What Traits Define a Social Media Marketer?

With many individuals finding great success with social media (and as an aside, a basic understanding of search engine optimization), they immediately consider themselves social media marketers and consultants (as well as seasoned SEOs) and offer to sell their promotional services. What skills, though, do successful social media marketers have that put these individuals above the average (or addicted) social media user, and better yet, above the traditional marketer? I asked several social media consultants, bloggers, marketers, search engine optimizers, and social media addicts about what they considered to be essential skills and characteristics of the most efficient and results-driven social media consultants. In the many paragraphs that follow, learn from many of the experts and hear what they consider success when using social media to engage with consumers about products and services.

Maki, Internet Marketing and Social Media Blogger: The main characteristic [social media marketers] need to have is a genuine curiosity/interest in social media, particularly on how it influences human relationships and business practices. This is not just standard required job skills but rather a deep interest that pervades one’s day to day life. One needs to constantly be informed of the latest technologies while striving always to learn and improve one’s knowledge levels. In order to do well when marketing, one should have tactical knowledge and ideally, first-hand experience of the specific social media platform. This will help a great deal in planning and managing successful marketing campaigns.

Reem Abeidoh, Social Media Strategist: A social media marketer provides strategic online recommendations based on the client’s business goals and intensive research. A marketer also reaches out to the target audience through various methods of social networking, and constantly monitors the buzz surrounding the client’s products and services. They should be passionate, strategic, creative, personable, intelligent, aggressive, diligent, determined, adaptable, motivated and have a sense of humor. To succeed, they need to do the following well:

  • Data analysis
  • Provides holistic strategies to clients
  • Training, presenting, and research
  • Relationship-building and networking
  • Outreach to online users and bloggers

A social media marketer’s job never ends. They usually work 70 hour weeks and need to be extremely flexible. There are days when marketers may have to serve as internal evangelist by introducing key stakeholders to social media. There are other times when marketers may have to launch a multi-platform outreach campaign. It just depends on the needs of the client.

Additionally, a social media marketer needs to be a contributor and participant online to better understand the space and provide solid recommendations to their clients.

Valeria Maltoni, Online Marketer: Although social media as a set of tools has radically transformed marketing, I do not think it appropriate to use the term “social media marketer.” People do not want to hear from companies as represented by marketers, they want to hear from other people.

The scope of marketing needs to be broadened in view of the new dynamics that have employees, customers and prospects engaged in conversations – horizontally, peer to peer, in some cases even in co-opetition situations.

These scenarios come to fruition in spontaneous communities, on social networks, and other self-service tools – all thanks to the availability of low cost technology and access to the world wide web.

To participate in the conversation, marketers will need to be able to have and provide greater access to decision makers – speed of response is crucial. Other important skills will be the ability to hold or facilitate a conversation where listening and learning take the majority of the attention.

We are now right were we should be, attracting customers, building relationships and trust as we help them connect with each other.

Rebecca Kelley, Search Marketing and Social Media Consultant: A social media marketer needs to be an active participant in the social media sphere. Because social media is so interactive, it can constantly shift and change; therefore, a savvy marketer needs to be extremely familiar with the community and know how each social media website audience is different from the next. Also, one story on the Digg home page does not an expert make. A knowledgeable social media marketer has experienced repeated success on various social media websites and knows what sort of content succeeds and fails, and effective ways to write, submit, and promote various pieces.

Jason Falls, Director of Social Media: A social media marketer is simply someone who uses social media tools to connect products or services with customers or audiences. There’s no real reason to define it any more than the simple semantics of it all. That said, such a broad determination means you can be a social media marketer and not know it. You can also not use the tools correctly or not behave appropriately within communities around the tools and market poorly.

So, in order to be a good social media marketer, in my opinion, you should understand the tools you’re using and the communities to which you are marketing, be they ones that surround the tool itself (Twitter users) or subject matters within a certain tool (FriendFeed room about, say, cell phones.). Some communities are very open to marketers being there and contributing to the conversation. Others aren’t. As long as you earn your keep, contribute meaningfully to the community and gain the level of trust they need to allow you to seed your own messages or pitch your own products or services, and you don’t violate their trust, you’re marketing via social media successfully.

No, it’s still not a clear picture. People are different, communities are different and marketers/brands are different. As a result, the acceptance or success of a social media marketer will vary in different communities, using different tools and for different brands. But those basic rules will apply everywhere social media and marketing collide.

Geoff Livingston, author of Now is Gone and CEO of a Media Relations Firm: I think social media marketing really requires networking skills first, because you are building relationships, not overtly promoting. It’s a unique blend of networking skills (relationships). traditional PR skills (building goodwill), marketing skills (giving customers what they want), and customer service (delivering resolutions to issues). So ultimately, the best social media marketers understand all of these disciplines. It requires a convergence, making the jack of all trades suddenly and incredibly valuable.

