I’ll be honest, I only skimmed Peter Shakman’s recent post Why I Will Never, Ever Hire A “Social Media Expert”.¬†You know why? Because I don’t need to read the same old, boring diatribe along with a pile of generic social media advice.

This old line again?

If you’ve been in the social media field for a while you might have noticed an annoying trend. We’ve spent years doing two things:

  1. Stop hiring interns to do an important job
  2. Social media experts are bogus frauds

And guess what, most of the talking heads saying this stuff, they’re the experts, the actual ones – whether they like it or not. And this advice is crap. Peter will never need a social media expert because he is one. An actual one. Not a fake one. And you know what, there are a bunch out there.

Just as there are a bunch of experts in every field. They are the ones who know the most. They always exist, even if they don’t know it.

Want to know the truth? Experts often don’t realize what they are until long after they became experts.

When you need an expert

There are times when you need and expert, and it’s not to hard to see where and when. It’s when you need someone good to get the job done right. This is no different then when you plan on buying a bunch of companies, you hire an M&A expert. Here’s an easy way to tell if you need a social media expert:

  • You know transparency and engagement, but aren’t sure what’s next
    Moving from concept to game-plan isn’t easy. It’s takes planning, knowledge and experience. Having someone on your side who has done it more than a couple of times is a huge help.
  • If you want to make social media strategic
    I’m talking about core to your company strategic. I mean if you want social media to be essential to how you get leads and sales (e.g. Hubspot).
  • If you need to engage with a large audience
    Like on the scale of Comcast, American Idol. This is a daunting task, hire someone who has been in the trenches, managed a team doing this stuff, and executed it with direction and purpose.
  • If you have an image problem
    Just like how you’d hire a good PR agency to do damage control if you say, destroyed the gulf. You might want someone experience at the helm of SM when you are trying to win hearts and minds via SM.
  • When you have no clue what you are doing
    This isn’t for everyone, and it may be more of a consulting deal. But if you are just getting started, and have the budget, then maybe you should hire an actual expert to get you going. Rather than stumble into it, find a person who can get you running with a strategy, the right tools, and the right team in place.

Makes sense, right?

I could keep going, but I think you get the point. Yes, there are a lot of charlatans out there claiming to be experts, but there are a lot of real ones who are ready to roll up their sleeves and help you get social media right. Don’t buy the hate and hype – especially when the experts are just deriding themselves.

Recently I was discussing distractions at Argyle, well we were discussing a very specific distraction, but that’s all details. A popular piece of common wisdom popped into my head:

One of the hardest parts about startups isn’t deciding what to do next; often it’s deciding what not to do at all.

But it’s almost too easy to trot that excuse out and try to wholesale avoid any potentially dangerous distractions. The problem with lines like the one above is that they can cause you to miss out on a huge opportunity.

Twitter was a side project at Odeo. Hell, Starbucks started off selling beans and espresso makers, they had no interest in brewing coffee. Today’s distraction could be tomorrow’s billion dollar idea.

These things can run the gambit, some provide alternate revenue streams, some just augment and existing offering, and other change the business you’re in.

So how do you decide whether that distraction is a potential game changer? I’m just thinking out loud, but here are a few tools we’ve employed to mull things over:

Market check

Are there people willing to pay for this potential waste of time? If not, it doesn’t mean the idea is dead in the water, but it does mean that you have to be willing to get flexible when it comes to monetizing.

Whether or not this idea is out of the realm of your existing customer base, it’s still worth working through the details of profitability. Even easy wins have hard costs.

Product Alignment

Does this idea dovetail with your existing offering at all? It might not be that much of a distraction if you can upsell/cross sell it to your existing customers or prospects.

Or maybe it can help fill feature gaps or competitive shortfalls you may have with your existing products. Think creatively about how this could be leveraged.

Company Impact

Ideas can solidify into reality quite quickly in this cloud driven world. You can be sitting pretty with a shiny new toy in a matter of days. But how will the rest of the company deal with it?

