don’t have it on your business card. People just know who you are.

  20. Hey Mitch, I have a few ideas more on this so I think I’ll take this to my blog to reply.
    Some thoughts:
    a) Some people have been using the web to market things for a decade + now…. “social media” isn’t really new, IRC, MessageBoards, etc have been around forever. just because we put pastel colors on things and give them cute names means nothing.
    b) yes lots of people claiming to be “experts” but its like that in EVERY niche…i see far more “marketing experts” or “advertising experts” than social media experts
    c) easy to call these people out when you see them, i do it all the time without a second though – SEO expert? run their site through website grader and you’ll get a clear picture… “blog expert” – show them placement of a client on a technorati top 100 blog or 2…they should also have their own blog, and be able to show you results for a client…
    this stuff isnt that hard to prove, it isnt that nebulous and isnt new.

  21. Interesting stuff. Interesting times we live in.
    Being an internet “strategist” myself, I have my own thoughts on the subject. Since we’re a time-starved society and we all like to cut to the chase, here are my thoughts in bullet form:
    -It IS about years spent, but it’s also important to have past clients that love your guts out for the work you’ve done for them. Just yesterday (yeah, I was working on a holiday), my client suggested making a certain modification to his website. I told him that his sugggestion was actually an outdated blackhat SEO tactic used pre-2000. I know because I was gaming search engines back then. Experience helps.
    -Natural, God-given talent also helps. Effective “marketing”, as sullied a word as it is, requires innate abilities. You gotta have a feel for the medium you’re using, and a creativity that can work on the fly.
    -Empathy and life experience. I believe the prerequisit to being a good marketing/new-media/social-media strategist is to have suffered in life and to have failed spectacularly. Some hard earned victories in the form of achieved personal goals are also important. I am proud of my hard fought achievements, and I will be happy to share them with you (but not here).
    -Finally, a good marketing strategist is forever learning. Observe, observe, observe. Inspiration is everywhere.
    Interesting stuff. Interesting times we live in.

  22. heh .. I was trying to call myself a social media strategist back in 2002 – 2004 or 05, when not too many people were interested ;-(
    Now I don’t call myself anything other than an old fart 😉
    Best for 09 to you, Mitch.

  23. Dang, I thought a Social Media Strategist, was just someone that is on Twitter and Facebook all day at work.
    Someday I hope to be a social media expert. Not there yet, but then again not selling those services to anyone either.

  24. Great post. I think the newbies show themselves well by virtue of how they carry on stupid conversations, try to “friend” high ranking bloggers, and are crappy writers.

  25. expert social media strategists. puh!
    from my experience view even the ‘so-called’. i’m specifically talking about big and small reputable agencies attempts at creating platforms that work for their clients and failing miserably. pretty much all of them, if i’m honest.
    it just seems ironic to me that same echo chamber touts others to watch-out for non-experts — and and the so-called experts don’t have a clue.
    Lets face it. The digital economy goes way beyond the functioning of marketing. It runs deeper than that. If you want to be a true social media strategist you need far more business rigor (not the current crop of agency executives).
    In my experience the people who really understand this space are next-gen economists. They are the real pioneers spearheading REAL strategy in this brave new world. Some firms are starting to pick up on this.
    I’m sorry if this sounds harsh to some reading, but 99% of the work I see out there is achieves very little in REAL value.

  26. Hello Mitch
    I agree Morgan when i was a newbie on twitter i saw so many bloggers n so called “Social Media Strategists”. I used to wonder “how do you get this title of “SEO GURU or Strategist” or “Social Media Enthusiast” etc. Who gives it?
    All these titles are baits to attract more followers who’ll see n click on their tweets…
    And those who really are strategists they do not wanna mention it in their BIO 🙂
    Liked this post a lot n took its print out for future reference.

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