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March 9, 2010
Why Your Brand Doesn't Need a Social Media Expert

The last thing your brand needs now is a social media expert

I'm in Norway this evening. I was invited here to address a room full of CEOs and CMOs tomorrow morning. The sponsors have created a beautiful invitation and program. They promise Sean Duffy, a social media expert, will tell you why your company should use social media to build your brand. Boy, are these people in for a surprise.

Here's two reasons why: 

First, I am not a social media expert. I am a marketing expert who uses social media to do his job. This is an important distinction because many “social media experts” know little about marketing.

Most experts I’ve seen are people who understand how certain social apps work. Many are skilled at being social on the Internet themselves. They can amass small armies of followers overnight but hiring them to advise in marketing matters makes about as much sense as asking your cable guy to mastermind your next TV campaign based on his extensive knowledge of how televisions work.

Second, I will not be telling anyone they should use social media. In fact, I plan to do the opposite. I'm going to start by asking them to assume all social media is a waste of time and won't work for their brands. That's because I believe social media experts have been addressing this issue from the wrong end.

The central issue is not how social media can change marketing. The real issue is how social media has already changed the people we market to. I'm not just talking about the way our customers view technology or communication.

What has changed are fundamental consumer behaviors and the way business is conducted -- also known as the economy. This is a much bigger issue than whether you should use Facebook or not.

Despite these initial disappointments, here is what I hope my Norwegian audience will take away from my talk tomorrow.

I hope they will see that whether you use and see value in social media or not, one thing is clear: Social media has changed the people we sell to. As marketers, it’s our job to respond and adapt to these changes. The companies that do this first will have a competitive advantage. This is nothing new, it's just old-school marketing principles applied to new media.

I hope they will see the business debate over social media has shifted. It's not a question of involvement but one of strategy. For the past few years, just being in social media was enough to benefit your brand. Those days are over; presence and participation are expected.

From this year on, you will start to see companies that have created social media assets applying real marketing strategies to them to create a competitive advantage. 

Last, I hope my audience will understand that if they need help evolving their marketing program to address these changes, they do not require the services of a social media expert. They require the services of a marketing expert who understands social media.

Even marketers who are new to social media would be a safer bet. After all, it’s more likely that a marketing expert could catch up on two or three years of social media developments than a social media expert could compensate for 20 or 30 years of missing marketing experience.

Then again, they may just ask me to leave so a real social media expert can take the stage and tell them how to set up a Twitter account. Stranger things have happened. Wish me luck.


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Sean Duffy is a founder of Duffy Agency, the digital marketing agency for aspiring international brands. Sean has over 25 years of experience working with strategic marketing in Boston, San Francisco, Stockholm, and Copenhagen. In addition to his involvement with Duffy Agency, Sean is a frequent speaker on strategic international marketing and online brand management. He serves also as Lecturer and Practitioner in Residence at the Lund University School of Economics & Management and as Mentor in their Masters Program in Entrepreneurship. Sean is an active member of  TAAN Worldwide where he has served two terms as the European Governor. He is also a speaker, bloggerTwittererand is on LinkedInWith offices in Malmö and Boston, Sean splits his time between Sweden and the States.

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