Marketing needs to know how to talk about it and who to push it to. Sales needs to know how to talk pretty about it and how to handle the objections. And don’t get me started with support.

Know who will be impacted and how before you go too far down that road.

Vigorous Debate

One of my favorites – you can almost always count on me to play a bit of devil’s advocate. If you’re not sure what to do then talk it out. And don’t be afraid to drag in some heavy hitters – whether that be investors, advisors, mentors, customers, or random people on the street. Sometimes a little outside perspective is the best thing you can bring to this discussion.

Why are you even considering this?

This might be the most important point. Why in the world are you even having this discussion? Did a big prospect ask for something crazy? Did you just stumble across some sort of technical easy win? Have you stumbled across a treasure trove of slightly skewed leads or uncovered a new unmet market need?

Whatever the reason, you better understand the full motivation behind it or it could get very painful very quickly.


So should you grab that distraction by the tail and turn it into a money maker or let it go? I don’t know, you’re just going to have to make a decision and keep on truckin. That’s life in a startup.

Here’s to yet another interesting business challenge that’ll keep you up at night!

Recently I’ve been asked a few times how close I am to done with the major feature-set at Argyle. While the question is laughable to me (and Eric), to the layman it probably makes sense.

The best answer I could come up with was on a scale of 1 to infinity I was probably at about 8.5 million. I mean, that’s really far, we’ve got a good product. But it’s not really anywhere near infinity.

You see, the whole premise is laughable to us because we know that in this space you’re never done. Really, I’ve never worked on a software product that I thought could be done. If you can finish your piece of software then you are building a feature, not a product.

There’s always more features, more things to add, heck, more things to remove. That’s the curse and the joy of good software, you can always do something else to it.

Right now I am at Social Fresh listening to @DavidBThomas talk about integrating social media without adding headcount. He just mentioned that he had better uptake of his social media policy when he highlighted successes of the policy. For example, sales people listened when he told them how use of the policy had helped close deals.

I agree. But let’s not stop at getting people on board with a social media policy.

Often times you need to get people on board with social media in a much broader sense. Whether it’s to try out twitter, to take social media to the next level in marketing, or start paying for some useful social media tools.

The way you get people on board is to show them that you can and have been successful with the idea at hand. Just make a strong case, you know you can do it.

Successes don’t have to be big either, start with something anecdotal that people can get behind. Creating an emotional connection to success is a fantastic start.

So remember, don’t just ask people to do something, explain to them how you have already seen successes with something and how they can too.

Everyone wants your most valuable content. It’s a constant battle and it’s easy to understand why. If you have the info you have the traffic.

While “Content is king” has had its heyday that doesn’t mean it’s not still not true, though there is a strong argument for Curation is king, but that’s another blog post.

I’ve spent about an hour this evening answering questions on Quora.com (a site I invariably spell wrong every time). I’ve derived quite a bit of fun and insights from reading through questions. I also managed to give myself that atta-boy feeling for answering a few as well.

It made me remember Linkedin Questions, Ning forums, and even my blog – all places that at one point in time were a favorite content repository for me. Lately Twitter and Facebook have taken over as one-stop shops for this information.

But is that the best place for it? Scattered through the morass of facebook comments and twitter musings are nuggets of extremely useful information. But there’s a large problem with that – too much uncategorized data. There is no taxonomy or filing system for Facebook or Twitter.

The most valuable information on most social networks is virtually inaccessible.

Maybe that’s a bit extreme, it’s easy to find value every day. But go back and try to find the best of twitter from a week ago. Or the best facebook comments about love or astrobiology – good luck pal.

Does this mean that there is a huge opportunity for sites like Quora to jump in and own good information on the social web? I think so. Will facebook just try to ‘me too’ its way into that market? perhaps.

So what?

Well for right now, it’s just circular reasoning that proves you need to own your own content in a searchable place (read as: Blog).

However, the large amount of interest we see in organized question & answer tools means that people are still interested in working through a long term solution to making that information more collaboratively created and less corporately owned.

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