MG Siegler, Technology and Digital Writer: I think a person who is a social media marketer is someone who is an expert at all of the various way of getting data on the various social sites out there. By that I mean not only the social voting sites like Digg, Reddit, etc, but also on the social networks (Facebook, MySpace, etc), social communication tools (Twitter, Pownce, Seesmic, etc..), social conversation tools (FriendFeed, and maybe you could even lump in Disqus and the like with it).

That person would ideally knows all the ins and outs of these systems and their various differences. For example, what plays well on Digg versus what plays well on Propeller.

A lot is made about being able to “game” these systems, but more I think a social media marketer should just know how to work with what is in front of them. Knowing the right people to send something to on StumbleUpon or keeping a conversation going on FriendFeed for example. Other example may be creating a fan page on Facebook or creating a company account on Twitter that tracks instances of the company name via a service like Summize.

I also think it’s extremely important for such a person to stay up to date on the most current trends within the social sphere. Things evolve so rapidly and sometimes new opportunities open up quickly that can be utilized.

Allen Stern, Founder of a Blog on Social Media: A social media marketer is someone who possesses first marketing education and/or experience. Second, a social media marketer is someone who markets products and/or services through the usage of social media tools.

Daniel Scocco, Blogger: In my opinion a social media marketer is someone that leverages social media to promote a website, product or company.

As for the characteristics that they need to possess, I think that the most important one is to be a social media user in the first place, and to like the concept.

Social media can be seen as a tool for a marketer, but not a static one like an advertisement. The term itself describes something that is made out of people, so the marketer needs to understand the dynamics behind it.

Michael Gray, Internet Marketer: Being a good social media marketer requires a combination of a few different skills. The first is understanding what are the things that appeal to a certain community. Stories that do well on Digg or Reddit, may not do as well on Kirtsy or Boudica, because the members of each community have different likes, dislikes and interests. A marketer has have an understanding of the community and help craft campaigns, articles, stories, videos and or pictures that appeal to each community.

Another skill is understanding what makes a story viral, or what are the qualities that make it sticky or interesting. Many companies just see this as a new avenue to push existing traditional marketing messages, and this is why they almost always fail. For example an article with “10 Reasons You Should Buy Travel Insurance” is almost never going to go viral, it’s not surprising, shocking, interesting or in any way sticky. But something like “10 People Who Wished They Bought Travel Insurance” showing pictures of prop planes that collided on the runway, or a video of someones suitcase dumping out and the contents strewn down the highway, has a much better chance.

Lastly is understanding that you have to be a member of the community first. if you see the community as a virtual ATM where you can come and get links without ever contributing, eventually your account will run dry. if the only stories you ever submit or vote on are for clients or friends, you are not going to do as well over the long term. The people who do well are the one who contribute lots of good stories that the community values, with a sprinkling in of other stories.

Laura Fitton, Presentations Consultant and @pistachio: A social media marketer is someone who is fundamentally oriented towards LISTENING first, and only then offering contributions that move the conversation forward. The result of their work is that it helps the business grow by genuinely and authentically helping customers. It’s not about any of the tools.

Advertising and marketing currently emphasize selling and helping others sell. That’s shifting to a future where profit comes from helping people buy.

Social media marketers have to listen and respond genuinely, most of all. Characteristics: unselfish, interested in people, open-minded, un-controlling and creative.

Chris Brogan, Social Media Strategist and Blogger: I think the term “social media marketer” might just be a temporary thing, because it’s like saying “email marketer.” I believe the people who use social media tools as a part of their marketing strategy should understand the following:

  • relationships over shotguns. — marketing in online communities is a slower, more matching-based approach, where you think hard about whether the person you’re connecting with is the idea recipient of the information you have to share. It takes more time, but sticks much better.
  • party hats not bullhorns. – social software and the communities it empowers are for contributing, not pushing. Share something at the party; don’t just barge in to give your messages.
  • it’s not always about you. – sometimes, other people’s products are better. In this world we’re developing, we say that outright. We don’t obfuscate or dance around. We just say it when we think someone’s done it better.

People using these tools have to “be human” well, and by that, I mean realizing that all life isn’t based on marketing directives. Instead, it’s about contributing, bringing something to the picnic, and doing what Radian6 Marcel LeBrun calls “listening at the point of need.” That means, knowing when to promote your idea, product, or service.

Darren Rowse, VP of Blogger Training and Co-Author of Problogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income: What makes a person an effective social media marketer? Here’s a few quick thoughts:

  1. Playfulness – there are so many tools out there that it can be overwhelming. An ability to be able to ‘play’ with them and work out how they are best used is important. Also not taking yourself too seriously is important.
  2. Focus – social media is full of all kinds of wonderful distractions. Knowing what you want to achieve and being focussed enough to stay on that path is important.
  3. Curiosity – most social media marketers that I know are constantly asking ‘what if….’ type questions. Curious people are driven to push into new group and solve problems in new ways.
  4. Perseverance – building a social media presence doesn’t happen over night. It takes regular participation over a sustained period to build a network.
  5. People Persons – being genuinely interested in people, what they think, how you can help them, what makes them tick…. all of this helps you become more effective in your communication and networking

Chris Garrett, Blogger, Internet Marketer, and Co-Author of Problogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income: I think there are three types of social media users: marketers, browsers and active users. Browsers obviously mostly lurk. The difference between the other two is agenda. A marketer has a goal, even if it is just self promotion, while the rest are just taking part out of social or entertainment reasons.

