There are a fair number of excellent search engine optimization experts (SEOs) in the wild, but there are countless social media marketing experts, many of whom are self-proclaimed gurus in their field. However, the number of SEOs I’ve come across are much fewer and farther between than social media marketers. In fact, I hear the same SEO names every day; I learn of a new “social media expert” twice a day. Despite this, social media marketing is much more difficult than search engine optimization. Here’s why.
The Quest for Knowledge
What exactly does it take to become a search engine optimization expert or a social media marketing expert? In both of these aspects of search engine marketing, you begin by learning. As the ideal marketer, you gets your hands on every single search engine optimization and social media marketing book or blog you can possibly find, and then you absorb the information presented within like a sponge. You begin following the experts (you know, the real ones) online. After awhile, you’ll be book smart. You’ll know what to do and what not to do. Hopefully, if you’ve followed the right books, blogs, and people, you’ll be armed with pretty decent case studies and pretty decent material to embark on your own journey.
The SEO Angle
If you’re a brand new student in the school of thought of SEO, after you’ve learned about improving your web presence via search engines, there are countless opportunities to prove to yourself that you know what you’re doing. For you, this means practice and true application of acquired skill. It’s not that costly to buy a few domain names (brand new or aged), invest in web hosting, and start applying that knowledge you’ve learned to websites. You can build a website from scratch or set up something quickly via a WordPress installation. You can purchase neglected websites through auctions. At the end of the day, you have websites — your subjects — upon which to test. When it relates to SEO, you can start right away. And you should. After all, you can’t learn SEO just by reading about it.
Wait, Maybe SEO Isn’t So Easy Then
SEO is an art and a science and one that is extremely difficult to understand and perfect. In fact, “perfection” in SEO is an impossibility since SEO is an ongoing process. Why, then, is SEO really easier? The issue is that the assets for performing SEO are right in front of you. To become a successful SEO, it will be necessary for you to get off your butt and begin testing and retesting, tweaking and optimizing, working hard to improve performance and rankings over time. But the sites are there. The access is there. That’s the easy part. They just need you to apply your knowledge to them.
The Challenge for the Social Media Consultant
In social media marketing, you can easily become book smart. The problem begins when it actually relates to your street smarts.
See, it’ll take an incredible amount of time to engage in the education, but when it relates to social media marketing versus SEO, there’s something missing in the equation: experience. No, building your personal brand in social media does not count.
Social media marketing is a tremendous challenge, especially now that the market has become saturated with experts who clearly think that bringing their Digg front page success means that they’ve just launched a successful consulting business and can immediately sell their services to the highest (lowest?) bidder. In social media marketing, the assets are missing. The subjects are not there for you to test. You need clients. You need to be presented with a problem, one that you can actually analyze. You need to determine what kind of strategy you’ll implement. You then need to start executing. That’s not something you can easily do by just buying a few domain names and building up a real website presence. But that’s easy to do where SEO is concerned.
Just because your wonderful piece of linkbait that drove 30,000 visitors to via Digg succeeded once (or maybe twice) doesn’t mean that you’re ready to go at having those clients alone. You’re not yet a social media marketing expert, not unless you’re consistently applying your skills to different and unique campaigns and initiatives. Much like SEO. Except that in SEO, you’re lucky because you can get started immediately. In social media marketing, you need to start hunting for people who are willing to take the risk to have you promote content or to push a marketing agenda online in front of the right people. Or they need to find you. But when they do, they need to know that you have a proven track record of doing this on a regular basis and case studies to back that up.
Not All Experiences Are Treated Equal, Either
I do my own fair share of consulting by myself, but those who know me well know that I have been vocal about the fact that it’s great to work alone, but it’s even better to work with an agency where you can brainstorm with others and get access to some high level experiences not otherwise accessible as a sole consultant. Real experience with a wide array of clients opens doors of opportunities and gives you the ammunition you need to say you really do understand what social media marketing is all about. That’s why I am working as a consultant on some amazing projects at a social media agency too. There’s only enough I can do as a one woman show.
Learning is the easy part. Applying the knowledge is the hard part. When it relates to SEO, the ability to apply that knowledge is easy since you can either create or buy a website that lets you begin applying the skills you need to become an expert. When it comes to social media marketing, you need to build up a presence by obtaining clients of some sort. And you’ll soon learn that it’s not that easy to find them.