Are Social Media Consultants the New Buggy Whip Makers?

I work in an interesting field.  I’m a digital marketing consultant.  I advise companies and entrepreneurs how to use the internet and digital media to help them market their businesses.  I’m a consultant.  It’s funny how many people are afraid to call themselves that.  The reason is that so many consultants either suck, and or have the goal of making as much money from each client as they can, instead of finding the most cost effective way to help their clients.  This has caused a lot of people to have a negative opinion of consultants.  So some of us have taken to calling ourselves strategists, or advisors, or some other synonym.  But I am. A consultant that is.

As a digital marketing consultant, social media is one of the biggest tools on my toolbox.  Yes, I’m still calling it “social media“, even though many of my peers have started to use other terms. I’m sticking to social media for now.  I look at social media as a tool-  a means to an end.  If  you want more website traffic, to know what your customers are saying about you, access to people you would never have otherwise, or a thousand other great things, then social media is a tool you need to learn how to use.

Social media is nothing more than a way to communicate.   The way we communicate with each other has changed forever.  If you’re like me and most people I know, the “phone” part of your cell phone is the feature you use least.  How crazy is that?  We text, or Facebook (yes it’s a verb now), or tweet, way more than we talk to each other.  Me and many of the people I know have started turning to Twitter before Google to find certain things, recommendations or information.  We are posting jobs and ads to sell our stuff on Craig’s List, LinkedIn and Facebook, not the local newspaper.

So are social media consultants the new buggy whip makers? I think they are.  One hundred short years ago people were getting rich making and selling buggy whips.  Henry Ford changed that forever.   A few years from now you won’t see any social media consultants just like you don’t see any telephone consultants.  It’s a tool that most people will just know how to use.  You hire a carpenter, not a hammer consultant.  At a conference I went to recently, Gary Vaynerchuk said, “If you’re betting against social media you’re betting against the internet.” He was saying that social media is basically synonymous with the internet now.  I believe he’s right.

The people who make a living showing people how to use the new telephones- showing people how to use Twitter or post a Facebook status update, had better expand their product line. Those things are destined for the clearance rack. Start showing businesses how to use these tools to increase brand awareness, or sales, or improve the customer experience.  To do that you have to go beyond just social media consulting.  You need to fit it into the overall website strategy and the “traditional” (analog) marketing strategy.  It’s a bit harder, but it’s got a future.  That’s my 2 cents, but what do I know?  I’m just a consultant.

 

  • http://www.markevans.ca/ Mark Evans

    Good post; it’s only a matter of time before social media becomes part of digital marketing as opposed to a standalone activity. I also feel strange sometimes describing myself as a consultant because it sounds slick. :) 

    • http://iangordon.me Ian Gordon

      I think that time is coming soon, Mark. And I hear you re: “consultant”. Shows like House of Lies on Showtime don’t help. (Though I do love that show). I came to terms with labels when I was in sales. No one liked to call themselves “salesmen” but I owned it. I was one after all. I feel the same about consultant. All that I can control is how my clients feel about consultants :)

  • Klemen Šavli

    As I understand what “Social Media Consultants” do from your perspective then you should be comparing them to driving instructors in a buggy whip days… As someone who teach others how to use new technology.

    • http://iangordon.me Ian Gordon

      Thanks for sharing your perspective! I don’t think I agree with that any more though. A few years ago when social was new, that would be true. I think that social has matured to the level where the specialist, that ONLY offers services related to Facebook, Twitter, etc., is not long for this world. When social media activity is most effective, it is rolled into the overall marketing, customer service, communications strategies of a company. Social media websites are simply becoming another way customers are communicating with companies (and vice versa). So my point is that we will soon look at the term “social media consultant” the way we would view the term “telephone consultant” today. Not quite yet, but soon I think.