A good social media marketer has to be able to write, particularly headlines and descriptions, and will have a better chance of success if they are a student of psychology. The best like people, are fascinated by them, and enjoy socializing. You also have to be able to take knocks on the chin as social media can provide harsh criticism.

It’s a lot like SEO, people focus on algorithms, tricks and tactics but it is really all about people.

Matt McGee, Small Business Expert and Internet Marketer: I think great social media marketers come in all shapes and sizes, but if there’s one trait that seems to show up in spades in the people I know, it’s that they’re engaged with the world and the people around them. They love communicating and reaching out to others. They love ideas and news. They love sharing ideas and news. They have an interest in other people, whether they’re close friends or not. They have an interest in the world around them, and being active in it. Social media success is about being engaged.

Steve Spalding, Blogger and Entrepreneur: Like any traditional marketing field, Social Media marketing is almost exclusively about understanding the “territory.” You don’t hire a marketer because you think they have some magical ability to make bad products good. You hire a marketer because they understand the people, products and culture surrounding the industry you are trying to enter.

Good Social Media marketers are heavy users of Social Media. They love (or at least respect) the idea that many kinds of content can be distributed most effectively over the Internet, and because they use the platforms so heavily themselves they have the networks and the knowledge that allow them to make those distributions easier.

Almost as important, effective Social Media marketers also act as product designers. They’ve seen hundreds of applications and have used a large fraction of them. More importantly, they know which applications have been successful and have a general intuition as to which design elements sink and which swim in an environment inundated by noise.

To paint my answer in broader strokes, Social Media marketers “get” the web. We understand that the Internet is just like any other country, city, town or industry that has ever existed and that in order to market a product successfully on it you have to understand, respect and know how the deal with the people in it.

Brian Clark, Blogger, Editor, and Entrepreneur: A social media marketer is one who understands how social media works, takes the time to observe what people say and do within the context of social media, and then markets accordingly.

Todd Mintz, Director of Internet Marketing (and @toddmintz): Social media marketing (as I define it) is the process of delivering a marketing message via the most appropriate social communication channels to a targeted audience. A top-level social media marketer needs to possess the following capabilities:

  1. Being able to look at the client situation and perceive the appropriate steps that need to be taken in order to have a successful engagement.
  2. Identify who the target audience should be for the message (Note that I’m deliberately starting with the conclusion and working backwards).
  3. Decide which social networks / influential persons are the most appropriate conduits for relaying the message to the end users.
  4. Creating or overseeing the creation of a marketing message that will not only resonate with the targeted audience in a way advantageous to the client but also resonates with the members of the social networks & key influencers so they will act in such a way that the message gets passed via their collective sphere of influence to the masses.
  5. Launching the message out to the networks & people that will spread the word (schmoozing as necessary).
  6. Supervising the whole process and when the inevitable hiccups happen, knowing what to do to get everything back on track.

People who can do all this well are Social Media Marketing Rockstars!

Muhammad Saleem, Social Media Maven: A good social media marketer isn’t really a ‘marketer’. He/She is a connector (and is good at social networking), a maven (and is a thought leader and ‘information specialist’ or information resource), and a salesperson that can persuade an eskimo to buy ice. He has to not only be an information resource but be an active participant in the various social web communities that he claims proficiency in.

A good social media marketer is one who can start a conversation that people want to participate in.

Brian Solis, Principal of a New Media Agency and Blogger: Social Media Marketing combines the most effective attributes of PR, Web Marketing, Customer Service, and a working knowledge and genuine enthusiasm of the social networks and tools to listen to, spark, and engage in relevant conversations. In an ideal world, Social Media Marketers will also embrace social sciences to observe and understand the online cultures and social dynamics where they ultimately wish to participate.

Many purport to be social media experts these days, yet most of us are truly students. We overlook some of the most rudimentary elements that define and inspire the socialization of content, especially the social sciences involved with observing the culture, behavior, and conversations within online societies.

We’re excited, and maybe even obsessed, with the tools. We frantically rush from service to service in an exhausting attempt to keep up with our peers, fearing that we may one day relinquish our position as a leading authority on the subject of all things social. We are edglings, and the membership dues are paid in the form of time, attention, vision, and translation as we bring shiny new objects from the edge to the center.

But, are we losing sight of the guiding principles and teachings that foster meaningful and rewarding relationships simply because we’re practically held captive by a never-ending cycle of new and popular social tools? Our thinning attention may be clouding our ability to see the bigger picture.

