Social media ‘guru’? Forget it, hire a digital editor

March 30, 2010

Well, that’s the advice here anyway.

And, in part, I agree with the advocacy of digital journalists in helping businesses to expand and deliver effective social media solutions.

After all, I am also a digital editor amongst other things…not forgetting veteran blogger, SEO copywriter, business editor and media relations strategist. But hey, I don’t want to ramble on about myself, that’s not what this space is about. Never has been.

One of the things which really stands out, for me, about David Meerman Scott‘s thinking on Brand Journalism is the simple fact that behind the tenet of hiring a savvy journalist means that companies get all the key skills required to produce and deliver stunning web content. And as we all know, the secret behind effective social media presence remains the quality of the content.

Now, the corporate PRs will start jumping up and down about this point, as will – no doubt – the traditional broadcast marketers, and the social media ‘gurus’ who are multiplying faster online right now than microbes in a warm petri dish. Well, jump up and down, but answer this question – What is the consistent fact behind successful social media Campaigns globally? Content.

Content attracts customers. Content delivers key messages. Content persuades, engages and converts. And ultimately, a digital editor is going to get to the heart of this content delivery faster and with more clout than any old-school marketer ever could.

So, whilst you watch further YouTube clips from social media marketing ‘experts’, think on this – somewhere, a trained editor is probably creating blinding social media content for a competitor.

And when it goes global, where does that leave the unprepared? Swimming in social media mediocrity without a paddle.

Yes, this post is forthright, direct, and upfront. But then again, winning attention on social media platforms is warfare, folks.


13 Responses to “Social media ‘guru’? Forget it, hire a digital editor”

  1. FionaC said

    The trouble is, there are lots of journalists going round calling themselves ‘digital journalists’ and they’re also multiplying like social media gurus.

    So it’s buyer beware for brands. Just having a journalistic background doesn’t mean they ‘get’ internet culture and can operate well in that space. I’ve seen better web writing from amateur bloggers than from trad journalists.

    In fact, the word ‘journalist’ can have negative connotations in the online space because it denotes old skool broadcasting, styles and values.

    The key bit for me in this post is when you say ‘I am also a digital editor amongst other things…not forgetting the veteran blogger, SEO copywriter, business editor and media relations strategist.’ You blog, I can see that, therefore I believe you can do blogging work (although there’s a lot of running copy here, bad boy!). You have keywords in your URL, therefore I would assume you have SEO knowledge.

    It’s a show don’t tell world. Digital journalist is just a label on a CV. But it’s an easy check on Google to see if there is any substance behind the claim.

    • bristoleditor said

      Hi Fiona

      Great inputs, many thanks, and some points worth noting.

      I guess the main thrust of the blog from my perspective is that Scott’s idea of utilising online editors to gain competitive advantage in a variety of ways could be a powerful proposition to businesses. The fact that many trad journos are re-inventing themselves as digital hacks is to be expected, I would say. And, as you say, no matter what claims a trad journo makes, Google will highlight the facts quite clearly. Although, of course, there is more to a journo than what’s indexed on a Search Engine – I would hope so, anyway.

      The other main thrust of the blog is to highlight that there are lots of trad marketers re-inventing themselves out there too – and this is seen so clearly on social media platforms. Market forces, I guess, but to think of traditional marketing techniques as being relevant to Twitter content makes me cringe, and I am sure we’ve all seen enough of those awful broadcast Twitter accounts to last us a lifetime.

      I have to side with Scott in his argument that key editorial skills make for great business content, if used appropriately. The platform the content lands on is the key.

      There’s also, finally, for me alt to be said for developing new skills and techniques. Sure, I’ve been writing and managing blogs since 2005, but the rapid advances online and in social media means that if you’re a media type and you’re not investing time, effort and enquiry into what’s going on, you’ll soon be lost. This is where the trads are, I guess.

      • FionaC said

        Thanks for the elaboration.

        As someone who is being ‘utilised as an online editor to gain competitive advantage’, I am totally for journalists reskilling to do this kind of work. I have editorial freedom in what I blog about as long as I am serving the company’s readership with my story curation, and what I’m saying isn’t giving financial advice or favouriting companies.

        But I do think that most brands aren’t as advanced in their thinking as the one I work for (Grant Thornton UK).

        As a travel journalist I approached a number of companies and tourist boards at World Travel Market in November, offering to tell the stories of their product for the global audience. But they want to (understandably) do this inhouse – via marketing. Which of course will be prone to fluffyitis and internal politicking/editing.

        Ironically, I could have made a lot of money being a consultant and TELLING PR companies how to do this. But I enjoy creating the content more than teaching others how to do it.

        I guess I’m saying there are plenty of trads on the hiring side, too.

  2. bristoleditor said

    Some interesting facts here on the key skills required from a trawl of recent online media job ads. Useful!

    • bristoleditor said

      Hi again Fiona

      Many thanks for the additional thoughts.

      My elaboration was, essentially, involving how businesses can utilise brand (or rather branded) journalism – particularly in a social media context, rather than a discussion centred upon digital journalism itself.

