Last week while watching Julia Roberts travel all around the world based on the advice of a guru in the movie, Eat, Pray, Love, I couldn’t help but smile to myself. Guru. It’s a term I see almost everyday as I comb the social media universe. While the term guru has roots in Hinduism, Western society has embraced the term for any who has followers or knowledge. I still struggle with accepting any person who I know as a guru. In fact, the term sort of turns me off for reasons that I cannot quite explain, but I don’t think that I am alone here.
Having spent eight years working with accountants, the term expert was widely used and accepted as a way to identify someone who has significant knowledge in a specialized area and who is regarded as knowledgeable by their peers. It is interesting to note that in the legal profession, the term expert is used very carefully and requires much more defined criteria that simply self-imposing the term. Since there are no clear definitions of what makes an expert, it is left up to the community of professionals to self-police with a little assistance from the regulatory bodies. Certainly the definition of expert for marketing purposes varies from one who is recognized to testify on a subject matter.
Enter the age of social media and we see experts popping up everywhere. Because of the pure nature of social media, it allows people to easily position themselves as an expert or even a guru (they have followers, after all). And the truth is that some people may in fact be experts in social media or at a minimum they are thought leaders. Those “experts” who have carved out unique segments of the market to focus on make it easier for potential clients to find them in the sea of social media confusion.
Four Examples of Social Media Marketers Who Know Their Niche.
Mari Smith promotes herself as a Facebook Marketing Expert and clearly differentiates herself by understanding the ins and outs of Facebook. Many people, including myself, look to Mari for both strategic use of Facebook and more important, understanding their ever changing platform. She takes the time to study every update, and summarizes the information for people who can they apply it to their strategy.
Peter Shankman calls himself a Social Media Entrepreneur. He tends to focus on the customer service and PR, but I really think his niche is pushing people to do better and to work harder. Social media is just one of the tools that promotes and leverages to help clients meet their goals. That said, he understands PR and has a track record of results including the creation of HARO (Help a Reporter Out), a widely-widely used services that connects journalists with sources.
Jessica Northey has carved out a market in country music and radio. As a blogger for Finger Candy Media and All Access, she has transferred her years of experience working in radio and her passion for country music into a niche. She offers consulting to celebrities with a heavy focus on country music performers, staying very true to her expertise. Jessica has really brought social media to the country music scene by creating #CMChat, a weekly Twitter conversation for country music enthusiasts and just recently joined Tony and Kris, a nationally syndicated radio show, as their online correspondent and digital daypart. Jessica is a solid example of someone who doesn’t claim to be a jack-of-all-trades, but a woman who knows her market and is taking it to the next level.
Jennifer Fong is another great example of someone who understand niche marketing and social media. Her focus is social media for direct sales – think Avon, Pampered Chef and Party Lite. Having built a direct selling company herself, she knows what it takes to market through this unique channel. Her goal is to help direct selling companies and their sales forces to leverage social media.
These four people represent experts to me. They have carved out niches for themselves and understand the market in which they operate.
Niche Marketers for Your Business.
So what abut the rest of the experts out there? There are many knowledgeable people who know how to use social media. However, since social media does not exist in a vacuum, when seeking assistance for your organization, it is important to identify someone who understands integrated marketing, social media and YOUR industry. When looking at hiring someone to help your organization, consider the following.
1. What is their overall marketing experience? Do they understand channels other than social and how they tie together?
2. How long have they been involved with social media? Check their own online activity to get a good sense of how they use it.
3. What is their knowledge of your industry? Is their background primarily B2C when you are a B2B company?
4. Who are their clients? Are there any conflicts of interest?
5. Who follows and respects them? This can be very telling and can help to weed out those not respected by their peers.
6. What connections do they have in your industry? Can they connect you to the right people? Do they understand the politics and nuances of your world?
7. What can they bring to the table that another social media expert can’t?