Suddenly everyone is a social media consultant, yet very few of us are true online sociologists, observers, or genuine conversationalists. The firsthand research and lessons learned in the field are invaluable and definitely tier the experience and expertise of those selling their services. But, just because we’re on Twitter and Seesmic, blogging, or uploading Flip videos to YouTube doesn’t qualify us social media experts.

It’s so much more than the ability to guide companies on how to create fan pages on Facebook, islands on SecondLife, accounts on Pownce or Plurk, and profiles on Bebo or Myspace. Social Media experts must have the ability to determine which networks are relevant to the businesses that they represent, why, and how and when to engage. Most importantly, they must connect participation to brand resonance, customer loyalty and also the ever prominent “bottom line.”

It’s the listening, charting social maps, drafting strategies for meaningful engagement, understanding our relevance in the short and long tail, and the definition of metrics and ROI that count for everything to businesses and respective decision makers these days.

Without a working knowledge of customers, markets, online communities, and the dynamics of their company’s business model, Social Media Marketers will succumb to the brilliance of shiny new social objects and remain hypnotized by their allure and promise.

Jonathan Hochman, Internet Marketer and Wikipedia Administrator: I classify social media marketers by their level of involvement:

  1. Listening — Being aware of social media, monitoring your brand, and using that information to make business decisions.
  2. Responding — Participating in discussions about your brand on the web in an effort to improve your reputation and increase visibility.
  3. Inviting — Building social media applications, such as blogs, wikis, bookmarks, to interact with your audience.

Li Evans, Director of Internet Marketing: A social media marketer understands that utilizing social media is about building relationships through communication and sharing. In order to build relationships with customers, or potential customers for their clients, the social media marketer realizes that those relationships have to be built on trust. By starting out with a solid foundation in social media, marketers realize they can do exciting things with these customers — the potential can really be limitless. With social media, the marketer realizes that the experience of the interaction and engagement with the customers is the ending results — anything else is a by-product.

Debra Mastaler, Link Builder and Search Marketer: What makes a person a social media marketer? The desire to be heard.
What characteristics do they have to possess?
The good ones have to be brave, smart and fair to a fault.
What do they have to do well?
Good social media marketers need to communicate well, understand not all goals are profit oriented and have the ability to turn casual participants into a legion of loyal followers.

Jonathan Fields, Entrepreneur and Blogger: What makes a social media marketer?

Reality is, everyone who engages in social media on a regular basis is a social media marketer, it’s just a matter of what we’re marketing. Some people are looking to change the world, others to change what people buy and still others just want to make friends. But, in the end, all of us in social media are looking to effect some outcome.

The folks who get “labeled” social media marketers, though, are the ones who tap social media to push a more commercial end-result. So to me, it’s more about the intention behind the action.

Are you choosing your hubs and posts based on a concerted effort to build authority, brand or sell a specific product or service? Are you crafting the language of every sentence toward that same end? That’s commercial social media marketing.

So, while a lot of the actions of a commercial social media marketer and someone pushing friendship or conversation around non-commercial topics may look outwardly similar, it’s the intention and level of focused, deliberate effort that makes the difference.

Wiep Knol, Link Builder and Internet Marketer: In my opinion, the difference between a social media marketer and a “regular” marketer is their point of view. A regular marketer is usually product minded and aims products (or content, or whatever) at target groups, while a social media marketer is consumer minded and matches groups of people with products. Another difference (and characteristic) is that a social media marketer is far closer to the end user. By following, participating, discussing and listening very carefully, a social media marketer is able to adjust both his or her product AND his or her selling technique to the customer.

A social media marketer is like opt-in, where most regular marketers are like opt-out.

I came across a great example earlier today; the form at http://www.conversationmarketing.com/2008/07/how_not_to_design_a_signup_for.htm
was probably designed by a regular marketer.

David Chen, Blogger: A social media marketer thoroughly understands the systems that people use to connect to each other, and knows how to leverage those systems to spread positive messages about a brand.

Michael Dorausch, Chiropractor and Social Media Addict: I’ve been a webmaster for more than 10 years but I wouldn’t consider myself a social media marketer. From the people I’ve met and interacted with, I’ve come to the conclusion that it takes a specific focus if they are to perform well. The best social media marketers that I’ve met have had these traits in common: they network well off-line and online, they offer assistance first and ask for help later, they get great results (for themselves and or their clients). Being able to work well with others, not being pushy, selecting quality content and/or clients to promote, and seeking ways to help others, are all things I’ve seen top social media marketers do well. They are active on nearly all the usual suspects popular social media sites, and they typically bring a lot of value to the community. That’s the one thing I believe separates them from novices and newcomers to social media marketing. It’s like going to an open bar event, the newcomer will ask people to buy them drinks. The advanced marketer will make sure the bartender is tipped well and we’ll see all their friends don’t go thirsty. Doesn’t cost them much to assist others, and they reap many return benefits.