      The fact that you’re happy to deliver/create content is fantastic – I think, as content creators, to be in a position to get paid to do what we love is a privilege. Simple as that.

      I am just fortunate to gain equal satisfaction from both creating content, and sharing skills, techniques and tools with others on how they can do it too. The client ‘lightbulb’ moments are awesome.

      Wondering where your comment regarding PR companies came from? I generally tend to work with a broader range of agencies than strictly PR providers – and, of course, with businesses direct where relevant.


      • FionaC said

        Also found that link/list of technical skills interesting – hope it doesn’t put trad journalists off switching to online as you pick lots of stuff up as you go – if prepared to put in the homework, on your own time, without pay, etc etc.

        In understand that you’re pointing out the journalist’s skillset to brands. That’s a very good thing. Brands can benefit by bringing in a non-marketing person.

        I suppose I’m just saying that I find creating content for online and being a journalist really only dovetails if the journalist is willing to find their way in the medium.

        As for the PR comment, that came about because I write in the travel industry, which has a heavy PR presence. PRs are or have been quite edgy about best practice online, esp regarding social media, and seem to want to offer this themselves rather than hire in a journalist to work for the brand – either them or their client.

        This is something a brand has to consider if they are going to hire a journalist in on a freelance basis. An outsider may be able to tell stories in an engaging way but they also need to understand the brand in order to tell it in a way that fits in.

        I hope that makes sense, tis late!

      • bristoleditor said

        Hi again Fiona

        It all made perfect sense to me! Many thanks for the additional inputs.

        Best wishes

  3. It’s true: you can barely walk to the corner shop without tripping over a so-called ‘social media guru’ these days.

    It’s true 2: totally agree it’s all about content. Even very traditional organisations are finally seeing the penny drop – you can outwit high-spending competitors by canny, frequent content distribution.

    • bristoleditor said

      Hi Mick

      Many thanks for the inputs – much appreciated.

      The power of well-constructed, well-delivered and well-monitored content says it all for me. Loving your work at BuzzedUp too. Great stuff.

  4. Thomas said

    I’ve never called myself a social media ‘expert’, let alone ‘guru’ – but its interesting quite a few people who’ve come to me for help and advice have gone on to call themselves ‘experts’ but still lack some of the basics.

    Equally, content is important but its not everything and an awareness of platforms, digital architecture, engaging gatekeepers and adapting formats is equally key.

    At the heart of this posting is what you call yourself and how people check on your skills. There’s enough snake oil being peddled in the SM world be it ‘digital editor’ or ‘SM expert’.

    I work as a PR, but have been a news editor in broadcast, developed internet sites, mobile internet sites and portals, developed search engines, public display system and a bit of deadwood – Does that make me more or less valid then a ‘digital editor’ who has managed the uploading of stories to a local newspaper’s website? Newspaper websites are largely seen as behind the times.

    The problem is it is a new industry and just as the best horseman wasn’t the best driver of the Damilier Benz, it is not possible to pick out those with the key skills unless you understand the new media. Many don’t and get sucked in by the slick but uninformed.

    The key is geting the right person for each job and matching skills between the in-house and out-of-house teams/individuals.

    • bristoleditor said

      Hi Thomas

      Hope you’re well and many thanks for your inputs – much appreciated, as always.

      I’d say you’ve hit it on the head: it’s ultimately less about the title and more about the delivery. I’ve seen the snake oil salesmen, and not just in the social media arena, but across other areas. Kind of comes with the territory of working online, I guess.

      I wouldn’t say that your varied and valuable previous experiences make you less valid than a digital editor, although my focus is always about the content first and foremost. Let’s face it, without compelling content – be that copy, visuals, etc – there isn’t much of an audience pull on social media platforms, blogs, youtube, or anywhere online.

      Having been working with online content in a variety of formats and across numerous platforms for years, it’s my main focus. But equally important, as you so rightly point out, are other core skills, such as understanding the tech, engagement and adaptation. If you’re not learning, you’re standing still, and all that.

      My main aim within the wonderful and expanding world of social media platforms is to remain true to my guiding passion – awesome, useful, interesting content. Simple as that. I find that irrespective of the social media platform, pieces of unique, interesting, challenging content are remaining a premium attention-grabber.

      Best wishes from down South!

  5. Thomas said

    BTW linked up to my local PPC for the general election (well, all bar the UKIP one who lives out of the area and doesn’t use the web).

    The three main parties have twitter accounts. The hopeful Tory last used his account in 2009, the replacement Labour candidate has barely tweeted recently, but was vitriolic.

    The Lib Dem has tweeted, but nothing about his involvement in the election, nor stated he is a PPC in his status. He seems content to have ‘no resource’ but battle it out using traditional means.

    All three are 25-50 and should be savvy, so it shows how out of touch they are with power of social media.

    • bristoleditor said

      Hi again Thomas

      Many thanks for this – useful insights.

      I’m sure we’ll be seeing more MPs tweeting, and more often, in coming weeks – question is, will we pay any attention?

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