Chris McGill, Founder of Social News Site Mixx.com: To me there are mostly social media enthusiasts: we call them “media hubs.” These are people who are enthusiastic about information and what is going on right now is part of the fabric of their being. They represent somewhere around 15% of the population and they simply have a passion for info and sharing info on the topics and subjects they find interesting/ are passionate. The vast majority of people fall into the “reader” category in that they consume (and vote) on the content that is being put forward by the media hubs. Again, I think being a media hub is just a part of a person’s being.

Adam Metz, Social Media Strategist: [Social media marketing is] a few things:

  1. Experience working with diverse groups of brands, generally (business-to-business, business-to-consumer)
  2. Experience executing in at least 10 tools (podcast, video, wiki, blog, social network, etc.)
  3. Total authenticity with the client, to the point of being willing to terminate an engagement when it’s clear that the client is not ready for social media counsel.
  4. A win-win-win attitude (for the client, the social media consultant, and the users of the social web at large)

Kim Krause Berg, Blogger and Usability Consultant: A social media marketer is an outgoing personality who intuitively understands the medium and its potential to network and communicate ideas, as well as persuade value proposition to readers. Link drops in social media sites are not social media marketing. Creating sites on Facebook and MySpace are not either. There has to be a REASON to go there and retain interest.

Basics and theory aside, I find the social media marketers I respond to the most are impeccably polite polite, friendly, care about the people they network with and are responsive in positive ways. They know their audience and stay in touch. I can sense a “user” type and that turns me away.

Shana Albert, Web Designer and Social Media Addict: What is a Social Media Marketer? They are active honest members of Online Communities where they can naturally get the word out about a product or service… causing their message to become viral throughout online communities and bring in viewers/customers/clients to a Website.
Characteristics they must possess: outgoing, extrovert, motivated/motivator, social, easily multi-task, organized, influencer, persistent, creative, friendly
What do thy have to do well? conversation, multi-task, participate, influence, unselfish member of community, creative web content

Jason Kaneshiro, Blogger and Web Developer: A Good Social Media Marketer:

  • Should be comfortable and eager to use new technology.
  • Should be able to quickly assess a new social website – how it works, how it would be useful, and the characteristics of the community that fits within.
  • Should be sensitive to the mores of the community within a social site – what would be considered spamming or rude behavior.
  • Should do their best to become part of that social site’s community.
  • Should also be comfortable and productive using “old” technology (Email, IM, desktop applications).
  • Should be aware of the tools the target audience is communicating with, and able to craft the message to the appropriate medium.
  • Should be able to work anywhere, and from any computer, or even just a cellphone.
  • Should know how to make their data portable so they aren’t tied to one service for their online identity, and manage that data so it can be retained.

Generally, different social sites foster different communities, where different messages are appropriate or celebrated while others are considered “spam” – and what’s “spam” on one site may not be on another.

Also interesting is the “digital nomad” trend – increasingly mobile computing, from laptops to cell phones and beyond. I would say it’s a must for social media marketers to have all their data and tools online so they can be productive from any computer in any location. Then consider how one could be productive with just a cell phone, and it may even be a worthwhile exercise to write a blog post using pencil and paper.

The last point is a reminder to be aware of data portability – if not the principle of the thing, it’s good to know how to get all our online data “out of the cloud” and backed up. A user of new technology should use it to the fullest, but also consider that a lot of technologies fail and it’s never good to become “locked in” to one company’s products.

Louis Gray, Blogger: A successful social media marketer would be somebody who grasps where his/her audience is and knows where conversations will take place online. They would typically leverage social networking sites and news aggregators, and engaging in such a way that their message or product is communicated.

They would need to display an understanding of how different social media communities interact, and what how each one offers a unique experience, which could be folded into more traditional approaches to public relations, demand generation advertising and brand awareness.

An ideal background for somebody here would include:

  • Traditional marketing or public relations experience
  • Tie-ins with increasing pipeline and revenue
  • Their own active blog with strong writing skills
  • The ability to communicate as a public speaker and use PowerPoint-type apps
  • Awareness and engagement of leading social communities

Jane Quigley, VP of Social Media and Emerging Technologies: There are a number of different skillsets needed as a social media marketer. Of course, like any job, there are different levels of experience, but I have a pretty set list of criteria that remains constant.

One — Participant
This is the easy one. Where, how, how much (although that’s subjective — people get busy) and how smart they are about it. That’s to say — are they smart about what’s posted on the Facebook profile? Can they identify trends? Are they obsessive about it, or does Social Media seem fun and easy? What blogs are they reading — and what posts have been memorable? Do they go to BarCamps, PodCamps, etc?

I want to see the basics — Facebook, LinkedIn, Digg, StumbleUpon, Flickr, YouTube, a Blog, Twitter (Basic)

Two — Big Picture
How does social media work with other current strategic tactics (SEO, Branding, Advertising). Where does it fit within the entire campaign and especially how does it support the brand?

Three — Relationship Master
Building a client relationship is key — not only in communicating trust and results — but long-term client welfare.

Four — Analyst
Knowing how to analyze a campaign for results. How to set benchmarks, test campaigns, look at trends, analyze results.

Five — Curiosity
Did not kill the cat — it makes each candidate stronger — no matter where you are in a career. Be curious about everything online and offline. Real life has a way of influencing online behavior.

Six — Sharing is Caring
I want to know what excites someone — what people bookmark, what FB apps they like, what videos/pictures they tag. You can tell a lot about a person from what and how they share.

Brent Csutoras, Social Media Consultant: Defining a social media marketer is difficult based on the true definition being the use of social media for a marketing purpose. With “social media” being a vague term that indicates any feature or function that allows other people to participate with any given site, almost everyone is technically engaged in social media and people that use it at even a basic level for some conversion or gain, often refer to themselves as social media marketers.

However, if you were to sell your own car, it does not make you a car salesman. So just because someone happens to use or participate in social media marketing does not make them a social media marketer.

I think being a social media marketer is defined when you are paid, in some fashion, to take an active interest in the way social communities work and start to participate within them strategically. When I was young someone once told me “If you do it for fun, it is a hobby. If you get paid for it, it’s your profession.”


I purposely asked a variety of users of social media, from the media relations and marketing spectrum to the social media enthusiast and blogger spectrum, for this answer. Many agreed that social media is about community-building, passion, and enthusiasm. Creativity, a multi-tasking mindset, and the ability to think outside the box were also heavily agreed upon. Most importantly, those who find the most success in the social media marketing realm are those who are heavily networked and ensure that maintaining ongoing relationships is part of their everyday routine.

Social media marketing encompasses a variety of elements and is synonymous with community (particularly those communities that belong to the new media sphere) sprinkled with other traditional marketing elements, such as dedication, perseverance, and fervor. Successful social media marketers are thought leaders. They must be kept abreast of the latest technologies in addition to buzz surrounding the products and services that they are responsible to market. Above all, though, social media marketers’ contributions to the community should be selfless and should be thought to benefit those who engage within the community.

What is your definition of a successful social media consultant?

(All photos created by Will Lion as discovered by Paul Stamatiou)

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149 replies on “What Traits Define a Social Media Marketer?”
  1. says: Dana

    This is so great Tamar! It drives me insane when some people think social media is just another direct marketing channel. Social media marketing can work wonders to build brand awareness and generate customer loyalty, as long as it is done right. Fantastic!

  2. says: Eric N.

    Wow! So awesome to see a lot of thought went into this Tamar.

    🙂 — touches on a lot of things I contemplate every day!

    Thank you!

  3. says: KatFrench

    I love your posts, Tamar, because they’re SO thorough, but I also hate them because they’re SO thorough… 😉

    When I’m talking with clients about social media, I tend to call it “a horse that will pull a lot of different carts.” I think as web 2.0 matures, fewer people working in social media will have to “be all things to all people” (although I do think a certain “jack of all trades” tendency will always be helpful because the learning curve never goes away).

    Specialties in social media work are already developing. Online community managers are a slightly different breed than social PR folks, or bloggers, or people who are devoted to social news or folks who are widget and mashup fiends.

    Some of the qualities noted carry through all these specialties, but some don’t.

    At any rate, another great, comprehensive post.

  4. says: Tony Adam

    Tamar, great post and even though it is long, it was a real easy read! It was also really cool reading all the different perspectives from the top social media names.

  5. says: David Mihm

    Tamar, what a WONDERFUL variety of experts you surveyed. I love the depth and the breadth of this piece. I love Michael Dorausch’s line: “they typically bring a lot of value to the community. Thats the one thing I believe separates them from novices and newcomers to social media marketing.”

    Fantastic read…I smell a SEMMY… 😀

  6. First, good post, I think you did a great job pulling all this content together (even if I was snubbed – kidding).

    As I read quote after quote, I couldn’t help but feel they were all starting to sound the same. No offense to the individuals, since I’m pretty sure they weren’t reading each others’ content as they were writing, but my concern of all this was a distinct lack of traditional marketing skills as requirement.

    I meet with many companies, big and small, and know a lot of marketing, PR, and social media people. The absolute best of the best, the A++ caliber people are the ones who know all three. Being a “social media expert” and forgetting the basics of traditional PR, such as review programs, positioning/messaging matrices, etc.

    My strongest recommendation to anyone considering hiring a “social media expert” is to make sure they really understand marketing as a field. Social media is a subset, not a superset nor a different set.

  7. says: Michael D

    Excellent work Tamar. Glad you liked my comments David, a post like this is an example of what I mean. Unlike many other industries, the leaders aren’t too busy to participate. They know that by giving, you get, and they continue to put in the energy, growing communities in the process.

  8. Jeremy, absolutely. But I’d argue that social media has actually opened doors for some into the marketing field. I’d say that knowledge of marketing is a definite requirement, but traditional PR know-how isn’t necessarily a prerequisite. The playing field has changed.

    And no, nobody I interviewed knew who would be included on this final list. It was all handled via private email (or in rare cases, IM).

  9. says: Tibi Puiu

    Ok, this has certainly been by far the longest read I’ve did on a blog in the past 2 months [?], but it was well worth it. The amount of insights and perspectives put into place, can certainly help virtually anyone make a profile of the perfect social media marketer and most of all provide a model for those seeking to expand their influences as social hubs.

  10. Tamar – I like to think that it’s “changing” more than it’s “changed”. For every social media marketing success story, there are plenty more failures. Same goes for PR, by the way – not trying to say it’s better/worse.

    My point is you cannot possibly reliably launch a company on a megascale with *just* social media marketing. This doesn’t mean you as an individual must have a big PR database/rolodex, but you should have an understanding of it.

    I think the best strategies are blended ones which comprise both old- and new-school techniques. Being ignorant of either just means the best possible job isn’t getting done.

  11. Wonderful list Tamar and Thanks. I know from a fact that Social Media Marketing is a huge tool for not only me but my clients as well. I would like to think of myself as a Social Media Expert/Consultant and give some great value to my students through various channels, but these people above deserve to be on the list.


  12. Oh, certainly, Jeremy. That’s how you can attract an even larger audience. And you’re 100% correct. However, some people may focus exclusively on social media marketing, which I don’t think is necessarily a bad idea as long as they are not negating the benefits of traditional marketing.

    Others may have moved on completely. I think this is an instance where YMMV (your mileage may vary); it depends on the goals of the campaign and the strength and effectiveness of the client-marketer relationship.

  13. says: nudgeme

    Thanks Tamar for this thought provoking post, which I really enjoyed reading (and thanks to DoshDosh for pointing me here from Twitter). In the past I’ve been involved in traditional marketing and PR, which have definitely helped to inform my use of social media marketing in terms of having experience of networking and writing in a thought provoking (rather than salesy) way, but aside from that it’s a whole different ball game, best summed up by one of your interviewees who says that ‘conversation is King, content is just something to talk about’ – spot on. And of course this very nature of social marketing means the PRs no longer have the same control of the conversation.

    I look forward to reading future posts – thanks.

  14. says: Jesse Kliza

    Awesome post Tamar! Thanks for taking the time to compile this.

    I would echo Chris Brogans point about the term “Social Media Marketer” being a temporary thing. In time, making use of social media will become a given, just like having a website.

    At the very least, social media is forcing companies to be more engaged with their customers if they want to stay relevant. I look forward to the day when this trickles down to even the smallest of companies. This is one reason why I make a point to post about both the good and bad experiences I have with any business, especially small local companies.

    Thanks again Tamar!

  15. says: David Alston

    Wow, wicked post Tamar. You put a lot of work into this one. Great to see the views of so many leaders in social media marketing all in one spot. Bookmarking this one for sure.

    David Alston

  16. Great post, Tamar. Nice collection of different perspectives from across the blogosphere.

    The consensus that you have documented here toward contributing VALUE to a CONVERSATION is what really differentiates social media from broadcast/shotgun marketing.

    Old school marketing/advertising pros (like those in the TV series Mad Men) would be mystified by the level of personal interaction and commitment to community demonstrated by today’s best social marketers.

  17. says: Pat Kitano

    Like being at a social media roundtable… I extended the commentaries to develop an article on how to implement corporate social media strategy. Thank you!

  18. says: agathon12

    BRAVA Ms. Weinberg. Outstanding in every regard. Requires that most rare of rare activities, a 2nd and perhaps 3rd read, with appropriate investigation spent checking out the ‘gurus’ that particularly intrigue one. I thank del.icio.us .com (and one of my network peeps) that I have found you. Continued success!

  19. Pingback: SMM Definition
  20. Fantastic job Tamar!

    My experience has taught me that it really comes down to relationships. It’s that simple.

    My top 7 Social Media Marketer traits are:

    1. Live and breath your niche – Understand the culture and your audience – be a part of the community
    2. Know your product or service inside and out
    3. Everyone’s Voice Matters – Respect others opinions
    4. Be genuine in all your communications
    5. Try new things – Communities and tools – stick with what works
    6. Be mobile. Be real time. Be responsive.
    7. Give more than you receive

    Social Media Guru at Trulia.com


  21. says: Tanya

    I’ve had this minimized all day because I could see it was long and really wanted to absorb every piece of wisdom each person wrote.

    The possibilities with social media is endless, but community is ultimately at the root of social media and that is exciting. People are what make companies, brands, and images, social media really brings that to life. Never have customers or collegues been able to really know others in business and in life the way they are able to today, thanks to social media.

    It’s all truly fascinating. Incredible read and so glad I waited until the end of the day so I could soak it all in without a single distraction!

  22. Fascinating post! I think what makes a good social media marketer is knowing how to tell a story and how to listen to a story and how to pass along other people’s stories

  23. RocSearch, the UK-based research & analytics firm has recently released a research study on Leveraging Social Media for Brands. The study showcases the social media eco-system, its drivers & imperatives while detailing cases of brand successes and failures attempting to harness the power of this medium. For a complementary copy of the study, Click here

  24. Perfect summary. If readers did half of these things they would double their results online. I am especially impressed that you walk the talk;??? every suggestion is illustrated with examples from your own business. Total credibility!

  25. In Europe, social media marketing is still catching up with the consumer. Our business is to offer software to measure and monitor the online media (mainstream and social) for different European regions and languages. More and more, however, we are also offering analysis and reports of the different online media to corporations interested in marketing through social media, but unsure of where to start. This post will be quite useful in addressing our customers’ concerns. Thank you.

  26. says: Adam_Y

    Eisner’s comments (quoted) show a complete lack of knowledge as far as the internet is concerned.

    Webcomics are hardly a new creation, but combined with blogs you have just that imaginative story-telling, often influenced by the immediate audience and interactive with regard to content, creator and reader.

    I’d like to see less ‘creative story telling’ from Michael and a little bit more factual research.

  27. says: Katherine

    There’s a lot of good info here – Maki’s perception seems to be a good one. I’ve stumbled it so I can find it again. I have a feeling I’ll keep learning something new each time I read the post!

  28. says: Kieran Hawe

    Some really good insight into social media marketing – from my perspective when talking about social media for a (big) business it comes down to 2 simple things. 1) understanding the technology / platform / service and 2) understanding the brand. First and foremost you have to understand the how, what and where of social media as just about everyone pointed out. However, there also needs to be a deep understanding of the brand in order to truly maximize a social media effort…who is the targeted audience, what are they looking for, how do we speak to them, etc.

  29. says: Arlene Yu

    I’m puzzled. This is a poorly-edited, painfully repetitious compilation of statements by “social media marketers” marketing themselves, with a lead in and brief wrap up by Tamar. Many of these experts seem to know nothing about marketing as a discipline – they just have some familiarity with social media channels and think that means they can give marketing advice.

    Wouldn’t a 1500 word article written by Tamar that quotes these people, organizes their ideas, and provides desperately needed context been much more useful (and been worthy of the gushing praise in these comments?)

    This post scares me – because it reminds me vividly of content from March 2000!

  30. Arlene, sorry you feel this way. You’re definitely in the minority, and that’s fair; you’re entitled to have an opinion! 🙂

    Also, I’m not sure if you know many of these experts, but I chose a good chunk of them because they’re darn talented at what they do and possess the marketing know-how in the real world as indicated by their work with clients and the “gushing praise” they actually get from clients. Perhaps it was the wording of my question that threw them off. Perhaps it was the fact that I solicited a relatively short answer, rather than a lengthy post (this wasn’t a guest post and the email was specifically worded as “interview question”). Perhaps it’s the fact that you can’t throw all your cards out on one table and they won’t share the secrets they *do* possess. Either way, I’m proud of the turnout of this piece and I’m not at all disappointed in the representation or in the way it was compiled.

  31. says: Tom

    Nice blog entry Tamar theres a ton of small online businesses that are able to compete online using effective social media marketing tactics. Theres a good social media firm to checkout as well www. viralmediapros . com. Many companies use this firm.

  32. Wow!! This is a great article that will shed light on the whole Social Media Marketing concept for many readers like myself! I suppose if I had a question about this form of marketing…it would be something like “Is it possible to generalize which social media marketing outlet works best for certain types of market goals?”

    I am one of those that long to change the world! I want those who listen to Urban music to listen to Urban Gospel.
    It’s positive, it’s ‘bangin’ and most importantly, it saves souls!

  33. This is a great read!
    I think it is important to help form a solid definition of what a “social media strategist” aka .”..marketer” aka etc. does and how they can be defined as individuals. Here, at Core3 Solutions, my title is “Interactive Specialist”. I am in charge of all social media portals, analytics, SEA and SEO. But when we start a partnership with a client, we always begin at the beginning. We sit and collaborate with the client to devise set on online goals and strategies. We will research audience groups, competitors and the client’s current online presence. From there we can begin to form an all encompassing online strategy and the key indicators of success metrics for ROI.

    Thanks again for the in-depth interviews with others in the industry!

  34. says: peoplestring

    As a newbie to social marketing, I found this article very enlightening. Social marketing is not easy, nor can you just jump in and expect to make a fortune. Due diligence, perseverance, and a little luck are required for success in this genre.

  35. says: See Below

    Great observation. There are really lots of people posing as SEOs and social media marketer just because they were able to make an account on different social media sites. That is really funny and sad at the same time.

    But I really appreciate this post because I get to know the people who made SEO and SMM possible. Thanks for this.

    Editor’s Note: Thanks for the comments, SEOP, but I’ve linked your name to my blog policy because you did not comply with a simple request to give me your real name.

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